It was my first time as a customer at the Apple Store. Knowing a Sunday could be busy I made a 2:00pm appointment, which Apple confirmed with a detailed email (back-up your data, update your software, bring your passwords, etc…).
I’m a good student and followed the directions to the letter.
I strolled into the store a few minutes late, due to a lunch back-up at the Cheesecake Factory. I pride myself on my timeliness but couldn’t have anticipated what followed.
I approached the first “genius” I saw and provided my name and appointment time. He scrolled through his iPad furiously looking for my information. Then he glanced up at me and said the following:
Since you are more than ten minutes late, you have forfeited your appointment.
My mouth surely must have been hanging open at this point.
I replied as calmly as possible, “OK, let me make sure I understand what you just said, glancing at my watch and seeing it was 2:12, I no longer have an appointment?”
Yes, that’s correct.
I replied, “So, I really want to be sure I am getting this right. Your company emailed me directions with several things I needed to do for this appointment. But, nowhere in that email did it say anything about being on time or a consequence for being late. And here I am ready to plop down BIG bucks for a new iPad and you are telling me I now need to wait until 3:00 to be served?”
I couldn’t resist adding, “This is probably the worst start to a customer service experience ever!”
Well that’s how it works here.
I recognized it was time to escalate the matter and said, “Well that’s not acceptable to me. I think its time for you to get your manager.”
The manager, Anthony Ormondo, appeared a few minutes later and I led with, “I want you to know I am very angry right now and I will try not to take it out on you.”
Anthony smiled with relief and was able to hear my concerns. Within five minutes he got the ridiculousness of the situation. He did his absolute best to recover from their abysmal start. His first action was to say, “I’m going to get you an appointment right now with my most elite person. I’ll be right back.”
Anthony returned with Melissa, who more than lived up to the high standard Anthony had set. I expressed my fear that I might not have backed up my photos properly. So, Melissa spent extra time with me to transfer them to my new device. I greatly appreciated this extra special service. Anthony also checked back with me about five times during the process. We were all fast friends by the time I left.
What’s the customer service lesson here?
There are many lessons in this anecdote. But, for me the main lesson is this:
When a business expects a certain behavior from their customers, it is incumbent upon that business to communicate clearly to the customers what the business expects and also what the consequence is, of not adhering to the expectation.
Imagine for a moment that Apple had communicated their late policy and consequence in the detailed confirmation email. I would have known that my appointment was in jeopardy and simply left my friend to pay the bill and arrived on time. In addition, I would not have been upset if I had been late since I would have been prepared for the consequence.
What else was going on for me?
As a certified coach of social + emotional intelligence, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to grow my emotional self-awareness and self-management insights and skills. I’d like to share my analysis with you so that you may learn to do the same type of debriefing with yourself.
Allow me to come clean here and say that my voice got more heated than usual in that initial “genius” guy conversation and I wasn’t happy about showing up in that way. My words were right but my tone was not. Here’s my understanding of why.
Since I place such a high value on timelessness, I felt judged and criticized by the “genius” with his initial comment to me. Feeling unfairly criticized is a big trigger that set off my emotions in a big way. When my emotions got flooded it was difficult to rein them back in, especially in the heat of the moment. My emotional self-awareness took a bit of a sabbatical. By understanding what set my emotions off I can be on alert for future triggers and this awareness will help me to gradually learn to ratchet down my emotion. When we identify our emotional triggers it helps to raise our awareness, which then helps us to show up in our best way in future situations.
So, I’d say when a business wants customers to meet an expectation, especially when a consequence is involved, they have a responsibility to teach that expectation in a clear way. What would you say?
An aside: My husband, Wayne, added this question which really cracked me up: Is the name “genius bar” named for the employees who give service or the customers who need service?
image from google images