Apple’s Stellar Customer Support

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.

Published by

Phil Baker

Phil Baker is a product development expert, author, and journalist covering consumer technology. He is the co-author with Neil Young of the forthcoming book, “To Feel the Music,” and the author of “From Concept to Consumer.” He’s a former columnist for the San Diego Transcript, and founder of Techsperts, Inc. You can follow him at www.bakerontech.com.

114 thoughts on “Apple’s Stellar Customer Support”

  1. Your story sounds unbelievable except that I’ve had exceptional service like you’ve described for many years. My family has had 4 MacBooks, and 1 iMac for the past 15 years: with 4 iPhones and 4 iPads since 2009 and 2012 respectively.

    If you do the math, we’ve used Apple devices for 129 device-years. During that time, Apple has serviced/repaired/supported our Apple device family perhaps 10 times and Apple has never let us down.

    They definitely provide out of this world service. No one even attempts to match them.

      1. That ‘failure rate’ is also a fix rate. Here’s what it includes: 2 keyboards, 1 mouse, 2 cracked screens (all replaced on walkins).

        It doesn’t include weekly or monthly malware maintenance nor the cost of //required// antimalware. It also doesn’t include 100s if not 1,000s of blue screen and frozen app reboots.

        But that’s OK. This may be easy for you two to argue, but impossible for you to appreciate.

        What I do know is 600 million customers appreciate Apple products; many because they ‘just work’.

        1. 1,000s of blue screens and frozen apps reboots ? What are you on ?

          I’ve had 10 BSODs in the last 10 years, including 2 in the first 2 weeks on Win10, and 4 due to a failing CPU a long while ago.

          Frozen app reboots ? You are aware Android apps were *more* reliable than iOS apps until last year, only now is iOS on the level.
          http://bgr.com/2015/02/13/ios-8-vs-android-5-0-lollipop-crash-rate/
          http://www.techtimes.com/articles/145923/20160331/apples-ios-9-3-is-more-stable-than-android-marshmallow-and-all-other-ios-versions-in-use-apteligent.htm

          Billions prefer Android and Windows products, maybe because they ‘just work better’ ^^

          1. You really should read the articles you link to. From your first article:

            “One of the things that might affect stability is, naturally, device type. According to the most recent data revealed by Apple and Google, iOS 8+ is installed on 72% of existing iOS devices, with Lollipop only accounting for 1.6% of Android devices, according to the most recent data posted by Apple and Google. The one critical difference that could affect crash rates is not the number of devices running the latest mobile OS though, but their quality.”

            And:

            “iOS 8+ crashes slightly more often than Lollipop, having a 2.2% crash rate compared to Android 5’s 2.0% rate. iOS 8 also loses when compared to the previous release (iOS 7 had a 1.9% crash rate), while Lollipop beats bot KitKat and Ice Cream Sandwich, each having 2.6% crash rates.”

            So, Google ‘wins’ by 0.2 percent over iOS 8 but loses to the older iOS 7, and your article points out that iOS 8 is running on many more older devices while Lollipop is mostly running on very new devices, which impacts the results.

            From your second article:

            “iOS 9.3 scored a meager 2.2 percent crash rate, virtually making it the most stable iOS in use. In comparison, the newest Android OS scored a 2.6 percent in crash rates.”

            So, if your claim is that a 0.2 percent difference is “more reliable” (your words) then iOS 9.3 beating Android by 0.4 percent cannot be “on the level” (as you say), it must be doubly more reliable than Android.

            The reality is that all mobile devices are very stable, whether that is Apple or Android, doesn’t matter.

            This isn’t the 1990s and we’re not in high school, “my Mac only crashed one time in three years”, “well my Windows only crashed once in four years, na na na na.”

            Apple does have very good customer service and support. Only a fool would argue otherwise. Yes, Apple has service and support failures, every company does, but overall Apple does a very good job supporting customers.

