Matt Pierce is a most refreshing staff member that I have ever met in an Apple store in Australia.
I value most of all his professionalism, customer-focused mindset, patience and excellent grasp of technical matters.
Before Matt said hello to me on Wednesday 6 July 2016 at the Apple store at Miranda Westfield (NSW), I had personally experienced what seemed to be a most difficult journey just to get to the stage of meeting a technician at an Apple store.
My Apple product was faulty - but I also learned that Apple stores can also learn to improve the process for a customer seeking technical help with a product. (refer to my recommendations below).
Back to Matt....Matt explained to me upfront of how he would approach resolving the technical issue with my Apple product. He explained to me with clarity and never in a condescending manner. Matt looked me in the eye with a helpful look. He focused on resolving the problem - but better than this, reassured me with engaging consideration, displayed excellent knowledge without a boast and just delivered! He told me when he required more time on a certain phase of the resolution process.
Matt gave me options to consider along the consultation process and still was efficient in dealing with my faulty product. I would say that Matt is not only great at resolving technical matters but also significantly in people handling - whether customers or staff. He also articulated on the various help channels I can utilise in the future should I require this. And I also value his patience.
Matt demonstrated to me that whatever roadblocks we faced together on this faulty Apple product could be overcome - through logic, a willingness to discuss and with the help of his good technical and professional approach. All resolved for me by Matt under an excellent time frame.
Matt's Manager at the Miranda Westfield store - Alexis, if I caught this name right - was spot on doing his role! I noticed he kept an eye over the store to come on a timely basis to help resolve any matters which his staff could not handle. Alexis came back to me at the tail end of the technical consultation process with Matt and courteously asked if every thing was going all right - a much appreciated question that you also get at fine dining places.
Before Miranda, I had visited the George Street Apple Store in Sydney CBD and already observed some shortcomings.
However, Giocomo was my first point of contact (AS1) at the entrance of this store and I found him to be helpful, patient and professional.
At the same time, what I also sensed is that the role of AS1 has to be supported further by Apple stores - again, my recommendations are below.
My observations below relate to my experience at the George Street Sydney CBD and Miranda Westfield Apple stores:
The Apple store staff member making time bookings for technical attention requests (AS2) for customers - which is the second point of contact for a customer (C) visiting the store, must learn to be more pro-active. These are the questions I recommend AS2 consciously articulate and be mindful about when interacting with customers.
AS2-1: Have I informed C of the maximum time in minutes within which C has to turn up after receiving the text message that the technician is ready to see C? This shall greatly assist C to not physically wander too far away from the store.
AS2 -2: Have I reminded C to put audio notification on C's mobile settings? Apple cannot assume that C has switched on such audio notifications all the time. People do switch off their audio notifications at requests of their employers, at meetings and so on.
AS2-3: Have I gently highlighted to C that why Apple can only offer estimated times when the technician can see C? If so, C can then better appreciate the variety of technical matters technicians handle with a diverse lot of customers, each unique, some easy to resolve and others requiring exploration of all possible solution options.
AS2-4: Have I mentioned to C that the text message, sent as such from Apple, does not have a facility for a response from C to a live person and that it is all run on automated software?
AS2-5: C may not necessarily reside within 25 km of the Apple Store visited. If C has informed upfront to AS2 of the effort and time taken to just arrive at the Apple Store, it is not small talk, he or she is crying for help. AS2 is recommended to not just follow any prescribed conversation script, if any, but interact with more empathy for C who may have taken the whole day off just to come into an Apple store.
I urge all AS2 staff members to just follow a simple guide - how would I best help a customer if that customer was me?
C then can leave the Apple store after making an appointment, better understanding the limitations faced by all parties seeking technical help in an Apple Store.
When the same C returns to the Apple Store following up on a text reminder (that the technician is ready to attend to C) and then finds that C's appointment is cancelled for no upfront reason, AS2 must seat the customer in another area away from the queue, offer to find out why with other staff if AS2 does not know, instead of silently staring at C - and always keep in mind C is still interested in Apple despite al the roadblocks faced (that is why C came back).
Where AS2 is not trained well or does not have the mindset to manage such a situation, each Apple Store must have a fellow mentor staff walk about to identify such situations and help defuse /resolve the matter. In my experience, Alexis the Manager at the Apple Store Miranda Westfield was quick, alert and business focused sufficiently to do this on 6 July 2016.
My other recommendations (ASR) to Apple Stores from my experience in the Sydney NSW area are:
ASR1 : Do not penalise customers who are keen and responsible enough to turn up because of the behaviour of others who make appointments and do not turn up. Not all customers are the same.
For example, I always phone (and not just text) the restaurant asap when I cannot make it to a dining booking.
ASR2: Customers seeking technical help often have no other choice but make the effort to visit because they have exhausted other means of trying to resolve technical issues with their purchased Apple products.
The open floor plan of an Apple store, with no obvious clarity as to which sections or Apple Staff are dealing with sales, information queries, administrative functions or technical help, is not on.
ASR3: It is a good idea like Apple does have a dedicated staff (AS1) to be the first point of contact for any customers walking into an Apple Store. However on days with crowds, it can be not easy to know who is that person and even the dedicated staff may be taken away by other arrivals on other matters and not standing in front. All Apple staff are wearing the same coloured T shirts but that is not sufficient to further identify AS1.
Why not make this clearer by having AS1 stand behind a welcome portal?
ASR4: It is so easy to separate the Apple store into three sections - Information, Sales and Technical Assistance - and make them clearer as to which part of the Apple Store attends to which.Simple English is better to be used and avoid references like the Genius Bar, which is simply a Tech Hub.
Apple may like open office or store plans but this is not helpful to a customer.
ASR5: I have encountered some Apple store staff who are on the front line with customers (either by phone or in person) having an over load of smugness and self-congratulatory sense they are the best, when such individuals can improve their customer engagement skills and realise that the best accolades are given by customers after they have had a good experience at the store, and not by self-indulgent talk by staff members before anything is done.
ASR6: Apple is proud to have more customers, but by having a larger growth in customer numbers, it must seriously rethink the number of Apple stores to help in technical service after customers outside the capital city areas have purchased their products. These are customers who have got nowhere to solution to their Apple related problems after trying on line, using the Ap[p or talking to someone on the phone.
ASR7: Have Apple staff members wear first name tags - be proud of who you are.
ASR8: Allow AS1 to offer customers up front some thing easy to refer to ( a pamphlet, handy help card or direct web page reference) for better understanding how the process works in getting technical help at an Apple store. This helps AS2 to avoid a lot of grief and effort in explaining every time to a customer seeking technical help.
ASR9: Apple stores can consider eliminating the role of AS2 all together if you can better support AS1 in being the only layer customers face before they are directed to sales, administration, information enquiry or technical assistance.