Apple should invest more into their customer service than the technology

This blog is dedicated to my crap experience with Apple support and their nonchalant customer service. But before I start ranting, I better set some context. As we all know, 2020 has been a year of great change. Conspiracy theorists declare we have become prisoners in our own home. But I believe this is the year we became slaves to the tech. The world now lives, breathes and shits through mobile phone apps and social media accounts. 

Well, not me, because I deleted the apps off my phone after watching The Social Dilemma. Anway, debating the rise of the machines is beside the point. It’s happening whether we like it or not. However, I wish that the development of people would keep pace with the speed of technological advancement. AI hasn’t taken over yet. Human connection and customer experiences are still important!

Apple support

This year I invested in a new computer. It was a difficult decision because I couldn’t exactly afford a swanky new machine. But, my old computer was on its last legs. As early as March, it was already apparent that technological savvy would be the key differentiator in the new world. So, I made a promise to myself. I would buy a new computer as an investment in myself. Instead of socialising or travelling, I would spend all my free time – while locked up at home – learning advanced video editing and digital pattern making. (Btw. you can check out my new video skills in this Oasia vlog!)

A swanky new iMac computer 

I was already a heavy user of Adobe Photoshop and video gamer. So, with that in mind, I purchased a high-spec iMac. The specs are below.

iMac: Retina 5k, 27-inch screen
Processor: 3.6 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9
Memory: 32GB 2667 MHz DDR4
Graphics: Radeon Pro 575X 4GB

It wasn’t a light decision or a cheap one. The purchase set me back $4,627.00. Gasp! And, that was with the student discount I am entitled to.

When it finally arrived, I was brimming with excitement to open the box and behold a mammoth screen twinkling with silver Apple logos. I’d never owned such a large machine. I’d never made such an expensive purchase! But since that glorious day, I’ve experienced nothing but trouble. And, thanks to Apple’s shit customer service, I have earned a new forehead wrinkle or two. 

In techie lingo, my machine suffers from “Kernel Panic”. The device has crashed 50 times (at least!) since I first switched it on back in June. It is now October and the issue is unresolved. Meanwhile, I’ve spent countless aggravating hours with Apple customer service begging for help. It is enough to drive anyone to edge of insanity.  

Kernel Panic

Apple support agents are trained to make friends not solve problems

Whenever you chat with an Apple agent, the first ten minutes are dedicated to friendly conversation. The agent will inquire about your day, where in the world you are based, check if the weather conditions are fine, and finally give a long spiel about how happy they are to help. Blah, blah, blah! If you are communicating via chat, exclamation marks will abound. Now, for one-off customer queries, such sociability is a nice touch. But when you contact customer support on a weekly basis it becomes tedious.

Apple support

I would love to start a support conversation with, “Hello. I am good. I don’t want to chit chat. I don’t care about the weather. Please just solve my problem”. But, that would make me the bad person, wouldn’t it? As we all know, honey attracts more bees than vinegar. But I resent the fact that I’ve probably spent at least 2 hours engaged in meaningless exchange with a bored customer service agent when I have much better things to do.  

What could they do better?

  • Keep the introduction friendly but brief
  • Take a second to look up the country where I am based so the experience feels tailored
  • Acknowledge my problem and establish if it is on-going
  • If it is on-going, take the time to check my support history so I do not need to repeat myself

Apple agents are either slow typists or do not give undivided attention

Apple chat support agents are the slowest typists, which is weird since typing is their livelihood. None of the chat agents I have dealt with can type more than 60 words per minute. My own typing speed is a mere 130 words per minute. I literally find myself typing circles around these clowns while ripping out tufts of my hair in order to subdue my frustration. 

When I was explaining this irritation to a tech-geek named Yuji, he thought my notion was misguided. Yuji said, the agents could indeed type quickly (if they wanted) but they are often attending to several chats at any given time which is why they appear to respond slowly. Yuji also said that when you see the ellipses, which indicate someone is in the middle of typing a response, it is actually a fake sign. Apple chat almost constantly display ellipses and this is designed to calm down the person on the other side of the chat. If you think someone is typing a response you feel like something is happening.

Well, the chat agents are either bloody slow or not giving me undivided attention. That is not acceptable. My average chat sessions are close to one hour and as the Apple support operating hours are the same as standard business hours, it means I must give up my lunch break to accommodate the conversation.

Why is it taking months to solve my computer problem? 

I have a million and one more grievances that I could cite about my dealings with Apple support. But, instead, I will summarise why it is taking so long for my particular case to be addressed.

