All posts tagged Apple

  • A case of bad customer experience, and how it made me feel

    I wanted to write this post yesterday, in the thick of this bad customer experience, but I’m aware that penning something in the heat of the moment usually leads to an emotional tirade of half truths. I’m no longer angry, I’m just left surprised. Most of all, I’m surprised at how angry I became.

    Angry is something I very rarely am. I’ve worked in customer service before, I know anger seldom gets you anywhere, at least it shouldn’t get you anywhere. Getting angry at the person on the other side of customer support is almost always misplaced. It’s the processes and systems behind them that are to blame, the organisational attitude towards its customers, its culture and its staff training.

    After over 6 hours yesterday of troubleshooting, chatting and calling Apple in various ways, the only emotions I had left were anger, despair, powerlessness, confused and feeling cheated. And perhaps slightly concerned for the last representative I spoke to who clearly had been working a very long shift and was pretty much out of it.

    Let me get some things straight here. For those who don’t know me, I run an app translation service. I’m a registered iOS app developer and have been testing iOS devices almost every day of my working life since 2009. I’ve bought and interacted with Apple since my first Mac in 1998. I run my own business, I know mistakes happen, I understand that out of the millions of devices that shipped yesterday, there would be a few unlucky people who receive a dud device. Sadly this time it was me.

    But let me also tell you that I’m a business customer, this device was bought on a business account. I spend several thousand a year on Apple products and services, I am also one of those people others go to when they want advice on which Apple product to buy. My business needs an iPhone X to test user interfaces of the latest apps our clients send us; what’s more I had promised the device to my friend, Amy, a very prominent camera reviewer, who had racked up over £600 in commissions to get reviews on several very popular review sites in the UK on release day. Not having an iPhone X on release day wasn’t really an option. And yet that’s what has happened.

    So what exactly went down?

    Friday 3rd November 2017:

    1pm

    • iPhone X arrives as promised
    • Amy unboxes, turns on, opens Camera app (she’s going to review it remember)
    • Black screen
    • Amy downloads VSCO, Camera+, Instagram, etc, these apps don’t even detect there is a back camera. Some default the the telephoto lens which appears to be working.

    2.20pm

    • Amy gets in touch with me, tells me camera is not working
    • Amy and I trouble shoot together over WhatsApp
    • Update iOS – no
    • Restore from iTunes – no, still broken, now FaceID doesn’t work and an error about overheating.

    3.30pm

    • After an hour of troubleshooting, I check twitter, a few others have this problem.

    4pm

    • I go to Apple Support forums, search for ‘camera not working’, an article says it should be ‘Sent in for Repair’.
    • As this is release day, I am aware this may be a general FAQ so I click Online Chat
    • I chat with Apple Support Rep I who runs a diagnostic
    • Confirms back camera is faulty
    • Sends me to call Apple Store in Cardiff for a device swap

    4.30pm

    • Apple Store Cardiff redirects me to centralised support centre
    • Rep doesn’t understand me
    • Eventually passes me on to Cardiff Store
    • Cardiff Store rings dead
    • I call again
    • Rep runs through process again
    • I forcefully tell rep to put me through to Cardiff
    • Cardiff eventually answers, tells me Online Support Rep is wrong, you have to contact Online Store team

    5pm

    • I call Support again
    • Call takes 55 minutes
    • Senior support isn’t available
    • Junior support tells me to call back later

    5.55pm (call above ends)

    7.20pm

    • I call Support again
    • Support goes through process
    • Support transfers me to Senior
    • I get angry at Senior support. I’m just exhausted now.
    • Senior support sends me to Junior sales.
    • Junior sales is… well… words can’t describe
    • I get angry
    • Junior transfers me to Senior
    • Seniors have gone home for the day…
    • Junior tells me they’ll call me tomorrow (Saturday)
    • Call ends, 8.10pm.

    At this point, we’ve been diagnosing and trying to get the phone swapped for 6.5 hours.

    Who I spoke to in total

    1. Apple Support Rep I (Chat)
    2. Apple Support Rep II
    3. Apple Support Rep III
    4. Cardiff Store Rep I
    5. Apple Support Rep IV
    6. Senior Support Rep I > Not available
    7. Apple Support Rep V
    8. Senior Support Rep II > Annoying / I get angry
    9. Apple Sales Rep I > Rep is exhausted, also clueless
    10. Senior Sales Rep I > Not available, gone home for the day

    What is fundamentally wrong here?

