Recent visit to Apple Store raises questions about the company’s customer service

June 12, 2017 - by: Dan Oswald 5 COMMENTS

Angry young menby Dan Oswald

I recently had an experience that made me wonder, can a company become arrogant? We’ve all met arrogant people, but can a company be haughty or egotistical?

Let me share the experience first, and then I’ll come back to my question. My son received a pair of wireless headphones for Christmas that had stopped working by May. They weren’t inexpensive, so we headed to the local Apple Store to have them checked out.

When we arrived at the store, we were asked if we had an appointment. I make doctor appointments and dentist appointments, and I MIGHT make an appointment to have my car repaired, but I’ve never made an appointment to have a pair of headphones repaired.

We informed the individual who greeted us that we didn’t have an appointment. After the shock and horror left his face, he gave us two options: We could return home and make an appointment online to return another day, or we could put our name on “the list” and wait for an opportunity to have the headphones inspected by a tech. After being assured that our wait shouldn’t be much more than an hour, we chose to be put on the list and headed out to do some other shopping in the mall.

About 30 minutes later, my son received a text that he should head back to the store to meet with the tech. I thought that seemed pretty reasonable as we headed back to the store. When we arrived, we were instructed to sit at a table, where a tech would be with us shortly. We did as we were instructed and sat down for our allotted time with the person who would figure out what was wrong with the headphones.

After 30 minutes at the table, we asked the store’s greeter when our time with the tech might occur. He informed us that it would be quite a while yet and that we’d receive a text when it was time to return to the store. When we let him know we had already received that text and had been waiting patiently for the last 30 minutes, he looked confused. It seems Apple’s automated system had failed them.

Our helpful greeter informed us that they were understaffed that day with only one tech on duty instead of the typical four, and therefore, the algorithm built to call people back to the store wasn’t working properly. He would be happy to reset the system so we could leave the store and kill more time in the mall while we waited for an available tech.

We agreed that was a better plan than sitting at the table and growing increasingly frustrated, and we prepared to head back out into the mall. Before we could get out of the store, my son received a text telling him to return to the store. Obviously resetting the system hadn’t fixed the algorithm problem.

So instead of leaving the store, we opted to hang out there, believing it was the safer option. God forbid we lose our opportunity to see an Apple tech. By this time, I’m beginning to believe the tech we will get to meet is like the all-powerful Wizard of Oz. Can you imagine what this person must be capable of? He has throngs of people standing in line just to get a few minutes of his time and wisdom!

After about an hour, our time finally arrived. To be honest, it really wasn’t “our” time—I had left my son and wife behind in the store at some point as my frustration with the situation grew. I won’t say where I was, but I will admit there was food, cold beverages, and a television.

So what did the all-powerful wizard have to say about the headphones? Something to the effect of, “Oh, we’ll have to send those in and have someone look at them. They’ll probably end up sending you a new pair.”

That’s it?! That’s it?!

After waiting two hours or more, we get a “we’ll have to send them in.” You think they could have asked what we were in for? (And since it seemed like a bit of a prison sentence, the question seems appropriate!) Oh yeah, they did.

So why don’t they build that into their algorithm? A customer says, “These headphones are broken,” and we say, “We’ll take those now and send them in.” Instead, they make you wait two hours to have that brief yet unsatisfying conversation.

So I return to my initial question, can a company become arrogant? Look, Apple is a HUGE part of most of our lives. My iPhone is never out of arm’s reach. It seems as if my entire life is stored in that tiny device. And the company has a market capitalization of $746 billion as of this morning. They obviously have more than a few things figured out.

But when you have to make an appointment to get your headphones assessed, and you wait two hours to be told they don’t do any of those repairs on-site, it begs the question of whether the company has become arrogant. And if not arrogant, has the company lost the human element to what it does?

What happened to good old-fashioned customer service? Maybe it just doesn’t work when a company has 588 million users worldwide. Or maybe one person really doesn’t matter when there are 587,999,999 others. I’m not sure what is at the root of the problem, but it makes me question Apple’s ability to serve the customer.

