I am a Mac girl. Most of my friends, clients and students know that. Ever since Apple rolled out a real honest to goodness retail store, where you could walk in and get real help, I advocated and evangelized the purchase of these wonderful machines. I mean, I have loved Macs for years, but it was always the "odd machine" out. Once the Apple retail stores came in to Massachusetts, I was sold. I went so far to spend more than I should have on a top of the line 17" MacBook Pro 5 years ago. The fee based Apple Care, although an additional expense, it was a godsend. Walking in with an appointment , you could place your computer down on the Genius Bar, and having a tech look at what you were looking at right infront of you. It was a huge relief after having to remove chunks of hair in frustration trying to work someone via phone in a foreign country for any type of support. The only draw back I could see were the limited number of Apple stores in the Worcester area. Choices for stores were all an hour or more away from where I live in Northern Worcester County.
Enter Staples. That's right…the paperclip folks. For years they have been selling technology. In the early days, it seemed like they were selling slightly lower end machines, or older models. Employees hadn't a clue when you asked them if it had an Intel processor or an AMD one (which was comically followed by them asking "What is AMD? And then me then having a facepalm moment ).
In the year of our tech gods 2011, that is not the case any more. The latest and greatest machines line computer isle and helpful employees jump to talk to you (and wow you with their endless knowledge) at the slightest inkling of your interest in the silicon bling! At first, these repurposed associates were a bit suffocating.
I ended up by telling one of them to back off as I was Ex-Cisco and having a CCSI meant I could figure out what kind of machine I needed all on my own (I was looking for a AMD Vision laptop one day as Electric Quilt 7 hated VMware. Must keep the money in the family you know!). In recent months, they have achieved a zen like balance of customers service and sales. Instead of hounding customers for "What kind of computing do you do", they quietly come up, ask if you would like help, and either go away with your response of, "I am just browsing" or really dig in when you say: "well, you know I am a graphics nut…".
It seems like Staples has put quite a bit of intelligent thought into what works and what people are really looking for: Customer Service. Its the kind you really REALLY want, not what THEY think you need. With the introduction of "Easy Tech", their version of Apple's "Genius Bar", the service has reached such a high level that Apple I think is going to have some real trouble with these guys.
This new service going to make my next computer purchase a thought process. Do I go for Apple and buy something I have to drive an hour out of my way to get help for?…Or do I buy a PC (any OEM with a Vision cpu/apu) and have service down the street or in any three of the surrounding towns around me? I don't need to make an appointment for these folks. I walk in put a computer down on the counter, pull out my paper work and I get instant assistance less than 15 minutes in almost any direction I drive.
I recently had this experience as I had to bring in a client's computer in for service as they had just bought it at Staples and had indeed purchased the Easy Tech service. The turnaround time was less than 24 hours (Had to leave it with them for a virus issue that my trusty latest virus removal software knew nothing about).
As far as I can see Apple's loosing ground with some significant mile stones: The Ipad 3 is already being panned in favor of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Amazon's Kindle Fire having a killer low price tag with a new epicness of content to draw from, and let us not forget visionary Steve Jobs leaving the company. And to really put the screws to them, Staples is now a true threat to their cutting edge service model.
There will be some tough competition for my next purchase… and now I really have a true choice for both support and computers. I couldn't be happier!
Now if we could only get the PC operating system programmers to make a better OS…
Oh wait, Windows 8 is coming out….
As my computer chip verification engineer husband just said with a confident look on his face "8 will be different"
"Yeah", I replied. "So was Vista".