I am admittedly an Apple Fan Girl. While many of my tech friends have tried other platforms, in 2009 I got my first Mac, and never looked back. When it comes to the iPhone, the iPad, AppleTV or my MacBookPro, up until recently I would have adamently proclaimed the superiority of the Apple product. From packaging to product, the company had such allure and class and the perception of buying Apple was the perception of buying a quality product. Even the commercials with Mac versus a PC were believable to me.
But my perception is changing and I’m not quite sure whether Apple understands how their failure to live up to the experience is beginning to tarnish the future for their product line. In fact, I’m wondering whether the change may be the result of a lack of direction in the post Steve Jobs company.
Sharing my experience has always been something that I’ve loved to do. Every time one of my PC friends posts a PC woe, the knee jerk response has been “well you should get a Mac and you won’t have those problems”. However, now I don’t feel that I can confidently interject that remark.
Here is my recent experience: I have a MacBook Pro which I purchased in 2011. Since buying this computer, it’s had a lot of issues. It’s always been a bit slow to boot, but eventually I replaced RAM and it picked up a bit. Then the hard drive crashed, which was a pain, but since I bought AppleCare, the replacement of the hard drive was covered. Most recently, the computer would have a hard time booting, or would boot up and had strange lines across the screen. It was time to go see the geniuses at the Apple Store.
I decided to just visit the store to see if they were able to fit me in. IN the old days, you really did not need an appointment. Unfortunately, there was no time for genius to see me, so I figured I ‘d try again to make an appointment first. The experience of going to the store and being told that I was unable to see a genius was indicative of the change in the level of service. Let me explain…
Typically when you walk into the Apple store, there is a greeter who asks what your purpose to visit the store was, and then they walk you to another Associate who ostensibly can help you with your request. On this visit to the store, I was handed off four times before being told that I could not see a Genius without an appointment. I also was shuffled to several locations to ‘wait’ and the entire process had me in the store at various tables or desks for about twenty minutes. I love hanging out at the Apple store, but this was not my idea of fun.
When I came back in for my appointment, the greeter was about a third of the way into the store. I was told to go back to the Genius bar. I waited at the Genius bar where I was ignored for about eight minutes. Then a young lady came from behind me and lead me away to a table and told me to sit there to be helped. I told her that I was told to go to the counter, but she said that this is where they needed me to be. I waited at the table, finally pulling out my iPhone, logging into Facebook and posting several statements along the lines of wondering how quickly I would be helped. Another eleven minutes and then a young man said he was here to help me. I explained to the young man the same thing that I had put on the appointment about my computer not working. He then said Ok, and after typing into his iPad he migrated to another couple to help them. Another eight minutes and another young female Apple employee told me that I needed to stand at the Genius bar. Patiently I explained that I had been at the Genius bar and they told me to sit at the table. She said that NOW I was supposed to be at the Genius bar. Feeling a bit sheeplike, I wandered back to the Genius Bar, where I was studiously ignored for another eleven minutes. Eventually a young Genius came up to me and asked me the same question I had been asked when I first entered and again when I sat at the table. I just said “it doesn’t work” as I pushed my laptop over to her. It’s a brick.
“OK”, she brightly chirped, “Did you back it up?”
Hmmm. I found myself wondering when Apple had decided to hire Rocket Scientists for their Geniuses? “Um, it doesn’t work, so how would I be able to back it up?” I ask. Mentally I am kicking myself, but not terribly hard because I do have two back ups – both an “air port” and also a hard drive back up, but then again, despite my precautions, I am not sure whether either of the back ups worked because unless you check, you just assume they are backing things up.
“Well”, the junior Rocket Scientist says, “you have a choice. You can have us fix it here at the store, or you can have us send it out to be fixed. What would you like to do?”
If I had the idea that the question was kind of vague, it was not going to get any clearer when I asked what the difference is. “If we fix it in the store, we get the part and we fix it here, otherwise we send it to the Depot and we fix it there. Which would you prefer to do?”
When you are confronted with a choice like that, how do you make a decision? As it turns out the part that it may need was not in stock at the store, they would have to order the part anyway, so it just sounded faster to send the machine to the depot. I wound up leaving without my laptop, praying that the Apple Gods would shine favorably on fixing the ailing machine. One of the young Apple clan salespeeps wished me a pleasant day with a big smile as I left the store.
