"Why don't you leave him?" my friends ask.
"I love him," I cry over my latte.
"But he's so arrogant and controlling," they point out. "He tells you that you can only spend time with his friend, AT&T -- he won't let you spend any time with your friends, Verizon and Sprint."
"I know he can be unreasonable sometimes," I sniffle. "But it's just the way he is. ... he's the possessive type. He doesn't want to share me with anyone else. It's because he loves me so much."
"We might believe that if he treated you right," they counter, "But he doesn't. Like this problem with the antenna: he says it's your fault! He blames everything on you rather than admit he might have made a mistake."
"Well, maybe it is my fault," I muse. "I am a little clumsy with my hands sometimes. I'll try to do better. Maybe I'm not good enough for him."
"Oh my god, he's got you brainwashed!" my friends exclaim. "Where's your self-esteem? Now you're making excuses for his bad behavior! When are you going to wake up and dump him? There are plenty of other fish in the sea, you know. There are lots of great guys out there who would see how wonderful you are. They would love to have you -- and your money. They would treat you right!"
"Oh, I don't know ..." I reply. "I just just can't bring myself to leave. He's so sexy and cool ... and I so feel special when I'm with him. And he really isn't such a bad guy ... you just don't understand him. I'm sure he love me ... he really does."
And so it goes. Customers love Apple the same way that women love bad boys ... and men marry bitches. We put up with all kinds of crap because we love our iPhones, iPads, iPods, iMacs, iTunes, and more. We love the cool designs; we love the sexy apps; we love the bells and whistles. Most of all, we love being in the Cool Club. We are "Customers Who Love Too Much."
Like all love affairs, this one began with great promise. Apple stood out from the crowd -- a rebel with a cause. We were drawn to Apple's idealism, their youthful ambition to "put a ding in the universe." Who could resist that? We love the idea of making the world a better place -- it appeals to the better angels in all of us.
And like every love affair, this one has had its problems over the years. So OK, no relationship is perfect. We liked what we got out of it and we were willing to pay for it. Being cool isn't cheap.
But our love affair with Apple seems to be deteriorating. Being cool is now not only expensive -- it's a hassle. Dropped phone calls, inaccurate indicators of signal strength, and -- gasp! -- could it be? A design mistake with the antenna? Oh please, say it ain't so, Steve!
Will customers stay loyal to Apple? Will we stick it out with our first love? Can this relationship be saved?
Customer service research tells us that when a customer has a problem and the company handles it well, the customer will actually be MORE loyal than a customer who never had a problem at all. So a customer service issue is actually an opportunity to strengthen customer loyalty.
Smart businesses understand that a complaint is a gift. When customers complain, they are giving you valuable information -- information about a product or service problem that needs fixing, information about potential new products or services you might develop, and information about what's important to them. When someone gives you a gift, the appropriate response is "thank you." A complaint may not feel like a gift, but it is.
Most customers don't complain -- they just vote with their feet ... and their wallets. They take their business elsewhere. So if your customers are complaining, that's a good thing. It means that they still care enough to tell you about their unhappiness. A complaint means that they want you to fix the problem so they can continue to buy your products and services. When customers stop complaining, it's too late. They've given up and taken their business elsewhere.
A customer relationship is a love affair. It's personal; it's emotional. As long as your partner is telling you what he or she doesn't like, you have the opportunity to work on the relationship to make it better. But when your partner stops sharing his or her unhappiness, the love affair is over.
Are you listening, Apple?
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