Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Apple’s Support Gap

Nick Heer:

I’ve been trying to book some time at my local Apple Store to get my iPhone’s battery swapped, and it has not been easy — at least, not compared to the way it used to be. Previously, I’d open the Apple Store app on my phone, open up my store’s page, and tap the button to get support. I could easily make a Genius Bar appointment from there with just a few taps.


Once you’re directed to Apple’s support site, you’re in for another blow: it’s probably the least-stable online service Apple offers, in a really big way. It frequently doesn’t load at all; when it does, I often see some form of server-side failure midway through the booking process. This isn’t new — a friend of mine asked me several months ago to help him book an appointment because the website wasn’t loading for him, and I wasn’t able to make it work either.

Marco Arment:

Even then, for me, it usually takes 3+ days to get an appointment, or a 2-hour walk-in wait.

My iPhone 6s suffers from the unexpected shutdown issue. When I talked with Apple about what to do, I had two options. I could do a mail-in repair, which would mean not having a phone or camera for a week or so. Or I could wait 2+ weeks until one of the local Apple Stores might be accepting appointments to replace the battery. (There is apparently a shortage of replacement batteries.) Even if I could get an appointment, this would be a big time commitment, as the closest store is about two hours away. So far, I’ve opted to do nothing in the hope that sometime I will happen to be near an Apple Store and be able to make a last-minute appointment. I’m also considering whether I should stop selling my old iPhones when I upgrade, so that I’ll have a spare.

Update (2016-12-07): It turns out that my local Best Buy, only 15 minutes away, offers iPhone battery replacement services. However, they do not expect to have batteries in stock anytime soon. Another local Apple service provider, which previously did not service iPhones, says that they do not have batteries in stock but can get one within three days after verifying that an iPhone 6s is eligible.

Ben Lovejoy:

Apple initially said that it found that battery components in a particular batch of iPhones were exposed to the air for too long before assembly, causing the batteries to cut out. It has now updated its statement to say that some customers with phones from outside this batch have also experienced shutdowns, and that it will be issuing an iOS update to help track down the cause…

Update (2016-12-12): Dr. Drang:

The first thing I learned at our appointment was that the store had no batteries in stock and we might have to wait up to two weeks for them to come in (that was an overly pessimistic estimate). We were assigned to a store employee who checked the condition of our phones and filled out all the forms necessary for the replacement. She also walked us through the steps of turning off Find my iPhone, but she didn’t have us erase any data. The replacement, she said, would take an hour or two to perform.

One thing that surprised me was when she asked for our phones’ passcodes and typed them into the form she was filling out on her iPad. I guess it makes sense that they need the passcode to turn the phone on and test it after replacing the batteries, but I was taken aback by the sort of matter-of-factness with which she asked for the keys to all our data. I changed the passcode after I got the replacement, but had I known ahead of time that they’d need it, I would have created a temporary code for the store to use and then changed it back to my regular code afterward.

We left the store without new batteries or any concrete sense of when we’d get them.

Update (2016-12-27): Dr. Drang:

I’ve never had bad service at an Apple Store before. They’re very busy, and service is never instant, but I understand that and have always been happy with how I’ve been treated. This, though, was a pile-on of what used to be considered very un-Apple-like behavior. Whatever system they’re using to track customers and service requests failed 2–3 times on the same request. Both my wife and I wrote about the problems on the customer feedback forms we got from the store.

Is this whining? If I were dealing with a discount store, I’d say yes. But expectations for Apple are higher, commensurate with the price you pay for their products and the quality image the company projects.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Need iPhone repaired. Didn’t have patience for Genius route. Tried setting up mail service. 5 reps and 2.5 hours later I’m still on hold.

Update (2017-01-02): Joel Spolsky:

Bought new MacBook Pro. One of the keys didn’t work unless you really whacked it. Spent 4 weeks waiting for a replacement from Apple

Update (2017-01-03): David Heinemeier Hansson:

Remember those 3h I spent with Apple Support to get my iPhone registered for a screen change? Well, they just sent my phone back, no fix ;-(

Despite being willing to pay whatever for the screen change, scratch apparently wasn’t big enough for them to act. Need to smash it more ;-(

Dealing with Apple Support really is akin to DMV. You wait in line forever to be served. Then they send you to the back with “wrong form!”