A few days later, I got a message that the laptop was back and I should come to the store and bring a picture ID to claim my computer. I headed to the store and this time, I walked in and was never even greeted. All the way to the back of the store where the Geniuses are, and not even a smile or acknowledgement – it was tantamount to the feeling of being invisible. As I waited for a Genius, or any Apple Associate to see me, I began to feel truly invisible. I was studiously ignored and couldn’t even get anyone’s attention as the hum of the store and the motion of the workers swirled past me. All I wanted was to pick up my computer. There were three associates standing by the door to the back room and making some plan, I think it was for their breaks. I tried to make eye contact to no avail. A fourth man wearing a coat, like he was heading out of the store, came out of the back room and stopped to talk with the three associates. He was the one who noticed that I was standing there and asked if I had been helped. I told him I was just trying to pick up my laptop that had come back from repair. He said he would direct me to someone who could help and we walked to about the middle of the store where he handed me off to a young female sales associate who graciously offered to help me, but then sat me again at the same table I sat at when I first came in.
As I was sitting at the table, I could not help but overhear the couple who was also seated at the same table. The dilemma that they had was that they had purchased an iPad, and after 1 year and 1 month, it stopped working. They acknowledged that they were 1 month out of warranty but felt that there must be something that the store could do to help them. My impression was that they were being told they could purchase a new iPad because without the AppleCare, and being out of warranty there was no break in price to fix their iPad.
To my right, I heard another story where a customer had an iPad with a cracked screen. Same thing, no assistance – they could buy a new one. The iPad was just about a year old… and the family did not purchase AppleCare. Is buying the extended warranty now almost a requirement? What happened to the concept of standing behind the product.
About twenty minutes later, the associate returned with a paper wrapped package. She handed me her iPad and said there are two pages, sign at the bottom. I read through the legal language, but there was nothing that said what had been done with my laptop. “Its in the paper inside, just sign the second page”. Wow, another helpful sales associate. I glanced through the document and signed it with my finger (again, not explained) and unceremoniously handed the paper that ‘explains’ what was done with my computer. “Do you want a receipt or can I just email it to you?”. I asked for a receipt and with a look that implied I was disturbing her, the sales associate trucked off for another ten minutes, leaving me sitting there. I asked her if there would be any problem with the computer, and she said no, it was all fixed. “”Buh bye”.
As I left the store and got into my vehicle I realized that no one had opened the computer to even see if it was working. I opened it in the car, and since there was not a lot I could do at that point, I drove away.
When I got home, I discovered that the entire system has been erased. A new system was installed. The good news is that it doesn’t appear that I have lost any software. The bad news is that it looks like the documents are either hidden or gone. So, now I have another dilemma – of trying to reload my documents and information that had been on the computer. As mentioned, I do have two redundant back ups, but nonetheless, it would have been helpful had someone at the store taken a moment to explain what I would need to do to restore the old hard drive. Or even CHECKED the computer in front of me before I took it and left.
Incidentally, no one ever asked me for the photo ID to pick up my computer.
So, why do I feel that this is important to the story of Apple the company? Isn’t this just a consumer crying sour grapes, and after all, things do break and even Apple products can fail?
The reason this is important is because a company lives or dies by it’s reputation. It’s no longer an option to advertise and say you are great, then have your customers have lousy experiences. If you do a simple search on “repair iPad” you will see that there is an entire industry that is taking up where Apple left off. What this means is that Apple had done a good job of getting people to buy into the product, however if people are having a problem and you don’t help or take care of the problem, there is a possibility that you will not have repeat business.
The people who’s iPad quit one month after the one year warranty ended are not going to buy another iPad. Why would they? If the product was manufactured in such a way as to just stop working, why would they invest again in the same product and hope for a different result? For less they can buy a similar product – an Android, a Windows Tablet, an Amazon Fire HD. If Apple was the only game in town, things would be different, but that’s not the case.
When Steve Jobs was at the helm Apple was not perfect, however one thing you could count on was innovation. New products were being introduced and disruptive technology was the name of the game. The last iterations of the iPhone and iPad had improvements, however these were not disruptions, nor were they innovations. They were improvements, which is to say they are better, but perhaps not enough to have consumers ditch their existing product to move to a new version.
Apple has always had a reputation for quality and for customer service. I responded to a survey regarding my experience with my recent visit to the Apple Store. Of course, I told the survey that I am not happy. I’m curious to see whether there will be a response, and if so, how Apple intends to fix the situation. They do have another shot – but based upon the situation so far, this is the Apple we have come to know and love.
I cannot help but extrapolate and consider my experience to be less than unique. After numerous searches I’m seeing a groundswell of unhappiness by consumers with the Apple product and Apple service. How will this translate? I think we are already seeing the effect, an erosion in confidence and also a migration of fans away from the product line. When it becomes more cool to be an Android Fan than an Apple Fan, then Apple should go out of their way to please their customers. After all, it is harder to win a new customer than to retain an existing one.
What do you think? Do you have a situation where you have not been happy with the product or service for an Apple product? Or any product. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comments below and let me know what you think.