Apple is criticized about a number of things because they’re at the top and we expect them to be perfect. But there’s one area where Apple is perfect and beyond criticism: their stellar customer support. With Apple, the relationship with a customer doesn’t end once the sale is made. It usually begins.
The computers, tablets, and phones we use, day in and day out, inevitably need to be repaired. After all, they’re complex devices and subject to abuse, being dropped, banged up, or more. We carry them everywhere. While the engineers can strive to make the products reliable and simple to use, inevitably there’s a level of complexity that requires the need for customers to get help.
Of all the companies making consumer electronics, Apple was one of the first to recognize this and to do something about it. After all, an important purchase consideration is that what you buy can be repaired without giving it up for days or weeks or sending it off to a repair center.
Apple has continued to improve the process to where their service and support is far beyond anything else that exists at retail. Its network of stores with friendly help, Genius Bars, and on-line support are stellar. While their products are as reliable as any brand, they know problems occur and are equipped to deal with them.
I’ve used Apple support numerous times to fix a defective trackpad or home button, replace a spent battery and, most recently, to repair my iPhone 6 and never had to wait more than a few hours for a repair.
To show the system at work, let me take you through a recent incident I encountered to fix my iPhone 6 that I noticed one day was slightly bent. I couldn’t imagine how it happened, as I keep the phone in a battery case that adds rigidity to the phone’s thin structure.
That’s when again I entered “Apple Support World”. I called their toll free number and, after a short wait while listening to my choice of music, I was connected to a live, intelligent and caring individual located in Georgia. I explained the problem but she told me the phone was out of warranty, being 3 years old.
I pushed back, explaining how carefully I treat my phone and would not expect them to repair a product I abused. We had a thoughtful conversation in which I explained that my on-line searches indicated this was not a rare problem, perhaps attributable to the phone’s design to make it so thin. In fact, I learned the 6s incorporated some improvements to reduce this problem according to some reviewers.
The agent then elevated the issue and I soon was speaking with her manager, Erica. After listening carefully to my problem, Erica said, “I am taking ownership of your problem and I will get your phone fixed at no cost to you.” She gave me her name, phone number, and email in case I needed to contact her again.
She directed me to a nearby Apple store and said she would call me after I had a chance to visit. She said they will know to repair or replace the phone because she was putting this information into my record they would see when I arrived.
While I couldn’t get an appointment for a few days at any of the nearby stores, I went to the Carlsbad, CA store and signed in for a walk-in appointment. They said it would be a two hour wait and they would text me 20 minutes before. I immediately received a text telling me I had been added to their queue and, an hour later, I received another text that they were running ahead of schedule and to come in 20-30 minutes. The text even offered reply options, if I needed an extra 60 or 90 minutes.
Back to the store and, after another short wait, I was in the hands of a Genius bar employee who looked at the phone, ran some tests, and replaced it. We ran into a problem when restoring the new phone but the technician spent 20 more minutes to figure it out and soon I was on my way home.
It’s a huge effort and expense to create this support structure that all works so well together. The on-line support, the stores, the equipment to diagnose, and the personnel to make things right. In any comparison of product costs, the support behind it is one of the most important features. In my case, it was worth hundreds of dollars. While we buy an Apple product for its design and features, it’s their support structure that’s equally important and builds loyalty.
While waiting in the store, I had a chance to observe the dozens of people coming in with damaged phones, dead iPads, and broken computers. Every single customer was greeted by polite employees, asked to sign in and eventually given similarly good service. The employees to a fault were respectful, helpful, explained carefully what they found and, in most cases, sent customers on their way after addressing their problems. In a few cases, customers were asked to leave their product for an hour or two to be fixed or, on rare occasions, given the bad news that something more serious needed to be done, requiring leaving the computer for a few days.
Other consumer retailers have made some attempts to provide personal service by opening company stores, but that’s where the similarity ends. Sony opened several but they were never able to provide support, instead sending customers to their 800-line, which, in my experience, has been dreadful.
Microsoft also has stores but are not able to provide much support. In fact, last week I was invited to a Microsoft Store opening in the Fashion Valley shopping center in San Diego. It was actually the relocation and reopening of their store from the first floor to the second into a smaller space to what they called a “more intimate” location. Their former location was a few doors from the Apple store and it was evident each time you walked passed the two stores, one was always full and the other was nearly empty.
So, while I’ve occasionally considered switching to Android or Windows, I’m always reminded of the support available to every Apple customer. That keeps me and millions of others coming back.