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This is Why Apple Is Going To Keep Winning…

Google is catching up. Microsoft is finally going to deliver something really big (are you detecting sarcasm yet?). The iPhone is boring now; passe’ even. And in general, Apple isn’t as exciting as it once was (this part is probably true).

Let’s face it, we all miss “One More Thing…” from Steve Jobs (definitely true). The Apple Billboards aren’t as crisp. Their Ads are a bit more fantasy than reality regarding Siri. I actually miss the Mac/PC guys. It was a simpler time then.

And let’s get real about things — iTunes is a mess. Apple’s cloud strategy is, well… partly cloudy. And Apple’s iAd strategy is a bonafide flop. Meanwhile their stock is only up 49% year-to-date. And while I’m pretty sure the team will fix all of these things in good time, there’s one huge reason why Apple is going to keep winning. I’ll give you a hint — It’s not because they’ll keep innovating shinier, thinner, & faster…

I’m going to tell you a story:

The year was 1998, I’d just met the love of my life — I knew it after our first date. We talked about everything. We just had absolute chemistry. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t looking for love and, as fate would have it, she was moving back to Los Angeles, while I was “stuck” in Colorado for at least 18 more months. We decided we’d try to make it work but realized we were both young — so we’d see. And every 6-8 weeks for that year and a half we met in Vegas for the weekend.

In 1998 the Bellagio had finally opened to amazing fanfare. It was the world’s most expensive building at the time and founder Steve Wynn’s crowning achievement — his iPhone. The opening ceremony alone cost $88 million. It was the greatest, most opulent, and yet classy casino to open in Vegas probably since the Rat Pack days. We both fell in love with it instantly — everyone who worked there made you feel like royalty — every detail was thought out. It just oozed style and grace. We loved it so much we even made our first joint investment as a couple in Steve Wynn’s company, Mirage — two years later when it was bought by MGM we’d made 87%. Not bad.

And as each weekend would come to a heart-wrenching end, we’d sit outside of the Bellagio, watching the fountain show in each other’s arms listening to Andre Bocelli & Sarah Brightman serenading us with Time to Say GoodbyeWe’d both tear up (Yeh, I Cried…SO?!), and then we’d schelp back to check-out of our off-the-strip-not-fantastic-hotel for the weekend. Ahh…young love. And now here we are 14 years later… married for 11 years, homeowners, two kids, two dogs, mini-van — you know the drill.

So, about two months ago I booked the Cypress Suite at the Bellagio for our upcoming 11th wedding anniversary. It’s gorgeous — The room is bigger than the beach cottage we call home now. It has special curved windows in the middle tower to see the fountain in all its glory. We’re going to see Le Cirque’s Beatles show — eat at Picasso — all the things grown-ups do & all of which I booked through the hotel’s amazing concierge. But of course, It’s the Bellagio — world-class. I remind the hotel booking agent it’s my anniversary, ordered some champagne. My wife is truly radiant thinking about our upcoming weekend — and this is the first weekend away from our kids ever.

And today, I get an email confirming our upcoming arrival for next weekend. I call to see if maybe we could even slip into any upgrades and verify everything. And then it starts. “I’m sorry sir, your suite won’t have a view”…

“Say, Huh?!…I booked this two months ago!”

“No sir, the suites are booked is on a first come-first serve basis for a view-suite. And, the promotion that “guaranteed” a view is sold out now.”

“Why would I NOT want a view IN A CYPRESS SUITE, you do see this is my anniversary, right?” Look at the picture on your website…”

“Yes sir, I know, and your anniversary is in the notes I don’t know why anyone didn’t tell you… I’m sorry sir”.

I ask to speak to the manager…

And now… I’m on hold for 30 minutes between supervisors trying to figure out what happened. And while this is going on the hold music feed somehow breaks and starts screeching a god-awful modem sound at me for 25 of the 30 minutes I’m waiting (pretty desperately by now).

After some sweet talking, a very nice manager assures me that no less than 4 people will be checking for cancellations daily but in the end, the best they can do is hope someone cancels this weekend, so I can get a view-suite. So now — I need to be prepared to make other plans and arrangements at the last-minute — and manage my wife’s expectations. OR settle for a partial-view suite now (and no price break) — oh goodie. From Champ to Chump even though I planned ahead and communicated clearly on what I wanted. How does this happen? Steve Wynn would be pissed at the shoddiness of this whole thing. I know I am…

And then There’s Apple…

Today my Apple computer at the office also started giving me problems — it said I needed a repair disk I don’t have. I’m out of warranty — oh great, the hits just keep on comin’. I go to Apple.com, answer a few questions on-line, a second later I received a detailed email receipt, and an AppleCare person calls my phone about 20 seconds later. A live person was on the line (not some BS “we care, please hold” message). The person had already read through my issue and in one simple answer provided me the insight I needed to fix my computer (even though it was out of warranty).

And if this was an isolated incident I would call it a customer service miracle, but about a month ago I dropped my iPhone — it shattered (but still worked). I scheduled an appointment with the genius bar THAT DAY, I walked into the store and literally (I timed it) 12 minutes later I had a brand new iPhone, activated, and restoring all of my data that was backed up on iCloud.

In the end, those two experiences (and a ton of others over the years) are the reason I keep coming back to Apple. Oh, sure I like the design and thoughtful innovation, and the shiny bells and whistles, maybe I even felt cool for a little while — but the service is what I’ve always valued. I never had that with Microsoft, and even with their new stores you probably never will. And that, my friends, is one heck of a huge moat– world-class service combined with in-depth product knowledge.

No one is going to just replace that infrastructure or knowledge base. No one is going to just announce their commitment to that level of care and wave a magic wand to make it happen. That’s a level of care bordering on religious fervor that takes years to build. And who is going to equal Apple’s commitment to caring world-class customer service? Not Best Buy, Not Microsoft, Not Samsung, most certainly Not Google…

And sadly, maybe not the Bellagio anymore…

 

 

4 thoughts on “This is Why Apple Is Going To Keep Winning…

  1. Pingback: Thursday links: the pain of investing | Abnormal Returns

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