Big vs Small Apple: An Illustration of Small Business Strengths

I like Apple products because they work – and make my life easier. So when they stop working, I’m less than happy.

Big Apple: Experience with an Apple Store

Despite my status as a Millenial (born in 1982), my core identity is an Introvert medium majority adopter. So, despite Apple’s really clever marketing model in their stores (i.e. lots of color and movement all designed to get you excited enough to buy the latest greatest tools) makes me claustrophobic and headachy. I will procrastinate indefinitely to avoid my Genius Bar appointment, even though I know enough to make an appointment.

So when my Mom’s white 2009 MacBook refused to turn on anymore, I knew what I had to do: make a Genius Bar appointment. Nothing was available for 4 days, so I opted for Friday, and waited stoically.

When Mom was too ill to make the appointment, I sensibly called ahead to find out if I would need anything like special passwords, anything that might delay the swift resolution of the appointment.

20 minutes later, I was still on hold. I called a second time.

25 minutes later, I was still on hold.

Yes, this is an Apple store in a mall on Camelback Road in the metroplex of Phoenix – but at 10 or 11 a.m., you’d think that one of the most technologically amazing companies in the world would know enough to have actual people to answer the phone. Apparently, their HR practices (or something) follow every other Big Business – allow turnover to kill customer interaction.

Lesson One: Just because your Big Company is great, doesn’t mean that you’re not alienating or turning away customers. Your customers probably keep buying from you because you’re not as bad as your competition. Once that turns around, all of your bad practices will add up to kill your bottom line. 

Small Apple: Experience with a Small Business (Mac Masters)

So I turned to the small business that fixed the results of my coffee spill all over my practically new and shiny, 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro: Mac Masters. At my last visit, they’d done an in-depth cleaning and new keyboard installation that became necessary when keys were sticking and my laptop was refusing to stay awake. The store is deep in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, and parking is somewhat limited, but what are those issues when balanced against customer service and integrity?

When I arrived at the store, the owner [Jeremy] remembered his (free!) phone call from me. He diagnosed the problem, had the right battery to install into Mom’s computer, and added on another task for free because I was a returning customer.

In about 20 minutes, Mom’s laptop was awake, my iPhone 4S had been installed with a new battery that I’d bought off of iFixIt, and I only had to pay for the cost of the replacement products. I would have been happy to pay for labor, but was just as happy to accept free work in exchange for spreading the good word!

Lesson Two:  In terms of customer care, service, and the desire to be helpful….small business will always trump big business. Owners and employees who know the state of the small business are MUCH more likely to pick up the phone and show up to work without complaint. Why? Their paycheck is tied to their performance.

Plus, employees and the owner have probably exchanged some pay grade and time flexibility in order to help the business succeed. Small business culture is more edgy, and you’re more appreciated as a big fish in a small pond.

Lesson Three: Jeremy gave me a great tip – Genius Bar appointments are useless for older Mac or Apple products. If the product is 2012 or older, the customer service rep will just tell you to buy something new. That rang true, because Big Business really does care most about its own increase.

For Late Adopters: If you’re quite happy with your old and slightly clunky Apple product, and you want it to stay alive as long as possible, ignore the Big Apple. Your town’s small business Apple repair shop (probably) won’t bug you about getting the newest, latest, greatest wheeze that hasn’t yet worked out all the bugs. They will care about service, so that you come back.


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