            Many Windows and Android OEMs do not offer the same level of service and support, and that is a function of their slim profit margins. It’s a perfectly valid business model and consumer choice, you save money up front but you do trade off some service and support, there’s no getting around that.

        2. “Required anti-malware”?
          I sure hope you don’t resent your immune system, otherwise you’d have to live in a bubble. Ooops! 🙂

        3. Attempting to merely use facts, full costing and personal experience in your arguments is inevitably futile. Why are you hitting yourself?

    1. How much has that stellarity cost you, in time and money ? That’s a rather bad failure rate, especially for supposedly premium stuff !

    2. Agreed. I’m picky with my expensive gadgets and expect solid support and products that perform as advertised. So far Apple is the only company that provides it without extended periods of conflict and aggressive denial or accusations of inappropriate usage.

  2. Charging $800 to replace the screen of an $1100 computer is hardly stellar.
    Charging a 15% restocking fee (now revoked), hardly stellar.
    Getting a $304 check for bogus water sensors that voided an iPhone Apple care warranty-Priceless!

  3. My experience in Japan is that support started improving in the early 2000s, and has been getting better ever since. I agree that right now, it is far better than any support that I have ever experienced. I particularly like how the representatives voluntarily assume responsibility early on.

    I recall that it was still dismal in 2001.

  4. 2 issues:
    1- you need to be close to an Apple Store, and have a good bit of spare time. The closest one to me is 1 hour away x2-3 for traffic, and I don’t have spare time. I prefer buying stuff with non-flaky home buttons.
    2- there’s the famous incident of Apple specifically telling their employees to neither confirm nor deny a very real malware outbreak on MacOS. That’s not consumer-oriented, honest consumer service. They should at least let customers know, even if they then refuse to help.

    On the other hand, I’ve definitively blacklisted Sony and Motorola for horrendous customer service.

    1. “1- you need to be close to an Apple Store”

      Not necessarily. I live in the middle of nowhere (in a first world sense), and while there is no Apple Store near me, there is a Mac dealer which essentially functions as an Apple Store. I would guess lots of smaller centres have a local Mac dealer, just as I do. Apple also has options to ship products to them for repair.

  5. You got lucky, When my 9 month old iPhone 6s quit charging and was still under warranty. I promptly went into an Apple so they could examine the phone before the battery was fully drained. Upon inspection the store representatives informed me the device would not be covered under warranty because the lighting port had corrosion in it. They attributed the corrosion to user misuse. The device was never dropped in water or had water splashed on it. I am
    Careful with my phone and am offended Apple blamed me for the failure. This unfortunate design flaw and Apple’s decision not to stand behind the products warranty cost me $300.

    Setting up the new phone was also problematic since the repacement provided was defective, and powered off turning into a brick in the Sprint store managers hands, who was trying to help finish the backup restore that Apple’s genius did not help me finish in the Apple Store. Thankfully it only took one more visit to the Apple Store to resolve the issue. I am also thankful that I had my photos backed up properly since the Genuis rep did not take the time to carefully check with me to ensure that was backed up before deleting everything from the old phone.

    If the charging port is so sensitive to corrosion Apple should provide a rubber plug and inform users exposure to moisture including humid environments will void the warranty. As much as I like Apple I will consider a Samsung when I am out of contract since they are water resistant. If the iPhone 7 is going to be water proof or resistant for the sake of the greater user base I hope this design flaw is corrected.

    1. Interesting. I still have a 4 and a 5s with no “corrosion issues” and the batteries seem to hold as much charge as they ever did. I’ve had gps and wifi faults with the 3G and 4, but they were replaced under warranty. If you actually have iPhones with these symptoms, condolences, but your post sounds like the usual “I’ve had Apple products since 1974, but now I’m getting [insert android product]”, especially prevalent just before Apple product launches.
      Not sure how so many phones get dropped in toilets, pools, etc though. Are people that unaware of their surroundings or how carelessness can result in unnecessary expense?

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