I generally love the Apple Stores for their customer service and environment, as a primary Mac user for the past four years. You may have read stories about how executives from the Apple Store have been working with Stanford Hospital to create a better environment and experience for patients. It's another fascinating example of taking good ideas from other industries, such as checklists from aviation and Lean management principles from Toyota, and applying them to the betterment of patient care.
Unfortunately, my last Apple Store visit made me think more of a hospital visit… but not in a good way.
After about 16 months of pretty heavy use on my MacBook Air (including much of the writing for my upcoming Healthcare Kaizen), I managed to wear away the period and comma keys, as if small chips had come off the surface of the physical keys. I was afraid these scrapes would possibly damage my screen when the laptop was closed, as I could already see a small mark being left on the screen.
I went to the web to book an appointment with the Genius Bar (OK, that's something you generally can't do with your physician or a specialist). When I arrived, the Genius Bar was running about 20 minutes behind schedule (now that sounds like a doctor's office). They diagnosed the problem (yes, the keys were wearing out, as I had stated) and told me I'd have to come back after they ordered parts.
Unlike my good friend Sami Bahri, DDS (“The World's First Lean Dentist”), the Apple Store wasn't equipped to take care of my needs in a single visit. It's too bad they couldn't have ordered the replacement parts based on my online assessment, as I would have avoided an additional trip, burning less gas in the process. That's a minor gripe, I suppose. My MacBook still worked, so I was able to take it home and wait.
A few days later, Apple called to tell me the part was in and I could bring the MacBook in for surgery. What happened when I arrived for that second visit might really remind you of surgery registration or even an emergency room visit.
Triage and Handoffs
I entered the front door and stood in a short queue to talk to the greeter, who was apparently triaging and pointing people to the right direction. I guess I could have gone straight back to the Genius Bar or found another blue-shirted employee, but this seemed to be the process.
After a wait, I explained my situation to the greeter and she told me to go over to the MacBook display table to talk to another employee.
That employee was engaged with another customer, so I stood in another queue. After about five minutes, I again explained why I was there and he said, oh, you need to walk back there and talk to Sean.
I've told my story twice now and I'm still not closer to getting any direct help. Two queues, ten minutes. That guy had trouble explaining how to find Sean — go down “that” aisle. “Which aisle?,” I asked, not understanding his vague directions (there are many aisles in the store). After a little more back and forth, I set out to find the guy with the glasses and the goatee (which could have been other employees).
I made my way back to Sean and I waited again as he wrapped up with another customer. I explained, again, why I was there, and Sean said, “OK, I'll go get so -and-so.”
So the fourth employee came out, and I explained my story again. He asked ,”Did you being your paperwork?” No, I hadn't, as I don't remember being told that it was necessary to bring the paperwork (things like this happen with hospitals and patients all the time). It turns out it wasn't necessary for me to have brought the paperwork (so why do they ask for it?)
He took my precious MacBook, and said it would be in surgery for the day (not the words he used) and that they would call me when it was ready to be discharged (picked up).
What Could They do Better?
Hospitals can be really frustrating to navigate for new patients. How many times does a patient have to tell their story in the emergency room or when registering for surgery?
I think the Apple Store experience, while not horrible, could have been easier if there had been a sign that said “drop off repairs here.” You know, visual management. But, that probably doesn't fit their store aesthetic…
I assume this experience – the multiple triage points, the handoffs, the repetition, and the waste time – are not the sorts of things that Apple is teaching to Stanford! :-)
p.s. Surgery went great and I got my MacBook back the very next day, good as new! So, again, there's an aspect of the experience that went great.
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