    It’s release day
    Everyone who got an iPhone X on release day did so consciously and in full anticipation. No one just turned up to an Apple Store and bought a phone. No one received one from Apple Online, such as myself, serendipitously. We logged on at 8am on Friday 27th October and we refreshed that page repeatedly. We had to be within the very first few minutes to secure a release day shipment.

    Therefore, it is highly unlikely that anyone who calls Apple on release day is completely technically inept. It’s also highly likely anyone who calls Apple will be highly strung – they’ve waiting weeks for this, they’ve queued hours, or they’ve stayed up late/got up early to buy the product. While some of us may just be fan boys, others actually need these devices to do their job.

    I think the last straw for me was when Senior Support Rep II said, “Oh, so you’ve had this device a week and now the camera is broken?”. Face Palm.

    No one knew what the process was
    The Online Chat Rep I spoke to at first told me to call the Apple Store in Cardiff to do a quick swap. I asked about stock, he said ask them.

    The Apple store in Cardiff redirected to technical support who asked me all the same questions again and took me down the path of restoring and resetting my iPhone, completely ignoring what I was saying. I forcefully said no, I want to be connected to the Apple Store in Cardiff.

    Cardiff didn’t answer. The line went dead. I went through process again. Got through to Cardiff who told me the Online Chat guy was wrong. They can’t do Online Store swaps.

    I phoned again, whole process again, put me through to Senior Tech support who wasn’t available. Told me to call back later.

    Called back later, whole process again. Tech passed me to Senior Tech. I finally blew my top. Senior Tech passed me to Sales. Sales didn’t even know this was a new phone. Sales literally couldn’t do anything. She passed me to Senior Sales, who weren’t there. They’d gone home.

    No one had a clue. No one was listen to me.

    Apple support was over stretched
    Calls were on hold before and mid conversations several times. Junior support and sales staff sounded tired, frustrated, powerless. Most didn’t know the process and only one really recognised that I wasn’t a clueless customer, unfortunately who he passed me on to was not available.

    Support on a released day like yesterday needs to operate longer than it’s standard 8pm cut off. Most people got home from work yesterday to find their iPhone X at home, by the time they’re calling Support, it’s too late. I was able to start my process at 4pm, after 4 hours of talking, I was turned away as ‘they’d gone home’. At the time of writing this, I am still waiting for a call back. I have a £1149 brick on my desk.

    How this made me feel

    Ironically yesterday I had been volunteering at a Business School talking with students about Post Purchase Dissonance. Little did I know that later that same day, I would become foul of an extremely negative post purchase situation.

    When I got the notification of the device arriving at mid day, I was obviously very excited. I told Amy she could go pick it up, excited for her to start her reviews, make some money, and spread the word about the iPhone X’s supposedly superior cameras.

    When I got the message saying the camera didn’t work, I was concerned, but not overly. Usually these things are software and can be fixed. Amy is obviously tech savvy herself and had gone through quite a few steps, trying different apps, so I told her to update and restore, neither of which helped, instead they made matters worse (broke FaceID, overheating error).

    At this point I started to panic. I know how these things work, it’s release day, phones will be sold out. I’m starting to worry I’m not going to get to use my phone. When Apple Support Rep I on Chat told me I can swap in Cardiff I thought, great, ok, I’ll go in store this evening.

    The next 4 hours were the worst. I went from hopeful to relieved, to confusion, disbelief, frustration, indignation, anger, helplessness, astonishment, despair to exhaustion.

    The final straw came when Apple Sales Rep I tried to pass me off to a Senior Sales Rep who ‘hand gone home for the day’. I’d wasted 4 hours of my day, hours on the phone and hours of my friend’s time.

    You may think all this stress over a smart phone is extreme, but when £600+ of your friend’s money is on the line, clients apps that need testing, and the feeling of being cheated that you’d woken up early to pre-order and that effort was wasted, I couldn’t help feel like that.

    What’s more, we wouldn’t choose to pay £1149 to experience those emotions.

