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Front Lines Follow-up

Back in TidBITS-367, Ian Gregson reported on his experiences while working at Future Shop during the last holiday shopping season, and suggested that Apple could improve sales by better convincing consumers that they want Macs and by better rewarding salespeople who sell Macs. Several readers wrote in to support and augment these views.

Peter Miller <[email protected]> gave an Australian perspective, commenting that customer service is also important:

Down here in Sydney we have a number of Mac outlets, including Apple Centres, approved resellers, and the ubiquitous MacWarehouse. They are uniformly below what could be considered a reasonable level of service for any consumer item. The situation is so bad that recently my office manager told a MacWarehouse administrator that we would gladly pay extra for reasonable service…

Apple is being remiss in (at least) two ways: firstly they should be looking after the Mac evangelists and should have stuck with them despite the vast price differences between platforms. Secondly, they need intelligent sales representatives that actively promote and support the product. Neither of these things seem to happen here.

Francis Drake <[email protected]> wrote in from the southeastern U.S. to share concerns over Mac upkeep:

I live in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area. Lately, when I visit the local superstores (such as Computer City or CompUSA) and pass by the "Mac ghettos" they’re invariably smaller than they used to be or don’t exist at all, the demo machines don’t work, and sales staff is nonexistent.

Jeri Croucher <[email protected]> from Alaska, shared concerns with the supply of new Macs and repair parts:

I am a salesperson at a computer store in Fairbanks, Alaska. I sell many more Macs than I do PCs because I believe that the first-time computer user will probably do much better on a Mac. However, lately selling Macs has been difficult. When the new PowerBooks were released, I took orders for eight. All of these orders were cancelled within a few months by customers who needed a portable computer now. The store just received its first PowerBook 1400 two weeks ago. These machines were ordered the day Apple released them. Who can blame me if next time I suggest a customer buy something I know I can get? Also, when a machine needs a repair, often there is a long wait for the part. I have had customers with Macs less than two months old wait up to six months for a repair part. I think everyone should own a Mac but I am disturbed at the way the company is handling business. Advertising will do nothing until Apple can live up to its end of the bargain with support and supply.

Shawn King <[email protected]>, wrote to both TidBITS and to Guy Kawasaki’s EvangeList with comments and suggestions for Apple:

I have been the Apple Demo Days Supervisor here in Western Canada for the past two promotions. I can tell you from personal experience Apple does a lousy job of communicating to the non-computer using consumer. I had dozens of customers a day, customers that are the perfect market for Performas (Mom, Dad, 2.2 kids, etc.) who knew Macs are easy to use but who didn’t want to buy a computer that was "out-of-date" or "from a company going out of business." Rather than showing customers features that blow them away like the TV Tuner Card, QTVR, ease of Internet setup, and Megaphone, we spent an inordinate amount of time explaining Apple. The lack of fight in Apple is perceived by the consumer that Apple has given up and is just "clearing stock."

Chilly Climate — Given the overall climate in the computer industry, frankly, Apple gets enough bad press [most of which comes in the form of "news" reports and opinion columns, rather than users’ honest comments. -Jeff]. However, TidBITS didn’t receive any feedback giving opposing examples to problems cited in Ian’s article.

I’d love for someone in a leadership role at Apple to outline a plan for addressing these problems and periodically share the progress in implementing the plan. Take America Online: they have a big problem – it’s difficult to connect to their service since they instituted flat-rate pricing. What are they doing? Running prime-time TV ads about how they are solving the problem. The ad I saw last night even mentioned how many new phone lines they’ve added recently. Little would please me more than – six months from now – writing a glowing article describing how Apple is implementing a crisp and polished sales strategy for the next holiday shopping season.

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