Does Apple Care About Customers?

Having spent the past year exclusively using a Macbook Air for work, I found myself to be smitten. As a lifelong PC user, I had not ventured into the realm of using a Mac aside from my time as a vocal performance major (our music lab only had Macs), and babysitting for my cousin (he had a Macbook that used to burn my lap) in my first few years of college.

As a young developer, of course I began to see that Apple was the standard, but much like my disdain for the Apple CULT-ure, I was skeptical to purchase. What better way to truly test out a product than to be handed one for work purposes?

I must say the past year was one of wonder, joy, and optimism. I did anything I needed to do on the Macbook Air including web and Java development. I even began using it for school, finding that it was the perfect companion to my software-heavy Mechanical Engineering program, allowing me to run MATLAB and Unigraphics without the need to remove my personal apps or platform-specific IDEs. The best part of it all was I got so much out of a laptop that was 3 years old, only running a 1.7gHz processor, and only had 4GB of RAM.

Once the Macbook Air started to fill up I decided I could not go back to my PC and opted for a personal upgrade to the Macbook Pro instead. I got some advice on whether I should go for a 2015 model with the force-touch trackpad, or an older but fully capable and less expensive model. I watched many Youtube videos on comparisons and finally decided the 13” Macbook Pro 2015 would be perfect for me.

About 2 weeks ago, my new notebook finally arrived and I was the happiest nerd on the planet. Thinking long term, I even decided not to apply the stickers I’d been saving directly to my Macbook and bought a case instead. Knowing how much I like to snack while working, I got a pink skin to cover the keyboard as well. I mean this was seriously my new baby.

Then yesterday happened…

All of a sudden out of nowhere a while crack appeared, but not really a crack. Nothing struck the screen, not so much as a scratch on the glass, and nothing to the outer body which is protected by a hard plastic case. The LED is perfect, but my LCD is broken!!!!

I held back tears long enough to scramble through answers online, call customer support, and finally ask my friend/coworker to borrow her car and drive out to the nearest Apple Store. There I was confronted head-on by the one aspect of Apple that I had not tested beforehand – customer service.

The Troy, MI Apple Store officially took the cake for my worst ever customer service experience which is saying a lot for anyone that knows me personally. No one greets you, the employees that are not with other customers don’t divert their eyes from iPads, and the best of it all is that I could not even tweet about it because I also didn’t have service and the wifi hotspot wouldn’t connect. The “Genius” I finally talked to tapped on my screen, looked at my case and determined my Macbook “must have been hit by something” and quickly looked up the price for a repair on her iPad. She made a diagnosis in 5 seconds flat which amazed me considering that she didn’t care to account for the lack of physical evidence of external damage.

The best part was when I had sat with an elderly woman for 15 minutes before I stopped an employee and forced them to help her. Knowing she had no appointment and was terribly intimidated by the amount of activity in the store paired with the avoidance meter the employees must have on their iPads, I knew I couldn’t leave without intervening or she might have been there until closing.

The experience was so disappointing that I cannot help but to have lowered expectations of the entire company which may not be fair, but is completely valid in my opinion. For a customer, calling customer support or visiting a store is the primary means of judging the quality of an organization. You can have fancy offices, treat your developers and Engineers like gold, and have industry-disrupting innovation, but without customers you are nothing more than a novelty shop interchangeable with the next big trend.

As someone that truly identifies with the culture that created Apple and has grown to love the company because of its original vision, I hope to see a return to customer value. We have come a long way from that first single-board computer (which I still hope to own some day), but the focus on the end-user should never die. It was the believers that made the company what it is and those that touch customers directly should be doing everything with that in mind.

 

Here is my very lengthy Apple survey feedback:

The staff in the store walk past guests with no courtesy. No one greeted me when I entered the store, and the only employees I interacted with were the ones I had to stop to ask questions.

Upon arriving to the store (as a first time visitor with no idea how things work) I waited near the Genius Bar to possibly speak to someone once they were finished with their current customers. In that time, I was passed by a number of employees that didn’t greet me, smile, or even make eye contact. They simply looked the other way and walked past. I watched for a while before I realized there were some employees that people went up to and asked questions. I finally found one and asked how to get my laptop inspected.

