True Stories: Downtime or What I Learned at the Mac Store

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A Mac Store is a difficult place to be without a piece of technology in hand.

I recently dropped my iPhone running down the stairs to take a call, shattering the back of the phone into a hundred fragments, some of which hung loosely in place. Since I have a young son, I wanted to take care of the problem as soon as possible. The next day I took it in to the Mac store to have the glass cover replaced. A simple enough procedure, I was told. I made an appointment and returned 30 minutes later for service.

The Mac store is a unique place (well, except for maybe the Windows store a few steps farther down). For a Tuesday afternoon, with around 40 employees bustling about in green shirts to help customers, some of whom still couldn’t get immediate attention, it seemed surprisingly busy. These stores are intentionally designed to decouple the purchase from a physical register space. The customer has to interact with one of the employees on the floor, each of whom has a mobile device to swipe cards for purchases. Several foreigners confusedly approached the “Genius Bar” service center at the back with their game or software only to be redirected. The employees are mostly very young, the interactions informal. The effect of the Mac Store is simultaneously disorienting and liberating.

I waited briefly while the tech behind the bar helped another customer, came over, input my information on his iPad, and took my phone to the back for service. Then, I experienced the strange, alienating sensation of being in a Mac store with no piece of technology within reach. There was nothing to do but sit, and glean the occasional piece of information from the overhead monitor.

“It struck me this was only a tiny taste of what our clients experience when there’s any kind of performance limitation or system downtime.”

It may have only been a few minutes, but staring around the room I suddenly felt what a high school student must feel when their phone is taken away: cast into the outer dark. I was the only one at the party with no gift, the kid in the cafeteria with no one to sit with. There is a sense of a great ongoing, dynamic conversation all around you from which you are suddenly excluded. Everyone else is interacting with some form of technology, from Macbook Pro monitors, to software packages, to handheld devices, with an energetic, young Greenshirt walking them through some step or other of the device features. Learning is taking place, development, interaction, exchange, all while I could do nothing but sit and wait.

It struck me this was only a tiny taste of what our clients experience when there’s any kind of performance limitation or system downtime, only they have not just a sense of exclusion, but real lost opportunity, possibly real lost income, affecting not only them, but potentially their clients and patients as well. It highlighted the reasons we take downtime for our clients very seriously.

A recent incident with a new software intended to enhance performance on our servers caused a temporary outage for a few clients sometime in the late evening. Three of our engineers stayed up all night carefully migrating data, testing to ensure all data was accounted for, and remained intact. For a brief period in the morning, during normal business hours, some of our clients still did not yet have 100% functionality, even though we had resolved the core issue.

“We want to recreate the experience I had as I walked out of the Mac Store and ran my thumb across the fresh glass plate.”

Our customers had to sit tight, like I did at the Mac store, with few options available. Although frustrated, they were understanding. Issues arise. Problems happen. They wanted to know how we were responding, just like I was hoping the tech on the other side of the wall wasn’t wasting time with my phone while I sat and stared at the great green bustle all around me.

We take pride in our role as data protectors for our clients and want them to take as big a part as possible in the great ongoing, dynamic conversation in their field, providing the best possible service so that they aren’t excluded. Their success is our success. That’s the essence of a service-driven mindset. We want to recreate the experience I had as I walked out of the Mac Store and ran my thumb across the fresh glass plate, making every experience for our clients, however difficult, as smooth as possible.

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