What do we need to do to get a little customer love from Apple?

Based on my recent experiences in purchasing an iPad and the new iPhone 4 it seems that Apple has no memory of customer loyalty. We all hear a lot of yapping about customer service but lesson one in the school of service must be to reward loyal customers with first right of refusal.

My context in this rant is that I have purchased the original Macintosh computer and almost every significant iteration ranging from desktops to laptops. I bought the first iPod. I bought the first iPhone. I have consistently been an early adopter of all things Apple.

As I qued-up to buy the iPad, I was righteously enraged to see that people who had no previous experience as an Apple customer, proudly waved their iPad at me as I boiled on a waiting list of unknown length and with no communication during the wait. Apple has my email address and 20 years of product registrations. They could easily have established a pre-order system for previous customers. But I suppose that would require Apple Care.

I want 3 things from Apple and from your company if I have been proven to be a loyal customer. Is it really that hard to tell the difference between a loyal customer and a first time buyer?

1- Private Announcement to Preferred Customers. It’s really simple. Open a window to regular customers prior to opening the floodgate. Serve those who have served the company with previous purchases. Develop quintiles of purchase history based on total amount, frequency and recency of purchases. Release a new purchase window progressively through each quintile of customer loyalty.

2- Tell me the facts. Communicate when, where and how to buy your precious new product if I choose to. Be very clear about the details and do what you say you will do. Corporate integrity is the essence of customer loyalty.

3- Talk to me. Keep communication lively and frequent. During hot product launches, social media rumors can heat up. Company communication needs to outpace the mill. Customer service must include a plan to reward loyal customers.

It’s a slippery slope from loyal to former.

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