First, she told me the soonest I could be seen was 3 hours and I stressed that I had left work with a friend’s car and driven all the way to Troy and I may not be able to wait so long before she said I could get an appointment that was in 1hour and 40minutes. I made a walk-in appointment and was told I could wait in the store and possibly be seen sooner if someone cancelled their appointment so I stayed. I was told at this point that I needed to keep checking in with “anyone” to see if I was further up on the waiting list. I found a seat at one of the Genius tables facing the Genius Bar.

After 20 minutes I stopped another employee and asked if I had been moved up the list. He said I needed to wait until my appointment time and I repeated what the first employee had described as far as being able to be seen if an appointment was cancelled. He told me there was no way for him to see if someone cancelled the appointment and I just needed to wait for my turn.

While waiting, I began talking to an elderly woman that was sitting next to me. I found out she had no appointment and in all the time she was sitting there, no one even attempting to say “Hello” let alone checked to see if she or I had been helped. I stopped someone that seemed to be managing which employees were seeing customers and told him the woman had been waiting, no one was helping her, and she needed help but didn’t know how to make an appointment online. She needed help transferring her data from her old iPhone to her new one, but wasn’t exactly sure how she could. First he told her “Well we don’t just have a machine that does that. You need to back it up.” Eventually, he asked her if she knew how and if she had a computer. She pulled her laptop out of her bag and he began installing iTunes. At this point he grabbed another employee that had just been wandering around and asked him to help her. He finished installing iTunes then gave her the number to customer support and suggested she go home and call to have someone walk her through the process. I should also note she had both phones with her as well.

After I had been waiting for about 30mins a woman at the Genius Bar that had been with a customer came over to me after she finished and asked if anyone had helped me. I told her I had checked in, but other than that no. She said since I was waiting in the store she could check me in so I might see someone sooner. I told her that when I first arrived I was told I would be checked in for just that reason, but she assured me that I wasn’t checked in before and she checked me in at that point.

Only a minute or so after being checked in someone from the Genius Bar came over and asked me what issue I was having. I told her my computer was brand new and somehow my lcd is damaged, but not the glass and not the casing at all and I want to see how to get it repaired. She looked at the screen where the issue is, tapped on it, and looked at the outer case. Then she said that in order for my screen to be damaged, something must have hit it and starting looking up the repair information. She told me it would be around $450 without tax and started to tell me about a possibly less expensive solution then determined that it would not work out and continued on without explanation. She asked me if I wanted to get it fixed immediately and I said I could not. She told me she would add a “ticket” to my account saying what they talked about and if I want to come back, it would take 3-5 days for a repair. Our “appointment” lasted around 3-5mins, most of which was the time it took her to find the repair on a list in her iPad.

I did not hit my screen with anything. The LED backlight is fully functional, the case is completely unmarked and undamaged. I have had this laptop for maybe 2-3 weeks and it is my entire livelihood as I work as a developer, programming instructor, and am a Mechanical Engineering senior. I also know enough about hardware to know that my entire screen assembly is not damaged, nor does it need to be replaced. I only went to the Apple store over repairing it myself because I simply do not have the time and do not believe I am at fault for the issue.
I was even willing to accept that by some strange misfortune that I was at fault and may need to replace the LCD screen (only), but the employee I spoke with didn’t even inspect the screen at all besides what was visible to the plain eye. Even then, although there was nothing to suggest external damage, she assured me it must have been hit with something and quickly wrote me off with an off-site repair quote. I could have gotten this all over the phone, stayed at work, and asked the Apple rep I talked to over the phone to send me a box. My first mind was to visit Micro Center which is a store that I trust, was closer, and is approved by Apple, but I decided to go in to the store in hopes of better expertise and a quality customer experience. I received neither.

Upon returning to work, 3 of my coworkers told me that the Troy location was the worst they had ever experienced and recommended Novi or Ann Arbor. I likely will not visit another location since they are out of the way for me (I commute via bicycle) and there is clearly no customer service standard that I can expect.

I am so disappointed in the experience that I’ve had and saw others having that I would not recommend anyone to an Apple store and likely won’t buy again. As a first time Macbook purchaser, I now feel I made the wrong decision since I invested in hopes of not only a quality product, but quality service to accompany me along the way. I regret having suggested an Apple purchase to any of the future developers we teach for fear that they may have encountered similar issues.

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