I recently had to contact iTunes because of a issue that was ultimately my fault. I had neglected to cancel an automatic magazine subscription and was charged $39.99 for the next year’s subscription which I did not want. These things happen and with so many automatic renewals, I nearly need a calendar simply to track mine. So, I email iTunes within 72 hours explaining the situation and asking if it is possible to still cancel this and get a refund. Within 30 minutes of sending the email, I receive this reply:

Good day! My name is Raquel and I am an iTunes Store advisor. I understand that you have charges on your account which you would want to dispute and rest assured that I am here to help you with your request.

The email went on to state I could be refunded and this situation warranted an exception to the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions stating all sales are final. I quickly emailed Raquel back a one-liner telling her how impressed I have always been with Apple’s customer service and the support is always so helpful. Apple: They are one of the largest organizations in this country yet manage to give personal service and respond to a customer query within the hour.

Raquel emailed me back as quickly as she had the first time, responding to my compliment:

As you are a valuable part of the Apple iTunes family, it’s our foremost priority to solve the issue and see a smile on your face. Nothing makes Apple happier than to hear that we have pleased our customers. I wish you the best and hope you continue to be a valued member of the Apple family. We want you to be completely satisfied with your iTunes experience.

Note the way the email is worded above. I am not an iTunes customer. She states I am a valuable part of the Apple iTunes Family. Now I do realize much of the communications we have with corporations involves a lot of superfluous hyperbole. But, sometimes even the slightest change of words can truly change the way we feel as a customer even if it is a little exaggerated. In this case, I actually felt special. Raquel made me feel valued and special and as though I were not talking to a machine or mindless drone.

I have had similar experiences with companies like Amazon.com and LL Bean. Here are these large companies that pride themselves in service and the quality of their products. They give better customer service than most companies a fraction of their size. I recently had to return a camera lens to Amazon. Before I had a chance to even get the thing in the mail to return, they had FedExed me a new one and had it at my door the next day.

Customer service can be a user experience. These are the people who make a painful situation better. Think about it: Where is your best chance as a business to make an impact on the customer’s experience with your product or service? It’s by making someone who is disappointed or unhappy happy. In today’s world, this is often the best method for interacting with your customer since much of commerce involves self-checkout etc. This is the part of the customer’s experience where an actual human can interact with the customer and make things better (or in some cases a lot worse).

Perhaps it is time we began thinking about user experience beyond simply our websites, applications or products we produce. Maybe the user’s experience involves something much deeper and more robust.

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