Apple support

First and second-level Apple support agents have no technical knowledge. They follow a script, and until the customer has completed this monkey business, your case cannot be escalated to an engineer. 

In this scenario, my computer has been crashing for months. Sometimes it crashes ten times consecutively. Other times, it just crashes the once but at the worse possible moment. Usually when I am in the middle of a complex piece of work. Each time my computer crashes, it creates a log of what went wrong. The log can only be interpreted by a technical engineer as it contains code. Now, even though my computer is brand new and should not be crashing, I must follow the below steps before any information logs can be passed to an engineer for analysis:

  • Update operating system (I’ve done this twice since the problem emerged. That means Apple is upgrading its OS faster than it is solving my faulty computer)
  • Update all apps and programs
  • Use the machine in safe mode
  • Create a new profile and use the machine using this new profile
  • Reset the machine using Time Machine backup
  • Reset the machine without Time Machine backup

After I completed the above steps over the course of many weeks, my logs were passed to an engineer. They asked me to delete some Adobe files that seemed problematic. When that didn’t work, I was finally given the green light to have my machine looked at by an expert.

It took 3 hours over 3 days to schedule an appointment with Apple

It was a small victory to finally have my problem acknowledged. If I buy a brand new computer for $5,000 I do not expect it to keep crashing. Even if the operating system is out of date.

Since I am a decent person, I was willing to forgive Apple everything, including the countless hours on the phone and with their so-so-slow chat agents. But they just had to go ahead and completely bungle the process of arranging an engineer to collect the machine from my house.

Apple support

I booked an appointment for collection and on the given day, nobody turned up to my house. Instead of someone contacting me to see what went wrong, I had to proactively get in touch with Apple to inquire why the appointment was missed. It turned out they had given the team the wrong phone number and they were unable to call me. It didn’t occur to anyone to get in touch by email, as a second resort, even though my email is tied to my Apple account. I spent one hour on chat and by phone just to correct my phone number. I was told to expect a call back within 24 hours.

Naturally, 24 hours elapsed and there was no callback. Once again, instead of Apple contacting me to ensure things had progressed as promised, I had to be the one to proactively contact them. Turns out, they still had the incorrect number on file. So I spent another one hour on the phone correcting it.

Finally. After 3 hours over 3 days of trying to book an appointment, my appointment is confirmed. Someone will come to collect my machine this week to investigate the Kernel Panic problem. Unfortunately, I will need to be without a computer for one week and Apple will not provide me with a temporary device in the interim.

How could Apple support do better?

Dealing with Apple support has been a gruelling experience. The reason has as much to do with Apple protocol as its poorly trained support specialists. Here are a few tips on what they could work on:

  • Customers who have faulty brand-new purchases should be given priority over issues related to older devices. The idea of spending months getting my machine up-and-running deters me from buying new devices from Apple in the future
  • Agents should be held accountable for following through on active cases. No one has ever proactively reached out to me. I’ve had to do all the chasing in my own personal time. On the few occasions I had scheduled callbacks with agents, they were always late and sometimes I had to take the step to phone them instead
  • Agents should be held accountable for making mistakes. Two agents did not correctly update my phone number which was very inconvenient and cost me an additional 2 hours of my personal time. I asked to make a formal complaint but never received closure on whether it was lodged and, if so, what steps had been taken to reprimand the responsible agents
  • Agents/engineers should use common sense and try communicating via email if a phone number is not working
  • Agents should be trained to handle customers efficiently and tailor the experience. The American model is not a one-size-fits-all. Most of us have busy lives and do not want to chit chat with a complete stranger
  • A transparent ticketing system should be in place so I can follow my own case. I received a case number but I have no way of logging in to see the progress, review prior chat transcripts, or evaluate how long the case has been pending and how many touchpoints I have had with agents. The lack of visibility only increases frustration.

Regarding the last point, I received a standalone email update. Below is the print screen showing my machine is currently being worked on. This is incorrect, as nobody has even collected my machine yet.

One final rant and I am done complaining about Apple

Apple has some great products – when they actually work. The iPhone and the iMac are my favourites. Apple is always spending shit loads of money to upgrade its technology, and they do it in such a way as to force consumers to spend more and more money. For instance, changing the earphone plugs or power adapters, removing CDs and USB ports from devices, etc.

During these COVID-times, they have been raking in the dough as more and more people invest in technological upgrades. Now, that is all fine and dandy. But, as a minimum, please put some of the money back into training and upskilling your support staff!! Give them some basic technical knowledge and make them more accountable. Your customers shouldn’t be treated like just another number. You can afford to do better!

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