The Genius behind the Apple Store

by Daniel H. Steinberg

I returned from MacWorld to a computer that wouldn't boot properly. It sounded as if it was searching a CD that wasn't there and the video never came on. I've been here before so I tried all the usual things. I held down keyboard combinations for different boot options or to reset the system. I held down the mouse to convince it to eject the nonexistent CD. I opened up the tower and pressed the power reset button. Nothing worked.

This has happened before and I've taken it to the genius bar at my local Apple store and they've brought it back to life. So I went online and made an appointment at the Legacy Village Apple Store using the Concierge web application. The application made it easy to schedule a 2 p.m. appointment. Genius.

Just before 2, I carried my G5 tower into the store. Lance greeted me at the Genius Bar and said they were running a bit behind so I deposited Elena, my six year old daughter, at the kids computers where she was immediately engrossed in a game featuring "The Incredible". Something for the kids to do while their parents shopped or dealt with repairs. I'd noticed this before but in the past I was waiting for my kids to stop playing the games so I could leave. This time I needed her to be entertained or occupied for a while and she was. Genius.

It wasn't more than a minute or so until Lance started calling people off of two different lists. I'd never noticed before but there are separate queues for iPod and computer problems. Now it may seem to you and me that the worst thing you can do in a store trying to sell computers is to surround them with people having problems with their computers. We might put the help and repair center somewhere else. But we aren't geniuses.

iPod users who may or may not be Mac owners come to get a real person to look at a problem they might be having with their iPod in this place where more iPods and shiny new computers live. All machines have problems. But here in the Apple store someone calmly takes their device and either points out what the problem is or tries to fix it. And next to that person with their iPod being fixed is someone getting their Mac fixed. Genius.

I don't know whether or not Lance is a genius outside of the Apple store, but he was great while working on my machine. I didn't think things were going to go well at first. My machine initially came up registered to another user. I didn't pick up on that until Lance referred to me as Hector for a second time. He calmly looked at what was wrong, thought about what the cause could have been, and fixed it. I left happy and the people next to me with their iPods noted that.

Apple has talked about the importance of having retail stores within fifty miles of a high percentage of the population. This is good for those people who buy in person but it also encourages Apple fans to hang out in the stores and look at the new toys. It also means that the Genius bars can serve as the front line for questions and problems in a public setting where other people can see that Mac users get answers.

Not everything in my Apple experience has been great. After all, I wouldn't have had to bring the machine in the first place if it had been working. But the way in which they treated a customer with a problem was . . . genius.


2006-01-17 12:36:19
Not so great for some
Last week I had to endure a Windows user (my landlord) complain about the whole concept of having to make a reservation to get an iPod shuffle looked at. He was very angry that the store staff referred him to a reservation list instead of taking care of his issue right then and there.

Instead of a reservation system, Apple should address getting more staffing at the help desk. Just looks better for customers.

2006-01-17 12:55:43
Who is better?
I too have had the experience at the Apple Store where the queue for the Genius was backed up.

I have to ask, does anyone do it better? Where else will you get your problem addressed sooner? Nowhere, except maybe for the customer service counter at the supermarket, but all they do is issue rainchecks. Certainly not any automotive service establishement, or anyone else who deals in anything complex.

2006-01-17 13:21:59
Don't keep us in suspense!
He calmly looked at what was wrong, thought about what the cause could have been, and fixed it.

So what was it that was wrong with your machine?

2006-01-17 13:29:05
Don't keep us in suspense!
After telling me it couldn't be the video card he checked it and decided it was the video card. He replaced it and life* was immediately better.

This impressed me. How often have we decided in our heads that something couldn't possibly be the problem and never go back to verify that this is really the case. Again +1 for Lance in my book.

*life but not iLife. My iMac that arrived two days before the MW keynote was bundled with iLife '05 with no upgrade plan for iLife '06. I've been trying to do the right thing and buy the family pack for a week now and everyone seems to be out of stock.
2006-01-17 16:43:11
Not so great for some
And in how many places can you walk in and get same day service or repacement for a multi-hundred dollar piece of electronics. Most brands I must call a customer service line, wait on hold for longer than I would like, convince them that something really is wrong, get an RMA # and box and ship it to them, only to have it returned when they get to it in 3-6 weeks. (this was for an HP branded iPod... a big mistake)

With Apple, I have taken an iPod into the store, had it declared defective and replaced. It took 2 hours to get service, but I got to watch a seminar on Garageband and I walked out with a working product.

Comparitively, the 2 experiences are night and day. It might seem inconvenient to need an appointment. But when you compare it to other experiences in the same field, you realise how good it really is.

2006-01-18 06:15:46
Re: Not so great for some
I took in an in-warranty (but bought from another store) PowerBook with a dying backlight the weekend before Christmas. It was crazy busy, and someone with a G5 tower kept a genius tied up for nearly a half-hour, but they got through everyone and sent mine out for service. I had it back in three days. VERY impressive.
2006-01-18 06:29:39
Not so great for some
I think being able to make your reservation online makes this a moot point. You can check the cue and make your reservation, thus saving a lot of time.