We are only allowed to speculate the real cause for the seemingly ridiculous tantrum that an Apple Store customer threw this week at the Grove Apple store in Los Angeles. A six second video of a customer's wild reaction, to what she perceived was poor service, was uploaded to Vine and has gone viral. Now, we can all point and laugh at the child-like stunt of a person not willing to follow the rules.
[The original Vine video was taken down, but here is a Youtube video.]
Please don't confuse my dissent with acceptance of this customer's behavior. I don't condone it. However, Customer Service should not have allowed the situation to get to a boiling point.
There were signs of escalation
It's hard for me to imagine that the customer walked into the store screaming at the top of her lungs for a part for a device. She was obviously speaking to someone about her issues, likely the employee who seemed to be taking the tantrum very well. Even Porscha Coleman, the actress who uploaded the video to her Vine account, recognized the signs of escalation because she was aware enough to pull out her phone and open the Vine app to start recording. Apple's Customer Service should have recognized the same signs and made genuine attempts to de-escalate.
Empathy, not Sympathy
We each react to stressful situations very differently. I tend to take a breather and walk away for a moment. Some people get very upset. This customer was obviously part of the latter. But put yourself in her shoes for a moment...
You're sitting at home and one of your not-so-cheap devices fails on you. Bummer!
You call Apple Care hoping to resolve the issue quickly and conveniently. Apple Care tells you that you will be able to walk into the store and pick up the necessary part.
Ok, so you grab your child, prepare a bag for them, get all set up to travel to the nearest Apple store. Any parent can attest to how majorly inconvenient it is to travel anywhere with a child. You finally get to the Apple Store and you're shut down... How do you feel?
Not so great, I take it. You get a better understanding of a customer's reaction when you place yourself in their shoes for a moment rather than just feeling sorry for them.
What could have been done differently?
I can only speculate the story behind this event. I am dissecting a six second video with little backstory. Most people love to point and laugh at situations such as this (it can be very entertaining), but we fail to realize that there could be a fundamental issue that we are overlooking. How could Apple's customer service have handled this better?
- They could avoid sending customers into the store without an appointment. If Apple Care offers a customer to go into the store, they can automatically create an appointment for them or at least offer to create the appointment.
- They could provide the customer with a verification code of some sort to get accelerated service in-store.
- The Apple store employee could have recognized that this woman was reaching her wit's end and simply helped her out a bit more than saying "Sorry, I can't help right now."
Customer Service is not black and white. The rules can be bent (slightly). At the end of the day, if you have done everything in your power to give the customer an enjoyable experience with your business, then you have succeeded. On the other hand, this lady may not have had a good reason at all to act as she did. Either way, we're allowed to have a bad day once in a while. Right?