WARNING: Some people think I’m an Apple ‘fanboy’. For the record, I’ve been using Apple products since 2006 and yes, I love them. I also like what Satya Nadella has been doing at Microsoft since 2104 AND I’ve loved watching ‘Inside Bill’s Brain’ on Netflix.
A little over 8 years ago, Steve Jobs died.
And you might feel that the post-Steve Apple isn’t quite the same as it was.
My experience a few days ago might be illuminating. Let’s see:
It began with what could have been something of a disaster. It was 12:45 on a Thursday morning last week here in Singapore. I opened up my MacBook Pro to do a Web Event (that’s what some people call ‘a webinar’) scheduled to go live at 1 a.m. with an audience of some 184 Accountants primarily from the US and the UK.
On opening, the Mac told me it had 1% power left. And as I plugged it in … it died. Nothing. Nobody home. Black screen.
Two things were in my favor though. First, I had an older Mac close by and a 3-day old back up. Second, I had a co-host in the UK, Steve Pipe. (Oh and thirdly I could use my iPhone — the Zoom iPhone interface is pretty cool.)
Steve held the fort magnificently until 1:20. Off we went. And amazingly people stayed until 3:48 in the morning!!! But my Mac still would not fire up.
So then came a couple of hours' sleep and a call to Apple Support. Enter Apple magic and then Chloe.
The Apple magic is the AI they use on the call — it instantly noticed I had many Apple purchases over the years and it wanted me to press ‘1’ if it was my October 2019 one or ‘2’ if it was my October 2018 one … etc.
I hit the ‘2’. And instantly the AI recognized it as my now dead MacBook Pro and then, after giving me 4 choices of the type of music I’d like to listen to if I was placed on hold, along came Chloe.
Chloe was the usual calm, beautifully focused-on-the-customer support person you’d expect (my understanding is they spend 6 weeks knowing how to do that … more on that later). We tried a number of multi-key hold workarounds. Still nobody home.
So I asked about getting it to a Support Center — I knew there was one a few kilometres away in Jurong. “Ah,” she said, “we can’t get you an appointment there until Saturday. But there’s one I can get you in at 12:45 pm today at Jewel in Changi Airport — it looks like that’s just 21 minutes away — would that work for you, Mr. Dunn?”
“That would be brilliant!”
“OK … let me lock it in.”
Chloe did well. The customer (me) has a big issue but is feeling good — interesting!
So now it’s off to Jewel. Jewel is the new amazing ‘shopping center’ (it’s much more than that — it’s an amazing experience. Check it out here.
And Apple has their second Singapore flagship store right there at the splendid Jewel entry.
I’m early. There’s the Apple person on the door welcoming everybody “Welcome to Apple and how can I help you today?” (So much better than ‘can I help you’ isn’t it?) And the environment of the store is superb, clean, Apple-esque everywhere.
I show her the Apple support confirmation email on my phone and explain I’m 45 minutes early. “Great, then let me see if I can get you in earlier, Mr. Dunn. Would that be OK?”
12:15 now becomes the appointed time. “Super,” I say. “And is there any way I can get a coffee?
“Right next door here at Coffee World,” she says.
So I go to Coffee World figuring I’ll sit down, do some emails and have a skinny-latte. At 12 along comes the Apple welcome person again. She’s found me in the coffee shop.
“Mr. Dunn, good news, we’re ready now if you can. Oh, and please bring your coffee with you.”
Seriously — please bring your coffee with you!!!
So I get directed upstairs via a staircase that replicates Apple’s Conference Stage at their new campus. And I meat Nabs.
Nabs is, I’d guess … 23. She’s wearing a hijab and a lovely smile. “So, Mr. Dunn, sorry to hear about your issues with your Mac. If it’s OK with you I want to do a couple of quick checks here and then depending on how they work out I may take it to our service people to see what we can do. Will that be alright?”
And I have to sign something that says my data may be lost.
During the checks, Nabs is in constant chat with me …. mostly about me, what I do and so on. The electronic checks Nabs is doing don’t resuscitate the Mac.
“Hmmm,” she says. “Might be a logic board and that’s quite an issue .. but not to worry, you’re Mac is under Apple Care. I’ll be about 8 minutes — please feel free to take a look around the store while you’re waiting — oh you can also bring the soup up here if you need to.”
Seriously ……… soup?????? It gets even better.
Nabs is back inside the 8 minutes.
“WOW, I’ve never seen a fully maxed up Mac like that before — it's got everything added. And yes, we think it is a logic board. Now, fortunately, we have a maxed out logic board here — if we didn’t it would be 10 days but it’ll be 5 days right now. And that includes the weekend too, Mr. Dunn so it should be Tuesday 15th when we have it back to you. If we can make it faster we will.”
Of course, at this point, there’s little I can do but agree. I sign that it’ll wipe out my data. I thank Nabs — and I ask her if I can stay in the store to make some Zoom calls (on my phone). She finds me a quiet place in the corner.
I have one 40-minute call — it’s good. And I have 90 minutes before my next one and then I have a meeting at the airport. So I get onto emails. Someone who’s been sitting a few stools away from me leans over, “I couldn’t help noticing you’ve got the same iPhone case as I have — they’re really great aren’t they?”
They certainly are, military-grade carbon fibre and strong yet very thin. And then the conversation morphs. It turns out that I’m talking with David, the Senior Manager at Apple’s Jewel Store.
He already knows about my dead Mac and says he hopes they can get it back to me quickly.
Again, like Nabs, the conversation is about me (and B1G1). And eventually, I’m able to get it round to Apple. We talk about David’s 8 years and how it’s just 8 years since Steve Jobs died. We talk about Angela Ahrens (former head of Retail at Apple) and her influence — ‘we love Angela’ is the common refrain.
And then we REALLY get into it. We morph from Apple technology to the thing that David says Apple is all about — “people,” he says, “It’s all about the people.”
I remember how Walter Isaacson in his huge 656-page book (it’s called simply ‘Steve Jobs’) talked about the role of The Ritz Carlton in building the Apple culture. I well remember talking for years in the ’90s about going to the Ritz Carlton University in Chicago for 3 days to learn how they did it.
I learned about their Credo [this new version is WELL worth a read] and how everyone has to have the credo on their person all the time at work.
I mention this to David and he nods knowingly as if to say ‘we have one of those locked away too but we don’t talk about it publicly.’ [A subsequent search finds a version of it … funnily enough at Mac Rumours here]
As you’ll see, it really is all about people.
And I see that happening all around me during my time in the store — how an incredibly diverse group of team members are dealing brilliantly with an incredibly diverse array of customers.
“Bye, Mr. Dunn. Hope we get your Mac back to you soon,” says a new ‘greeter’ as I leave. It’s been great.
Of course, every story ought to have a happy ending. Let’s see if this one does:
Friday 4:02 pm — 29 hours after I drop in my Mac and reconciling myself to 4 more days Mac-less, a message arrives with this subject line: “Your MacBook Pro is ready for pickup.” Not 5 days, but 1.
As I said when we started out, ‘So Much More Than Just ‘a Repair’.
And maybe the post-Steve Apple is different.
David nailed it. It is about the people now — not about the man. What a legacy to leave. What a legacy to see people living it every day.