    How could this process be improved

    In my time working with customers and clients in the tech sector, I can identify several types of people who call customer support:

    1. Those who are not tech savvy. They need to be hand held through the process.
    2. Those who believe they are tech savvy, but often miss steps. You need to be kind, but forceful here. They think they know what they’re doing but they sometimes miss a step.
    3. Those who are tech savvy. They’ve done most of the steps, they just need you to confirm.
    4. Those who do your job for you. They’ve done all the steps, they’re certain of the problem and they can prove it.

    Any of these customers may be:

    • i. Eternally grateful for your help and support
    • ii. Time constrained and frustrated
    • iii. Automatically on the defensive
    • iv. Automatically on the offensive

    On top of this, customers may be:

    • New
    • Existing
    • Brand loyal
    • Big spenders
    • Influential

    I started the process and a 3.ii. I am tech savvy, I’ve done the steps, I need you to confirm, then we need to get on with it as I’m time constrained.

    Mid way through the process, I was 4.ii. I knew for certain what the problem was, it had been confirmed by Apple running a diagnostic, but I was still time constrained and now increasingly frustrated.

    Three hours in I became 4.iv I knew what the problem was, no one was listening to me, I became offensive. Like a big dog stuck in a corner, I felt like the only way out was to start growling. A position I find myself rarely in.

    Apple – all companies – should be identify who is talking to them on the phone. They have data: they see my purchase history, they see how often I call, they see I have a developer account. When you start a call with the processes you’ve already gone through, an intelligent person should be able to recognise in which category the customer fits. In my case, they should have identified me as a 3 or a 4 straight away.

    They should also see I am a business customer, I spend several thousand with them each year, I am brand loyal. I have influence over friend’s purchases, though tracking this may understandably be difficult (however arguably the case for most with a developer account).

    Categorising customers should help get them through the process quickly. But this will only work if the process works, which, yesterday, it did not.

    Apple Support and Sales staff were unable to effectively communicate to one another and unable to see that I’d been on phone several times, each up to an hour long. Junior staff could not identify me as a customer and each time had to go through their process sheet. When I had already done the steps they required on a previous call and told them so, they had to put me on hold to ask someone else for help. Enough senior support and sales staff were not available. Junior support and sales staff were unable to action anything of value.

    This could have been made better if:

    1. All staff knew the process for defect release day devices
    2. I was categorised quickly
    3. More actionable staff were available on a big release day

    The end result

    At time of writing, there is no result yet. I am still waiting for a call from Apple Sales, highly likely waiting weeks for delivery. I feel disheartened and a little bit like loyal customers who attempt to get release day devices are second rate customers.

    I realise that I’m just a single customer and this is just a phone, but quite frankly I’m left wondering what my own clients would do if I took £1149 of their hard earned money and told them I would deliver my project weeks, or months, after they were expecting it? Sadly this is a case of David and Goliath, but this time, I’m sure, Goliath will win.

  • A life without Steve Jobs

    There’s naturally quite a lot of sentimentality going around today. I usually shy away from public mourning, something I feel the likes of Twitter and Facebook have exacerbated, finding it often mawkish and lacking any sense of perspective. The crux of it is, today is unlikely to be any different for the vast majority of us and it’ll be much the same tomorrow.

    But what about yesterday? What if Steve Jobs hadn’t returned to Apple in late 1996 and Apple had gone bust like so many industry experts at the time predicted? For most people who own an iPhone today, their life probably wouldn’t be any different. I cannot say the same for my own.

    I got my first Mac in April 2000, thanks to my progressive parents. Yes, you had to be progressive, or barmy, to spend £1249 on a Mac at that time. I was the luckiest 13 year old around, owning a laptop was almost unheard of outside of the business world at that time (for those who are interested, it was the iBook G3 366MHz “Graphite SE” edition).

    From that day on I was hooked. There were probably times when I should have been out cycling round the block a few times, getting fresh air, but were actually spent on Yahoo Mac Chat Rooms discussing how many USB ports I had or whether my graphics chip could handle Nanosaur at full res.

