How Apple Uses Customer Service as Their Sales Force

by Barry Moltz on June 15, 2010

I met Dave Kurlan 20 years ago.  He is still a sales hero of mineIn this guest post, Dave talks about how important customer service is for the future sales growth of your company.

“I’ve written several articles about customer service and how quickly and easily they can passively sell your customers on defecting from your company and moving their business to a competitor.  My favorite targets over the years have been Verizon, Dell and the airlines, but recently, my commercial insurance agent, and my accountant have accomplished this feat too.  In this article, it’s Apple’s turn and just wait until you read this…

If you’ve dealt with Dell (and who hasn’t) you know that first you have to wait, and wait some more just to talk with someone.  When you do finally get someone to speak with, you can’t understand a word they are saying.  Then you get transferred a few times to more people you can’t understand.  Then you rinse and repeat (start from scratch with each person you have to speak with), and are asked 50 stupid questions that have nothing to do with your problem.  They ask you to try all kinds of things that don’t fix your problem because they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Then finally after two frustrating hours, Dell MIGHT resolve your issue but you are resolved not to buy from them again.

Then I went to Apple’s support site tonight around 5:45 PM.  I entered the information (My user ID, password and the problem from a drop-down list) and the site said that I would receive a call back immediately.  Sure-right.

It took 5 seconds – 5 SECONDS! -  to speak with a live person, who spoke English and actually had my information in front of her.  No rinsing or repeating!  Want to know what happened next?

She said she would get a replacement shipped out today.  Done.  The entire conversation (and it was a conversation…not someone following prompts on a computer screen) took less than 5 minutes.  Makes we want to buy something else from Apple.  That new iPad looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it? [UPDATE - it arrived less than 17 hours later - 10:30 AM]

Customer Service has more impact on customer retention than your salespeople because they may interact with them more than your account managers do.  This is such an important concept.  They must be able to hold conversations and make your customers thrilled with the outcomes.  And consider that if you want to make this transition, you may not have the right people in place to get them to perform the way you want.

You expect your salespeople to find and close business.  You should expect your customer service people to not only retain the business, but uncover new opportunities too.  Sounds a lot like inside sales to me…”

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, the best-selling author of Baseline Selling, and a leading expert on Sales Force Development.  He possesses more than 30 years of experience in all facets of sales development including sales and sales management training, consulting, infrastructure, leadership, recruiting and coaching.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Karl Sakas June 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Thanks for sharing this story.

Karl Sakas June 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Thanks for sharing this story. I recently experienced two kinds of customer service from Verizon Wireless. When I tried to eliminate a monthly plan on my MiFi wireless hub, the phone rep said it was impossible. I went to the local store, ready to cancel my service. Instead, the in-store rep explained that switching to a prepaid plan would solve my problem (and not incidentally, keep me as an active customer for the product). Not sure why the phone rep didn’t offer that as an option…

Amit June 16, 2010 at 11:05 pm

For doing world class customer service, you have to have world class margins. To have world class margins, you have to be really innovative and not be selling volumes and a commodity product. IMO, that’s the difference between a Dell and an Apple or a Nordstrom and a Walmart.

Barry Moltz June 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Ah, sometimes the service plans are so complicated at the wireless companies that no one knows what to do….
@Amit, I do not believe that large margins meet great service or low margins mean bad service…look at Walmart, Amazon and Southwest!

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