Develop a Plan for Improving Customer Service Research Paper

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The Challenge of Improving Upon Exemplary Customer Service: Apple, Inc.

For the purposes of this task, the organisation of focus will be the international giant, Apple, Inc. Apple is an organisation and a brand with international fame conjuring instant recognition and respect from global consumers for nearly four decades. Apple has an exceptional reputation for many aspects of their business practices such as product quality, product variety, and for the paper's purposes, customer service. As the paper will demonstrate and cite, this organisation has an outstanding reputation for customer service. Apple's customer service is ranked high both nationally (domestically) and internationally. Why choose an organisation that is so far ahead of most others? It is a formidable challenge to constantly and effectively improve upon excellence; this is the task that Apple puts before itself each year, and it is the same perspective from which the paper aligns itself.

Trends in many industries including retail illustrate that firmly successful organisation pay a great deal of attention to and allocate moderate to abundant resources for ensuring high quality customer service. It is more evident in the 21st century digital landscape, a world of peer reviews, Facebook "Liking," and Google+, that the opinions of customers directly impact branding, marketing, profits, losses, and general sustainability. The improvement of customer service therefore is not an altruistic act for organisations to demonstrate they do "the right thing." The practice of improving customer service need not come from an ethical standpoint to be justifiably implemented. The practice of improving customer service is a necessity for organisations to become and remain profitable. Without sustained attention paid to the constant improvement of customer service, an organisation is doomed to fail. The paper reinforces the reasons why organisations should dedicate appropriate resources to customer service quality improvement(s). The paper evaluates the already above average customer service of Apple, proposes possible areas in which to improve while providing support for such recommendations.

Apple, Inc., a company founded in America, is a multinational corporation. The company was established in 1976 in California. Apple designs and sells electronics, software, and computers at the consumer and professional levels. Of the numerous products Apple is known for, some of them include the iPad, the iPhone, the bipod, and software such as Final Cut Pro, Logic, and iTunes. Though Apple continues to develop and sell computers, over the past two decades the organisation shifts focus toward consumer electronics. The company has strong partnerships with other organisations such as Bose, Adobe, Nikon, and Canon. Apple's customer demographics are wide-ranging. Of course, the products appeal to young people as young people are more likely to engage with technology at a nearly intuitive level. Young people also have a great influence on trends. Apple products are definitely marketed to adults -- young, middle, and older. Apple products are extremely user friendly and intuitive as part of its strategy to reach and attract a customer base as large as possible. For the purposes of the exercise, the customer service experience refers to the following description:

Customer experience encompasses every aspect of a company's offering -- the quality of customer care, of course, but also advertising, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, and reliability...Customer experience is the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company." (Meyer & Schwager, 2007)

On every Apple product and software, there is an extensive help section and additional information for assistance such as websites, user forums which are infinitely invaluable, phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses by which customers can readily reach Apple customer service. As much of the online activity is commerce (shopping), successful organisations concerned with quality customer service ensure customers can contact the organisation by a variety of methods, based on the customer's preferences, and that the contact information is presented in a clear, simple, explicit manner that is easy for users to locate. For many customers, Apple's customer service begins online.

For those of us who live in areas where there are physical Apple stores, we would know about the additional aspects of Apple customer service. The hiring process for Apple is rigourous. The organisation seeks people who enjoy what they do, are knowledgeable, accessible, patient, confident, and align with the Apple organisational or corporate culture. Apple organizes their store staff positions based on level of knowledge and experience. While there is a cooperative atmosphere in the store, the labor is fairly specialized. Within the Apple store, consumers may peruse and shop independently without excessive pressure from staff. Consumers are welcomed, not just invited, to engage staff for questions or shop talk about software, cameras, accessories, and more. Whether online or in person, consumers may make reservations for workshops on equipment, software, or otherwise. Customers can make appointments at the Genius Bar for advanced technical service and support. Customers can further make appointments to be advised by a staff one-on-one. There are programs/workshops for youth and for businesses. The service is guaranteed to be friendly and thorough. Some stores, such as the Fifth Avenue store in New York City, are open twenty four hours a day 365 days of the year. Therefore, if customers have emergencies or needs outside of business hours, or keep odd hours themselves, they will always have the opportunity to be serviced by Apple.

Apple customers may moreover contact the organisation via telephone, email, and postal address. Every Apple product comes with a customer and/or product identification number such that in the case of the need for customer service, the consumer and the service representative can quickly access the product details and move through the crisis more seamlessly. Additionally, there is an area/product/service within Apple that is exclusively dedicated customer service called Apple Care. Apple Care's sole function is customer service for every product and service Apple offers. In some cases, limited access to Apple Care comes along with purchase of Apple products; customers may also purchase Apple Care at any point they choose for any one or multiple Apple products they own or to which they have access. Apple Care services are typically available twelve hours a day, seven days a week. The purpose of providing and monitoring service is to retain and to keep attracting existing customers while also attracting new customers because "customer satisfaction is related to customer loyalty, which in turn is related to profitability." (Hallowell, 1995)

Apple is no doubt hugely successful, yet it is not an organisation without flaws. Customers complain about Apple customer service. The complaints do not regard response time, nor to accessibility of customers service representatives or departments. The complaints have to do with the attitude with which Apple sometimes approaches customers. Complaining customers of Apple claim that Apple customer service can be condescending. (Ogg, 2010) Complaining consumers contend that Apple customer service has a split personality, bi-polar disorder, or some other personality disorder when it comes to customer service -- Apple can be at once profoundly sincere and helpful, and be equally snarky and arrogant. (Ogg, 2010) Other complaints regard charges customers incur for inspections for imperfections of purchase products. Some unsatisfied customers claim that after purchasing monitors and displaying, their equipment immediately stopped working after the warranties expired. When these customers voiced their complaints on the Apple site, their comments were deleted regularly.[footnoteRef:0] These two categories of complaints seem to be related. [0: Consumer Complaints & Reviews. 2001 -- 2012.]

While Apple values the customer, the manifestations of poor customer service reveal an underlying disdain for and underestimation of the customer. Simply, Apple knows and thinks it is smarter than its consumers -- all of them. No doubt the staff of Apple is talented, but to presume the organisation has nothing to learn from its consumer base is irresponsible and haphazard. Apple retains an arrogance over its intelligence over the consumer. This arrogance manifests as condescension to customers; the arrogance also manifests in denial of fallibility. To deny one's own fallibility is dangerous as well. By denial one's vulnerabilities, one makes oneself increasingly vulnerable to other threats. Lacking the ability to objective review one's progress hampers growth, development, expansion, and elevation -- all of which Apple claims or brands itself to represent. Clearly, in the instances of poor customer service, Apple's practices are antithetical to the brand identity it projects.

Recommendations to Apple regarding improvements to customer service would include acknowledgement of flaws of products. In the information or Internet age, consumers will absolutely find a digital platform on which to express grievances and rants. It is a better image for the company to acknowledge that there are unsatisfied customers and they have very specific complaints. Many if not most of complaining customers are long time devotees of Apple. People do not voice complaints to be obnoxious or for the sake of complaining; there is a utilitarian aspect to complaining that Apple neglects to recognize. Consumers complain because they want to use the products they purchased; they want their products to perform at their best…[continue]

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