    Over the years I’ve anticipated every one of Jobs’ captivating keynotes, often spending hours deliberating with fellow fans what would be released. Hours, not wasted, but savoured. And as the years went on, so did my experience and what I could do with my computer. At 14 I was making websites on my Mac for several small businesses, making money other 14 year olds could only dream of. Of course that money was spent on more RAM or a new monitor for my new PowerMac. At 17 I got my first job repairing Macs at Apple-Juice and at 22 I moved to Munich, Germany, to get a dream job at equinux, a Mac software company. At 24 I went on to start my own company, a Mac and iPhone app translation agency, Applingua.

    It’s true to say I didn’t know Steve Jobs. I was never even lucky enough to get to see him speak live at MacWorld or WWDC. It’s also true to say I didn’t know what he was like behind that illuminated camera and according to many accounts, I’m not sure I ever wanted to either. So far-reaching were his decisions both at Apple and the tech-world as a whole, that it doesn’t matter if you knew the man personally or not. Almost every piece of tech you use today from your phone to your TV has, at some point during the design process, been influenced by Steve’s Apple in some way.

    Choosing to be a geek, an Apple Geek no less, has brought me to where I am today. From fan-boy chat rooms at 12 years old to running Applingua, where I get to work with other Apple Geeks on a daily basis. Even as I write this, on my MacBook Air, I’m sitting at a desk opposite a good friend who I got to know working at that Mac software house, equinux.

    As the Mac software developers Panic put it, “it’s not an exaggeration to say that everything we have today – from our apps, to our employees, to our office, to our houses, even to FaceTime moments with our kids and favorite songs fading in on an a rainy walk home – is thanks to Apple.”

    This is my thank you, Steve. Thank you for changing the way the world approaches technology. Thank you for indirectly providing me with at least four separate jobs. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet some amazing people along the way.

    Thanks Steve.

  • A week away with the MacBook Air 11″

    Over a month has passed since I wrote my first impressions of the MacBook Air 11″ and I’ve been asked by several readers for an update on how I’ve been getting along with the Air. Well I can tell you all now: I still love it, with some caveats.

    I recently returned from a week’s holiday in Italy. Of course, when you run a small business (Applingua Ltd), it’s never really a holiday. I had an open mind before I went about how the Air would perform. On the one hand it’s ultraportable, easy to pack and has no problem running any of the software I use on a daily basis (Safari, SubEthaEdit, iTunes, etc). On the other, I was concerned about the 11″ screen compared to my usual 24″ LCD. Could I cope doing proper daily tasks on this screen?

    At the airport

    We all know the MacBook Air is the lightest Mac you can buy. I suppose I didn’t really grasp just how light until I was on my way through the airport and onboard the plane. The Air is truly amazing in this respect, on several occasions I just forgot I had in in my bag (unfortunately one of those occasions was at security when they rather impatiently informed me that I was supposed to take my laptop out). Getting it out in Starbucks just felt natural too. Slip it out of your messenger bag and it powers on in around 10 seconds.

    Flying with a budget airline is rarely a great comfort experience, but the small footprint of the Air meant I could angle the screen to a position that felt comfortable. My old 13″ MacBook would hit the seat in front of me, several degrees into the neck ache zone. I watched a film, did a little paperwork and the battery held up well. The Air left the house at 100%, 30mins use at the airport, 1.5hrs use in-flight ending up at about 57%.

    Oops, where’s that window gone?

    During the first weekend away, I’ll admit to not working much. Checking emails, watching a few films, browsing news websites and catching up with Hacker News is as good as doing these tasks on much more expensive machines. The built-in SSD makes the machine flash through basic tasks at least creating an illusion of an extremely fast machine. I couldn’t recommend this machine more for these sorts of tasks.

    By day three I had received an email from a client and had to get to work. I opened my usual array of around 6 applications and got to work. It wasn’t long before my original worry dawned on me: 11 inches is a small screen. Bear with me. My job often requires me to check app localizations comparing text to a few PDFs I have created. I like to divide my screen up so that both Preview is open and the application I’m working in. This allows me to look back and forth to complete work a lot more efficiently than using Command-Tab. Unfortunately this is no way possible on the MacBook Air.

    Some of you will be reading this and wondering what did he expect? Often you don’t really assess your needs until you have used a device properly over a longer period of time. Except this isn’t really a need, it’s more a preference. A way I prefer to work, rather than a way I have to work. I quickly decided that I should just change the way I work when using the Air.

