|A Better User Experience
By: David Soyka
I first used a Mac while working at an ad firm where one line drawn between the creative and account sides was by the type of computer you had. We got the cool Apple products to write and design and be, well, creative, while the staid Windows computers went to the account executives to do their spreadsheets and send documents to corporate clients.
This was the era when everyone faxed more than emailed and when being a “cross-platform” agency was a value-add because Macs and Windows didn’t speak each other’s languages. While the Internet was beginning to fix that (I recall I could send a Word file from a Mac to a Windows machine that would come through with just some minor formatting errors, but forget trying to insert a disc of Mac created files into a Windows PC, or vice versa), corporate IT departments were content to leave the Macs to the flakes in the art department who needed to draw things. Macs were not considered serious business machines for everyone else who needed to stay inside the lines (and still aren’t, as Windows machines are cheaper to procure and maintain, plus it’s easier to stick with what you’re used to).
That in part accounts for the “hipper than thou” attitude of many Mac acolytes (another example is the art director at the aforementioned agency who only accepted text files, never Word documents, because he didn’t want Microsoft software “polluting” his treasured Mac Pro) currently in mourning over Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO. Even as Apple has become a sort of early twenty-first century version Microsoft, with a near monopoly in portable music players and close to that in smartphones comparable to the Windows OS dominance in the 1990s, the mystique of Apple endures. People enjoy using their Apple gadgets, while not so much cleaning their Windows at work. What everyone is worried about now is whether that mystique can continue at a post-Jobs Apple.
For all the deserved accolades Jobs has received for his visionary products, for knowing what consumers wanted before they did, I think one thing is getting overlooked that helps explain the intense consumer loyalty to Apple.
Go into an Apple store and ask someone a question; you get an answer from someone who seems knowledgeable. Not only knowledgeable, but somebody who actually seems to want to help you. Got a problem while working on your computer? Call a toll-free number, get connected in reasonably quick time, and talk to someone who can actually solve your problem (okay, you have to pay for an AppleCare plan beyond the initial warranty, but who isn’t willing to pay for an extended protection plan that does more than pad retailer profit margins?).
It’s the customer service, stupid! Sure, Apple wouldn’t be Apple without its groundbreaking products. But if they didn’t work as advertised, and the company didn’t stand behind its products, Apple wouldn’t have more cash reserves than the U.S. Treasury. They’d be just like all the other companies today that focus on short-term results to boost shareholder value, and not coincidentally executive payouts, more comfortable being the wizards who hide behind the curtain rather than practice real wizardry.
Even in the digital age, some old-fashioned values improve the user experience.
David Soyka is freelance copywriter who has conceptualized and developed a range of strategic advertising, marketing, training, and technical communications for advertising agencies and Fortune 1000 companies in print, web, and broadcast formats. A former newspaper reporter and English teacher, he is a published author of ficiton and non-fiction, and a DJ at WTJU-FM. Find him online here.
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