But in a world that changes so drastically in such short periods of time and in a market filled with fierce competition and customers which change and increase their needs on daily basis, achieving customer loyalty is quite difficult; ergo, Apple's need to develop and implement better and stronger CRM policies.
Current Features of Apple's CRM
Given the specific nature of their businesses and the fact that after the purchase has been completed, several customers need additional services, the Apple Corporation encourages all current and potential customers to address their questions and complaints to an Apple representative. The corporate website contains detailed information on how customers can contact a service support department within both Canada and the United States.
In addition, for a specified fee, Apple customers can benefit from AppleCare, a service of extended support for the Apple products. There are large numbers of Apple customers who declare themselves extremely satisfies with the quality of the services offered by Apple, who always have time and patience to guide customers step-by-step through telephone and explain them what to do. "I have never had a bad experience with Apple customer support. When my iMac wouldn't start up, the phone service guided me through reinstalling the OS from a disk, and all my files were preserved" (Macbook Random Shutdown, 2008)
Another characteristic of Apple's service support, which could be regarded as a problem (but is on the other hand understandable and does not pose any major problems), is the fact that Apple does not monitor the discussions and comments posted onto their corporate forum by customers. Therefore, if one has a problem, they must directly address an Apple consultant, not just post their message on the forum and expect and answer. But the support is however available online and the customer entering Apple's webpage can type in a question which will be answered in the shortest time possible by trained and skilled representatives.
The Apple organization has managed to successfully implement Interactive Marketing throughout the promotional and advertising campaign for their latest product, the iPhone. By presenting numerous videos on both television and internet, by appearing on numerous shows and granting interviews about the features of the iPhone and by creating an aura of mystery and awaiting of the new product, Steve Jobs managed to attract increased interest from consumers.
Problems of Apple's CRM first problem which arises once a clients looks at Apple's corporate website is the fact that they only offer customers the change to find a service provider within the United States and Canada. But the company operates and sells their products to large numbers of countries across the globe and to only offer the possibility of locating a service support center within two countries is a definite shortage. It is however true that the company offers the phone numbers of international service locations within countries such as Australia, Belgium, China, Japan or Germany (a total of 43 countries). But the data are not always updated and the phone numbers introduced onto the website may have easily been replaced or changed in the last period. Furthermore, several customers have complained that on calling Apple's service support, they were met with rude responses and were unable to have their problems solved.
Another complaint from customers in regard to the quality of the support services offered by Apple is given by the company's refusal to replace damaged or inappropriate gadgets, but simply trying to mend the broken part, instead of replacing the entire gadget. And this process is itself highly inconvenient as the customer has to send his item to the Apple support, they will hold on to it for a while, until they have repaired it and then send it back to the client. They do all these for the customers who do not purchase the AppleCare service. "If we would have paid the $300 or so, I was told Apple would have REPLACED the whole iBook, with a new model, a long, long time ago. But since we didn't, we have to go this process of giving them the iBook, they ship it away, fix it, then ship it back" (Mac Rumors, 2005) the AppleCare service, whose subscribers are supposed to be free from such drag, is considered highly overpriced, yet another problem with Apple's customers relationships (Hafner, 2007)
In regard to managing the relationships with their customers, Apple has been accused for covering the complaints they get. As such, however the company does not directly answer to the messages posed on the website forum, they do read them and supposedly delete the threads which criticize the organization, their products or services. "Can this discussion forum be used in any manner to criticize an aspect of Apple? I've a complaint concerning an Apple policy, and when I ask for opinions about my complaint, my thread is deleted and no reason forwarded to me.
Should I guess that Apple does not like criticism? Sweep it under the rug instead of tackling it head on?" (Discussions Apple, 2008)
Apple's problems derive from their immense desire and efforts to maintain their leading position. In this order of ideas, the company's size, considered a definite strength, has turned against the organization in the meaning that they now possess so many agencies that they find it hard to properly and efficiently manage them. In addition, they emphasize on the need to implement the latest technologies; but these new technologies are insufficiently tested and are as such launched onto the market containing several bugs. Finally, they serve immense numbers of customers across the globe, customers which bring in major revenues, but which also require service and support, and Apple does not always have these resources available.
4. Recommendations for Practice
The problems presented so far within the Apple Company, deriving from dissatisfied customers and revealing a rather inferior quality of service support, could be resolved through the implementation of Interactive Marketing. These procedures would help the organization better communicate with the customers, identify their needs and wants and better address them, to the moral satisfaction of customers and the financial satisfaction of the organization. The strategies to be developed must be clearly identified and not forced all at once, but implemented based on clear schedules.
Within 6 months
For the next six months, the Apple Company must analyze their problems and their causes, as well as try to identify possible solutions to resolving the CRM problems. They should develop solutions which add value to the services offered by the organization and increase customers' satisfaction. Also, a budget must be developed as to reveal the additional costs generated by the new Interactive Marketing strategies. They are to choose the best solution which best satisfies their needs and whose application would be integrated within the general marketing context at Apple.
Within 1 year
In the first year since the identification of the CRM problems within Apple, the company should actually implement the strategies developed in the first stages. As such, they would collect more data from customers, better and more attentively analyze it and establish clear regulations of how the information would be processes. The retrieved data should then be used to increase the quality of Apple's customer relations, including service support.
Within 3 years
The first three years of better CRM strategies should materialize in increased profits and much more satisfied customers. Also, based on customers' requests, Apple employees, including vendors, should all receive specialized training as to be able to assist customers in resolving their technical difficulties. The final results should be analyzed and a conclusion should be made if the strategies were able to increase customers' satisfaction and loyalty to the brand. Also, the Apple executives must be informed if the strategies were efficient from the stand point of efforts made and results retrieved.
During the first three years from the implementation of Interactive Marketing procedures, as well as after these three years have ended, the Apple organization must remain alert to all changes affecting the business community, the competitors, the customers and the technological advancements. They must increase efforts to become more flexible and adaptable.
Hafner, K., August 23, 2007, at&T Overstuffed iPhone Bills Annoy Customers the New York Times
Payne, a., 2006, Handbook of CRM: Achieving Excellence Through Customer Management, Elsevier Science and Technology Books, ISBN: 9780750664370
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