I had a great customer care experience yesterday.  I had entrusted my MacBook Pro to the wonderful folks at Mac Station, our favourite Apple retailer and service center. But the drive replacement wasn’t covered by warranty — because Mac Station couldn’t find a record of my AppleCare coverage. We quickly realized that my warranty hadn’t transferred from a previous Mac, and that Apple would need to step in to complete the transfer. Mac Station gave me the Apple number to call, and I set to work.

Ten minutes later, Nichole — at Apple’s call centre in Ontario — told me that every Mac service station in the world would shortly have the info that my MacBook was officially under AppleCare protection. Nichole not only grasped and sorted the problem out very quickly, with zero bureaucratic bullshit, but was an absolute pleasure to deal with: friendly, professional, and scrupulous in informing me of how long each step of the process would take. (“I need to put you on hold for a couple of minutes to complete the process. It won’t be longer than five minutes. is that OK?”)

So when an Apple customer survey popped up in my inbox this morning, asking for feedback on my customer care experience, I was delighted to reply. I followed the link, and answered the five short questions on the first page of the survey, asking me to rate different aspects of my call experience. I skipped over the one open-ended question — “Is there anything that the support agent could have done better to resolve the issue during the call?” — because I couldn’t think of anything that could have gone better. (Other than fulfilling my eternal fantasy: “Gosh, you’ve been such a pleasure to deal with, we’d like to send you a free computer!”)


I clicked on the “next page” button and got an impressively multilingual thank-you — but no opportunity to write a love letter to Nicole.  That workflow represents a misfire on a couple of fronts.

First,  you should never put a button that says “next page” on what is, in fact, a last page. The button should say “submit” or “finish”. If I had known this was the only page of the survey I would have put my nice comments in the “how can we improve?” box.

But here’s the larger point: Never ask your customers for negative feedback without also inviting positive feedback.  Positive feedback matters because:

  • Asking your customers to think about what you did right encourages them to play back their experience while looking for positive moments. That gives them a chance to relive their interaction with you or your products while looking through rose-coloured glasses. It subtly reinforces a positive memory or impression of your brand.
  • It conveys confidence in your customer care, services or products. When you ask only for suggestions on how to improve, it suggests you’re aware of things that are going wrong — and don’t expect people to have great things to say.
  • Positive feedback is crucial to performance management. If Nicole’s manager knows that she gets consistently great ratings, she knows Nicole is great in her current position. If Nicole’s manager hears what Nicole does well, she’ll develop insights into where Nicole can contribute even greater value to the customer care team. And giving Nicole specific quotes from delighted customers may be as powerful a motivator as a cash bonus.
  • It makes your customer a partner in building your brand. When I tell Apple — or any company — what I love about it — in makes me feel like a part of their team. I feel more invested in that company, and more connected to them as a customer.
  • It informs best practices. Learn from what your customers love — in your product, your services or your customer care — and you can work towards disseminating those qualities or practices throughout your organization. Does every customer care agent know Nicole’s trick of informing the customer how long she’ll be on hold? If not, Apple could learn from my feedback.
  • Positive feedback is the pathway to profound value growth, because it helps you build on your strengths. Robert Gass points out that when we look at performance evaluations, we tend to focus on our weaknesses — but in truth, our BIG gains are less likely to come from improving on our weaknesses, than from really capitalizing on our strengths. If you don’t ask what you’re doing well, you miss the chance to build on your greatest sources of value.

And if you make the positive feedback process even a little bit social, it can also support your marketing and brand awareness. What if Apple included the following link at the bottom or end of its survey — perhaps offered dynamically, in response to my highly positive evaluation:

We’re glad you had a great experience with Apple Customer Care. You can tell us what made it great by:

• sending us a message on Twitter to @applecare
• leaving a note on our Facebook page
• blogging about your care experience — tag it AppleCare and we’ll put it on our blog, too!

Each month AppleCare chooses the best customer care story — and extends that customer’s AppleCare for an extra 12 months!

By inviting people to provide their feedback in a public, social way  (rather than privately to Apple), and ideally by subtly incentivizing that feedback, Apple turns every bit of positive feedback into a peer-to-peer ad campaign.

If Apple tells you they have great customer service, will you believe them? Everybody says they have great customer service.

But if you — my friend, colleague or family member — read about Apple’s great customer care on my blog, how much weight does that recommendation carry? You tell me.


I just spent some time searching around for an e-mail link or webform on Apple Canada’s site so that I could let them know about this blog post. There wasn’t an obvious point of entry, but eventually I found a feedback form for online support — where once again Apple just asked for the negatives!

Apple online support form