Anyone who knows me will already be rolling their eyes and saying "Apple people..." with a sigh. I admit that I am an Apple user and a great fan. Apple have, however, taken a new route in their high street shops and one which would appear to be working.
The difference is customer focus. Give people a chance to see and use the Apple equipment, so the theory goes, and they will embrace it - and, more importantly, buy it. First of all it doesn't look particularly like a shop and has plenty of helpers at the front doors to engage with anyone needing guidance. In depth knowledge and help is available throughout the shop. Free seminars are put on all day, every day, to introduce the Apple software to both new and experienced users. Visitors - and a great number of people who come into the shop do not buy anything (this time) - are made welcome and can use any computer to access the internet or make use of the free wifi throughout the store. Above all, they have knowledgeable and committed staff working there who are trying to help customers and who are quite happy to say "I don't know" to a question - but immediately find another member of the team who can provide answers.
Of course it is easier for Apple than for other computer or software sellers since they control both hardware and software - but I think their real secret is to make a visit to the Apple store to be a pleasurable activity.
How many other businesses are there that do that - whether businesses that we work for or businesses that we consult to? How many of our customers would consider dealing with our firm as a pleasurable activity?
As in retail, so in professional services. Provide an excellent service, have committed and knowledgeable staff, and keep the needs, requirements and preferences of the clients at the forefront of all decisions. Simple!