Tuesday, March 23, 2004, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)
Apple to redefine customer service with 'Standard' and 'ProCare' packagesOn April 1st, Apple Computer will begin to offer customers additional incentives to purchase computers direct through the company's retail stores, reliable sources told AppleInsider.
The computer maker will reportedly rebrand its 'Mac Pac' service and introduce an additional level of service, offering customers more options for personalized service on their newly purchased Macs.
As part of the new customer care services, Apple 'Standard' will be the new moniker for its 'Mac Pac' services; the AppleCare package will include all services previously offered with the Mac Pac and make them available to every customer who buys a computer from an Apple retail store.
For professional users—and others willing to pay a $99 annual membership fee—Apple will offer a higher level of service, which will be called Apple 'ProCare,' according to preliminary information offered by sources.
At the same time, the company plans to eliminate the consultation fee for the average customer to talk with an Apple Store Genius. "Apple has come to the realization that the Genius Bar is the heart and soul of the Apple retail store experience," one source said. "Dispensing advice is not something the stores should be charging customers for, and the company plans to make the necessary adjustments."
The new Standard care package will no longer require customers to purchase an AppleCare Protection Plan to qualify for the same services previously offered with 'Mac Pac.' Instead, any CPU purchase from an Apple store will include, free of charge, several Getting Started services. These services will include: system registration, email set-up, .Mac set-up, optional setup for an new Earthlink or existing AOL account, and installation of any software purchased with the CPU.
Additionally, the Apple store will offer all CPU buyers free connection of hardware peripherals purchased with the Mac and a basic transfer of data files from the customer's old computer to the new computer.
"The message from us is simple. Buy a Mac from the Apple Store and well personalize it for you so that when you get it home, you just plug it in and go, an Apple executive told retail managers during a briefing on the subject.
The premium Apple ProCare service will reportedly cost $99 per computer, per year. Customers who purchase a ProCare service will receive a "snazzy" Apple ProCare membership card imprinted with their personal ProCare membership number.
Effective for one year from the date of purchase, ProCare members will be able to present their membership card for access Rapid Repair services and advanced Genius Bar reservations. Further incentives will include eligibility for exclusive discounts on Apple and third-party products and access to on-demand, free custom workshops and presentations, sources said. However, it is unclear whether the company will be adding new premium workshop and seminars, as the company currently does not charge for any of these session.
ProCare Rapid Repair Service
Apple ProCare customers will be also be offered faster turnaround times on CPU repairs: desktop users will be offered next-day repair services and owners of a PowerBook or iBook will be offered two-day repair service. Both services are subject to parts and availability.
ProCare Members dropping off their machine for a repair will have their repairs prioritized above all other waiting repairs, sources said. To ensure prioritization, Apple store employees will be instructed to flag all ProCare repairs as well as place the customer's name and repair ID on a priority list in the Apple store repair room.
ProCare Advance Genius Bar Reservations
Throughout the year, ProCare customers can use their membership card number to log into a new Genius Bar reservation system from any Internet-accessible machine and make a reservation with the Apple Store Genius of their choice by browsing Genius profiles. Reservations can be made up to seven days in advance.
ProCare On-Demand Workshops
Similar to the free, on-demand workshops currently offered to ProCard holders (available to Power Mac G5 owners only), ProCare members will also be offered the opportunity to request a free workshop from a Mac Specialist. Members may also request a presentation or workshop for several members, their friends, or colleagues.
ProCare Exclusive Discounts
During the third quarter of 2004 Apple will also present the first set of exclusive discounts to ProCare members, sources said. Members will be notified of the deals via the e-mail address they provided while registering for ProCare. Deals are said to include offers from both Apple and third parties.
ProCare Complete File Service
In addition to the basic file transfer service offered with Apple's Standard package, ProCare members will receive a free transfer of their data and settings from an old hard drive to a new computer, e-mail account set-up, and confirmation that the data files work with the newly installed software.
ProCard to ProCare Conversions
Customers currently holding an Apple 'ProCard' will be eligible to have their membership converted to ProCare, free of charge. In April, Apple will send out an e-mail to all ProCard holders encouraging them to visit an Apple store within 90 days to convert their membership. ProCare service for former ProCard holders will be activated on the day of conversion and will reportedly be good for one year from that date. Apple's ProCard is no longer advertised on Apple's retail site and will likely be phased out in favor of the new ProCare package.
An Added Marking Push
Although Apple is expected to rollout the new customer care programs on April 1st, the planned marketing push behind the effort will not take place until the following weeks. The slight product marketing delay will allow adequate time for training and briefing of all Apple Store employees, allowing them to fully implement the details and processes associated with the new services.
Over the next business week, Apple stores should start receiving ProCare membership cards, advertisement panels, flyers and window signs, sources said.
Apple store representatives will be told to offer ProCare to every customer entering an Apple retail store who owns or is buying a new Mac.
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