Today Bloomberg reported that Apple stock, having passed $400 a weeks ago, is now gaining ground on Exxon Mobil Corp. to become the world’s most valuable company. That’s quite a distinction for a company that at one point was holding on for their lives. What are they doing to make their company worth so much?
Well, first let me say that there are a myriad of articles discussing why Apple is so successful. And many of them can probably do a far better job than I can with all the technical product analysis that they do. But I want to talk about something much simpler here. I want to talk about what it’s like to be an Apple customer.
For decades I’ve owned computers. I started with PCs because I felt it was impossible to survive in business without something that was IBM-compatible, as they used to say in the old days. And as the years went by I knew a few people with Apple’s, but they always seemed to be either people working in science-related areas or the arts. Businesspeople never owned anything that wasn’t IBM-compatible if they wanted to communicate with other businesspeople. And while I never became highly knowledgeable regarding computers, I was able to find my way around pretty efficiently with my PCs.
But all the while I owned PCs I always would hear Apple owners talk about how wonderful their computers were. It was like a cult following that these products had. It seemed to me to be almost like blind allegiance. Yet over those years I had my share of problems with computers and would often hear techs say that that’s just the way PCs are and they’d mostly blame it on Microsoft. Eventually as I watched computer after computer crash and have to go through a recovery process I started to think like they did. It MUST be Microsoft’s fault I would think, even though I really had nothing to base it on. But last year I was at a point of total frustration with Windows Vista. Then my laptop burned up and I knew it was time for a new machine.
I ended up buying two machines. I didn’t need a laptop very often so I decided to buy a moderate little PC with Windows 7 and then buy a desktop computer for my office. And I decided that it was time to try an Apple and see if they really were all they were cracked up to be.
I use both computers regularly and have to say that I do like Windows 7. But even though I like it, nothing compares to the Apple and their OS X operating system. And what really tops it all off is the service. I can call with the simplest of questions and they’re always ready to help. Try getting virtually any company selling software for a PC to give you help like you get with an Apple. It’s hard to find.
I didn’t buy it through Apple, but one of the things I purchased for the Apple was a program called Parallels. It allows me to set up a virtual machine on my Apple and run a complete Windows system side by side with my Apple system. I can drag and drop from one system to the other, with both operating systems working side-by-side. As I use Windows 7 next to Apple’s OS X I see firsthand the differences. And I have to say that as I’ve owned it I use the Apple’s programs more and more. It is a wonderful machine and software.
But the Parallels software was a problem at first. I got it and couldn’t get it set up correctly. It didn’t run well. The features didn’t all install correctly and the company wouldn’t help me without charging me. Now I realize that many software companies charge for support, but I personally think that they should at least help you get up and running correctly at no cost before they do that. I found that I didn’t use the program very much for many months because of that. Later they told me I was supposed to get 30 days of free support, but during that time they wouldn’t give it to me and later they said it was too late. Talk about frustrating a customer!
Then recently I had a question about some Apple software and contacted Apple. As I talked to the rep, who was extremely helpful, I got the usual friendly, well trained expertise that is so refreshing. When we finished with my question she asked me if there was anything else she could help me with. I paused and said, “I didn’t buy it from you, although I now see you do sell it in the Apple store, but maybe you can give me some advice.” And then I told her about the problem I was having with Parallels and not being able to get it running correctly from day one. I told her Parallels wanted me to pay for service just to get it set up and I thought that was ridiculous. I asked her if she could tell me what to do about it. To my surprise she discussed the problem with me and gave me an idea for a solution to the problem. She didn’t give me an idea of who to contact at Parallels or how to deal with them. Rather, she gave me an idea of how to fix the problem (clearly she was familiar with the program). I was pleasantly surprised. She had no obligation to help and I didn’t expect it, but she helped anyway. And the advice she gave worked and now the program works properly.
Apple’s technical personnel went above and beyond to help me because they see me as a customer with a problem that needs help. They could have said it wasn’t their problem, but they were willing to try. Just for the effort they deserve an A+. The fact that it worked is an even bigger benefit.
The best companies look for ways to help customers. Having now owned this Apple computer for a little while I have to say that I am very sold on both the product and the company. I understand how they got their following and why customers are so loyal.
Are you looking for ways to help your customers or just doing the minimum that’s required? The difference will make a customer into a loyal follower. The difference will make you a survivor in business. The difference makes businesses thrive.