Apple has announced its new "Today at Apple" program, with what the company says is "sessions in three new and expanded formats — Skills, Walks and Labs — which offer hands-on group sessions focused on photography, video, music, coding, app development, art and design and more", with Apple's site stating that there are "over 50 new sessions".
However, before we look at these in more detail below, it's worth asking ourselves how many companies truly offer customer service the way Apple does?
I've read plenty of reports where Apple happily replaced or fixed things under warranty, or even out of warranty, or even well out of warranty.
An example of this concerns iTWire colleague and editor Stan Beer, who wrote about Apple fixing his surprisingly dirty and broken keyboard (see image and article here) on his MacBook Air, and did so twice, once "just out of warranty", and then a second time, "about a year later" where a key that had popped off was able to be fixed "in the back room on the spot".
Stan was upset about this, having later discovered that an unauthorised third-party repair service would replace the out-of-warranty keyboard at a much cheaper price, but how often do you get items repaired twice, at year apart intervals, when already out of warranty or even well out of warranty... from other companies?
I'm sure it has happened and does happen with other companies out there, but Apple's customer satisfaction and customer service is highly regarded for a great reason: because it generally goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Apple's generosity can't extend to every user at every out-of-warranty situation, and with hundreds of billions in revenue the company certainly isn't a charity, but I have personally been surprised at how generous the company has been in the past from the stories I have heard from its customers – and over the years, even experienced myself as a customer facing a problem.
Another example of Apple's excellent customer service is its in-store classes on a wide range of topics, known as "Today at Apple".
These types of classes don't seem to be running at the Sydney Samsung Store from what I can see at its website, although Samsung did run a "Days of Note" educational program in 2018, and while Microsoft's sole Australian store does have a range of free classes available, which is certainly admirable and welcome, their breadth and depth pales in comparison with Apple's free classes, which have now been increased to new levels, as we'll see shortly.
Apple notes its new sessions "are free at every Apple Store worldwide and allow visitors to find the right session for their interests and skill level in order to unlock creativity, inspire learning and encourage connection".
The company already offered various free classes well before "Today at Apple" launched in 2017, but this program has become an even greater focus for the company at its stores.
Indeed, Apple notes having "held over 18,000 free sessions a week", attended by millions of participants globally.
So, it should come as no surprise to see the company state its "newest release expands on the most popular types of Today at Apple sessions, Walks and Labs, providing visitors even more opportunities to get more out of their products, find inspiration in their community and discover guidance from world-class creators".
Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice-president of Retail, said: "Since the beginning, Today at Apple has been about educating and inspiring the communities we serve. These new sessions are an opportunity to unlock the creative potential in all of our customers.
“There is a session for everyone at Today at Apple and we can’t wait to see what you will create.”
So, what is more detail on the rhree Today at Apple session formats facilitating learning and creativity?
Apple states: "Skills are meant for those interested in learning new creative techniques to go further with our products, such as making a quick video with the Clips app or editing photos on iPhone. New Skills sessions include Notes and Chords with GarageBand, Sketching Ideas in Notes, Photo Editing Techniques and more".
We're told that "Walks invite customers to venture outside of the store with a Creative Pro, where they will explore their surroundings, connect with their community and put new skills to use across passions like photography, music or health. New Walks include Capturing Cinematic Shots, Creating Soundscapes with GarageBand and a Health and Fitness Walk, Staying Motivated co-created with fitness expert Jeanette Jenkins".
Here, Apple states: "Labs help customers experiment with creative techniques and complete the session with the beginning of a project. Many Labs have been co-created with world-renowned artists and makers.
"Building on the success of Labs with Florence Welch and photographer Chase Jarvis, skilled customers can find inspiration in new Labs like Beat Making with Swizz Beatz, Small Screen Magic with Zach King and Drawing Treehouses with Foster + Partners".
As you'd expect, Apple bills its "Today at Apple" sessions also as "a great resource for families and kids of all ages interested in photography, coding, art and design and more.
"Labs like Fun Family Portraits, the Sphero Robot Obstacle Challenge and Make Your Own Emoji are built specifically to educate and spark creativity in younger visitors."
Of course, there's more, and in this case, it's for educators.
Here we learn that "Today at Apple includes sessions designed specifically for educators so teachers can learn new ways of bringing technology into their classroom, with Labs like App Design and Prototyping and Class Projects with Clips, based on the Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curriculums".
The upgrades to the program continue, with Apple stating that "to further enrich the Today at Apple experience in every store, Apple is upgrading the existing fleet of stores with design elements that greatly increase the store’s Today at Apple sessions and capacity".
"These upgrades include the addition of The Forum, an area of the store with a large video wall and seating, serving as a meeting place for the local community and home for Today at Apple. Some stores will add Avenues and, where possible, a grove of trees with integrated seating."
Want to find, register for and attend one of these sessions at an Apple Store yourself?
You can do so at Apple's "Today at Apple" website or you can tap on "the Sessions tab in the Apple Store App".