Update (2017-03-11): Nick Heer:

It’s good to hear that Laptop continues to find Apple’s support channels the best in the industry, but I worry that it’s seeing a reduced focus within the company. Yesterday, I linked to a report from MacRumors stating that Apple will no longer be training their Genius Bar staff in Cupertino, or even on real devices.

17 Comments RSS · Twitter

I don't see what you're complaining about. In some countries, it's just near impossible to get a Genius Bar appointment at the Apple Store because:

- you can't schedule an appointment for the current week.
- you have to connect to the support at 12:01 AM to hope to find an available spot
- some stores apparently do not have any spot available for the week and suddenly some spots are available out of nowhere in the middle of the afternoon.

Getting an appointment for the Genius Bar is a full time job.

Whoever is in charge of the Concierge system for the Apple Stores is not doing a good job.

I blundered onto the "Make a Genius Bar appointment" on the Apple support site a couple of weeks ago, but I can't find it now. When I called support and asked about it, they said Apple is trying to encourage customers to resolve issues via online support rather than jumping to the Genius Bar.

This has been the case in the UK for about a year. I wanted to get my iPhone 6 Plus camera replaced as part of the program to replace them. The Apple store nearest me simply had no appointments. That's it. No other options. One further away had some after a week but it was hard for me to get there (even harder to park).

I've no idea what's gone wrong but in light of recent Apple corner cutting with its products and services, a picture might be starting to emerge.

Not to mention that you can only make a Genius Bar appointment at most 2 weeks in advance. So if you're busy (and / or don't live super close to an Apple Store) and your calendar is always full 2 weeks out, you're screwed. Why won't Apple won't let you make an appointment 3 or 4 or 5 weeks away? Ridiculous.

I'm starting to think Apple has fallen victim to the edifice complex jinx.

Build an ostentatious HQ, and everything goes downhill.

"Why won't Apple won't let you make an appointment 3 or 4 or 5 weeks away?"

Some of the Concierge today's logic is due to issue with scalpers in the past. This doesn't say that this logic is clever.

I went through a similar experience, even worse as this was right as the 7 was released, so they basically don't take appointments weekends for a few weeks. I had to go into a store, show it to someone when it was shutting off at 15-35% battery, have her create a note for me, then I went to create my appointment. Finally got one, and had the genius tell me my warranty expired three days earlier. I said some profane things, then calmed down and explained to her (again) that I had been in earlier, mentioned the note (which she couldn't find) then she comped it for me. Not a big deal in the end, as it's a work phone and I'd have expensed the repair, but glad it came out. Just a lot more stress than I'm used to with Apple products. That stress-free ease is why I pay extra.

Oh and @someone, this wasn't the case 2+ years ago in the US. That's why you're reading of these complaints.

Re: Dr. Drang's experience, I was asked for my passcode last time I had to get my phone's shattered screen replaced. I asked why it was needed, and was told it would help them test that the screen was working after the replacement. I refused to give it and he continued onward with the replacement process without any hiccups - apparently they don't actually need to get past the lock screen, they just like to.

I purchased a new iPhone 5c and needed to reset my password as I could not remember it. We did the security questions, in which i know the answers but for some reason their system could not recognize the answers. i requested that they complete an investigation on my account and they refused. I was told to wait for text message to change my password so that they could id me, i received the text message and was asked about other ways to verify my id, no of which was going into one on their local stores presenting my ID and phone. i talked with level 4 people, all are worthless. they all said they would get back with me ..... i heard crickets. I waited, no response. I have contacted apple more than enough times and spent 24 or more hours on the phone with them. i even provided my proof of purchase and that was not good enough because it didn't have all the information they needed and not on official verizon.com paper. I have been told it was in the recovery mode and they have no way of giving me a time limit could be up to 30 days.

They need to update their security process to keep people in their account not to keep them out. the security measures they have are from the 1980s, lame security questions and time lock outs ... and NO way to go into a local store to present your physical self with ID and iPhone. They frankly don't care and have the worst service ever, so bad i will never buy an apple product again and getting a Samsung. Poor customer service.

[…] Update (2017-09-11): See also: Nick Heer. Previously: Apple’s Support Gap. […]

[…] Previously: Do iPhones Get Slower Over Time?, iOS 10.2.1 Update Reduces Unexpected Shutdowns, Apple’s Support Gap. […]

[…] fix last year for the unexpected shutdown issue was first presented as affecting “a very small […]

[…] problems, not to be confused with the “very small number” of iPhones that unexpectedly shut down. So, yeah, I can see why Apple wants people to know that this “small collection” […]

Leave a Comment