• Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page
  • Namecheap.com

  • Apple and the Tech Support Factor

    June 14th, 2006

    Depending on whom you ask, Apple delivers just wonderful service in every respect, or treats its customers with an unreasonable amount of arrogance. What a wide gulf to traverse and indeed I am sure that both conclusions are perfectly true.

    Naturally, I’m very pleased that plans to place a huge Apple support center in India didn’t come to pass. It’s not that I have problems with India as a country, or with the intelligence of its people. But offshore support has a bad, well-deserved, reputation. How many times have you called a company for help and spent most of your time on the phone grinding your teeth as you recite and spell your name over and over again. “Oh, your name is Jim,” they say to me after I spell “Gene” for the tenth time. Maybe I should change my name and be done with it.

    When confronting with such obstacles, you can’t expect much in the way of a solution for your particular problem, but the fault is not the country in which the support center is located. It’s all about hiring people with proper language skills, familiarity with colloquial conversation in the country from which calls are received, and thorough training on how to help you and me navigate the trials and tribulations of using the company’s products or services. It’s hard enough getting good service in your native country.

    On an objective basis, Apple Computer reportedly offers the best service in the industry, bar none. No other computer company is even close. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The technical support survey scores Consumer Reports has posted for the company in recent years indicate what you’d regard as a “B” grade in a school exam. Good, sometimes very good, but certainly not great.

    Alas, the rest of the industry is a whole lot worse, so if you think that moving to Dell or HP will bring you solace, think again.

    So I’m not surprised to find people who just rave about the level of support they received at an Apple Store’s Genius Bar, or via telephone. I’m also not surprised when some of you talk about horror stories of the first order, where nothing worked. You went up through the support hierarchy, and they just couldn’t get a handle on your problem. Frustration mounts, and if you didn’t use any of those infamous “seven deadly words” during the conversation, you were sorely tempted.

    Worse, there’s no way to be sure just what’s going to happen when you place that call, or get on the waiting list at the Genius Bar. The latter experience seems to fare far better, though the people are clearly overworked. I don’t think Apple anticipated there would be such a crying need for their work when it established the program.

    But an Apple Genius has an advantage over the person on the telephone, because they have the chance to physically examine your Mac and determine the source of the problem. That’s equivalent to winning 90% of the war.

    When it comes to doing the same thing via phone, all bets are off. They have to depend on your words to see a picture of the issue they have to solve. In fact, more and more PC companies are using remote access software to actually connect to your malfunctioning device over the Internet to personally see what’s going on and work their magic.

    In any case, a lot more must be done. Whenever I hear an Apple war story, about a support request that went terribly wrong, it’s a sure thing that a lot more needs to be done to make the process work. I don’t know exactly what Apple does to monitor the success of its technical support, but when conversations appear to extend beyond the expected length, or higher tier support people must be summoned to set things right, clearly alarm bills ought to ring out real loud.

    But now it’s your turn. If you have ideas on how Apple, or any other technology company, can deliver better support, feel free to post your comments. Whether your experiences succeeded or failed, please let us know.

    | Print This Article Print This Article

    Tech Night Owl Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.