Adam Young, who runs the Youngfolk & The Kettle Black coffee shop with his wife Rebekha, thinks about service – real, genuine, human-level service – quite a bit.
Adam told me once that he makes a real effort, when someone walks into the coffee shop on Richmond Street, to nod, to make eye contact, to say hello; he makes an extra effort to do this if the shop is busy and it will be a minute before he can make coffee for the newcomer.
The glance, the nod, the hello, the “we’ll be just a minute,” beyond being simply decent, breathes some air into the customer-server relationship and gives Adam some extra time to spend making every coffee right. This is no small feat in a business where caffeine-starved customers arrive in a rush and blunder.
I am a strong believer in the notion that all business, no matter whether coffee or Internet or steam shovel or blue jeans, is, fundamentally, communications business. This has never been more true than now, when many products and services are commodities you can get from anywhere: honest, open, frequent customer communication is often the only way that one business can stand out from another.
If I walked into Youngfolk on a busy day and Adam didn’t give me a wink and a nod, I’d feel something was wrong, and I’d feel doubly-injured, once for the lack of recognition itself and twice for the lack of anticipated recognition: when a business that’s good a communicating, that prides itself on communicating, has communications go awry, the corollary to “all business is communications” kicks in: it’s like your best friend has stopped talking to you. And you don’t know why.
This is what happened to me earlier this week when I got frustrated enough with Apple and its response to a broken MacBook Air to write a detailed blog post about the incident: I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting customer service satisfaction, and doubly-frustrated because I expected more from Apple.
Fortunately it’s possibly to repair off-the-rails communications disasters with some effective intervention, and that, I’m happy to say, is what happened this afternoon on the MacBook Air file.
Just before five o’clock, the phone rang, with the caller ID showing a 408 area code. “Who do I know in California,” I thought to myself as I answered the call.
“This is Mac calling from Tim Cook’s office,” said the caller.
Oh, that’s who I know in California.
Yesterday, you see, after writing my “Dear Apple” blog post, I sent a note to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, thinking, quite genuinely, that he should know when things don’t go right. I had some confidence that somebody – if not Tim Cook, at least somebody – would read of my plight.
Mac was calling to make sure things got back on track.
He’d read my blog post, had called Jump+ in Moncton, had a plan in place for me to drive over to Moncton and be assured that I could get a while-I-wait repair of the MacBook with a part waiting.
He was, in other words, on top of the situation.
And, more than that, Mac was an extremely skilled communicator, a sort of Jason Bourne of customer service intervenors: everything from the tone of his voice to the nature of his plan for us (yes, us – we’d be going through this together, Mac assured me) was equal parts warmth, professionalism and reassurance. If I was having a nervous breakdown, I’d want Mac on duty at the crisis centre to take my call.
So I’m driving over to Moncton on Friday to get Oliver’s MacBook Air fixed. I have no doubt that it will happen, and that I will be happy with the result.
And here’s the thing: that’s exactly the same thing I was going to do before Mac called, albeit in a pissed-off begrudged suspend-my-disbelief kind of way.
Adam Young isn’t in the business of selling coffee, he’s in the nod and wink “hey, Peter, how’s it going” business.
As is Apple, at least where service and support is concerned: it’s as important for me to feel good about the service and support I receive, to fell in control of the service and support I receive, and to believe in the quality of the service and support I’ll receive as it is to actually receive the service and support itself.
In a single 4 minute and 52 second phone call from California, Apple, through their man Mac, reestablished that confidence for me with Apple.
At the end of yesterday’s blog post I wrote “I will happily write a ‘wow, Apple knocked my socks off’ blog post when you come through.” This is that post. And I’m writing it now, even before the MacBook Air is repaired, because, to my mind, Apple’s on the job again.