At the end of the day, we were looking for customer service on a product that was less than six months old. The headphones probably cost around $200. After two hours of lost time and a whole lot of aggravation, I wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off just buying a new pair! But then it occurs to me that is exactly what Apple would want.

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1 sidonia schumann
22:12:18, 12/06/17

The CEO needs to know this. Good business would dictate that the firm send the customer a state of the art set of headphones, other store perks and an abject apology. Businesses do not survive when trading in this sort of abuse. Most people do not complain. They quietly take their business elsewhere. Thank you for an excellent letter.
Sidonia, aged 74
Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, North Carolina

2 Angie, age 47
07:40:22, 13/06/17

What an unfortunate incident, although not very surprising to me. It seem that technology has begun replacing customer service in many areas. Consumers pay huge amounts of money for Apple products. They are willing to stand on long lines for days at a time to be the first to purchase the next new iProduct. It should not be too much of a stretch to provide their loyal following with a human touch whenever things go wrong. Had I gone through such an experience at an Apple store that would be my last day utilizing their products. If I am going to give them my hard earned dollars, the least they can do is provide me with good customer service.

3 Kathleen P
11:13:53, 13/06/17

I, too, have had a similar experience at an Apple store. We chose to leave, make an appointment, and return at a later date. Our issue was with an IPad. When we did get to see a tech,after a lengthy wait beyond our appointed time, they didn’t know how to fix the problem. We had a wait, yet again, for another tech, who again couldn’t fix it and suggested we allow them to reset it to the default settings and then go online to get to Apple’s website to get the required info to get back on the iPad. My thoughts are that Apple has indeed grown to a point that exceeds it’s need to truly care about its customers and their product service. Evidence of this is in the lack of expert techs in their stores, lame excuses for their service failures in store, hiring young inexperienced store managers, poor store policies for servicing customers. Yes, indeed , they have become (and perhaps always were) arrogant. A rethinking of where Apple is headed seems to be in order. People want a superior product experience when they purchase what is toted as a superior product.

4 Ana Greenwood
11:37:38, 13/06/17

this is very demeaning to the customer. Besides the arrogance, I also felt age discriminated by their staff.

5 Joseph P
12:53:06, 23/08/17

What I think was lost on here was that Apple was taking care of the customer (I assume) to the customer’s satisfaction.

As someone who spent many years helping people with technology problems it amazes me how offended people get at how long things take.

Is it really fair to assume Apple has an uncaring attitude toward the customer’s time? Yes they could of handled your particular situation better, and they probably would have with hindsight.

I agree that the system setup was not ideal for this type of situation, but I think this is far from the norm. First I think it’s safe to assume the Genius desk mostly deals with electronics such as iphones, iPads, laptops, ect.

Those are very different animals than headphones and a lot of those issues they experience can be addressed on the spot with a tech. I think that’s why they don’t have anything setup where someone is there to evaluate if something should be dropped off or looked at by a tech. Almost everything they get should be looked at by a tech.

Let’s consider the other options. You buy a pair of headphones from Walmart, Target, whatever. They don’t work and you have no option of seeing if they can get fixed on site, you’d HAVE to mail them in. Is that preferable solution? It seems people never got mad when things were setup that way but when Apple gives an option to at least see if it can be fixed on the spot it causes more unhappiness than if they never gave that option.

I can understand the shock one would have when they expect to walk in and get prompt technical service and is greeted with a request to sign up for an appointment – happened to me too. Didn’t like it.

But the alternative to that is waiting in a line for hours without being able to go to shopping or what have you. And in the future you can make an appointment before you go in and waste very minimal time.

Apple is trying. They’re not perfect but people shouldn’t take it personally when they have to wait. I’ve had some of the best technical help experiences in my life from their staff and they are constantly winning awards for excellent service.

For a company that has as many customers as they do selling something as fragile as mobile electronics I think it says a lot.

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