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Helpful tech support boosts Apple's 'halo' effect, drives hardware sales

Following an experience with Apple's technical support, nearly 60 percent of customers said they are more likely to purchase another Apple product.

The details come from The NPD Group's "Tech Services Study," the results of which were released on Tuesday. The survey found that Apple's technical support experience not only drives sales of new devices, but also left nearly a third of customers with a much more positive view of Apple.

Among those surveyed, nearly 90 percent of customers who used Apple's technical support characterized themselves as "extremely" or "very" satisfied. In particular, customers who used Apple's Genius Bar at its retail stores were satisfied because for most of them, the service was free.

"Tech support is a great service for the consumer, but more importantly it’s a brand-building element for the retailer and manufacturer," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. "People tend to associate any type of tech support as a negative experience, but Apple has demonstrated that those 'negatives' can be turned into positive brand experiences and result in a trip back to the store."

Another key benefit of the Genius Bar is customers are more likely to be satisfied when they have personal interaction inside a retail store. The survey found that 53 percent of customers indicated they were "extremely satisfied" with their in-store experience, which was the highest level of any type of service interaction.

"Retailers are rediscovering the value that services can offer the consumer," Baker said. "Store foot traffic has declined over the years leaving fewer and fewer in-person interactions. Having a strong tech support in-store model helps fill the transaction void and builds brand awareness and satisfaction."

Earlier this month, Apple revealed that its retail stores see more than 50,000 visits to their Genius Bars every day. Apple's stores have also seen nearly 300 million worldwide visitors so far in the company's fiscal 2012 year.

With the importance of Apple's technical support, particularly in person at its Genius Bars, the company has been experimenting with larger Genius Bars that can service more customers. At some locations, new Genius Bars have been rotated 90 degrees, so that they are perpendicular to the rear wall of the store, rather than up against the back wall where they have traditionally been positioned.

Apple has been known for its products having a so-called "halo" effect since the heyday of the iPod. Today, it continues with the iPhone, as customers are likely to buy other Apple products after having a positive experience with the company's smartphone.