    I can’t deny that there was a niggling feeling in the back of my head saying I should have opted for a 13″ MacBook Air. It has, after all, the same resolution as the basic 15″ MacBook Pro. Since being back, I popped into my local Apple Store to check out the 13″ Air. The 15″ MacBook Pro. And the 17″ MacBook Pro. Shock horror, not one of the MacBooks, Airs or MacBook Pros except for the 17″ could do comfortably what I wanted to achieve. The high-res 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros are obviously also suited to people with better eyes than me. Not nice.

    It dawned on me that the way I work has evolved because I am a greedy desktop user with a high-res 24″ screen. I can’t say I would want to work 24/7 on the MacBook Air 11″, but at the same time I’m not sure I’d want to work fulltime on anything less than a 1920 x 1080 screen. No laptop can really satisfy me. Yes I am excluding the 17″ in the term laptop.

    Flash, bang, stutter

    Throughout the week speed wasn’t really a problem. There were absolutely no hold ups in my usual file management, compressing, email checking, iTunes-listening, movie watching. I would be lying however if I said there weren’t one or two times when the Air stuttered a little.

    The MacBook Air does not ship with Adobe’s Flash installed. This is because it drains battery, or so we are told. While I’m sure that’s also a reason, I couldn’t help but notice a warm MacBook Air after several hours use and several open applications did stutter a little on a YouTube video or two. Nothing major, but held up a Finder window opening by two or three seconds.

    Compiling an app also took a little longer than even my 4 year old desktop Mac (both have SSDs). I appreciate however that this isn’t a common task for a lot of you.

    Emails yes, compiling maybe

    So to ask me, would I buy the most basic MacBook Air 11″ again? I would probably answer with Yes, but with caveats. If you’re a word-processing, movie watching, iTunes listening user this is a perfect device: light, fast to boot and open apps, beautifully designed and ultimately the most lifestyle fitting Mac you will ever own.

    If you’re a home office worker and this will be your only Mac, then I would say think about it. If your job just involves the usual word processing and number crunching apps (Office, iWork, etc) then it’s probably fine. Think about an external monitor and maybe choosing the 4GB version.

    If you’re a pro user I think you already know the answer to this. The Air couldn’t be your only machine. Compiling, rendering, whatever tickles your fancy will take a lot longer on this machine than on one of the new Sandy Bridge MacBook Pros. As a second Mac, I can very highly recommend it.

    My question to you: how do you really use your Mac? Think about it. There’s a difference between theory (“I would like to do some video rendering one day”) and reality (“I just surf Engadget and MacRumors all day”). Then decide if the MacBook Air 11″ is right for you.

    [UPDATE: 27/11/2011] You may be interested in reading my First Impressions of the MacBook Air 13″ (2011)

  • First Impressions: Magic Trackpad

    In what appears to be a series of reviews of 6 month old hardware, I continue my previous post with a first impressions review of the Apple Magic Trackpad. Once again, spaghetti western approach.

    The Good

    • Beautifully simple. There’s nothing “extra”. It is just a trackpad. And it looks great for it
    • Multi-touch gestures. I bought the trackpad after getting used to using a trackpad again to swipe through pictures, to zoom and pinch, to clear screen up or to exposé down. The gestures are so natural, it’s how input devices should always have been

    The Bad

    • Without enabling ‘tap to click’, it’s difficult to use the trackpad on the arm of your sofa. Perhaps interesting if you are using one with a Mac Mini TV setup
    • I keep grabbing the device like a mouse. This is a case of stupid-user syndrome, but it’s weird to operate within a space, rather than over a space

    The Ugly

    • There is nothing ugly about this device. 24 hours with it has been bliss.

    One thing of interest for many people is the battery. Of course I haven’t had opportunity to test the battery life yet, but from my experience of Apple Bluetooth devices, there’s a reason why Apple sell a battery charger. My advice? I think I’ve found the perfect pointing device that exceeds just pointing. If you want to purchase, support the site by clicking here.

    Comments? Questions?

  • In for an iPad, out with a MacBook Air

    The iPad 2. Who isn’t talking about it? When Apple announced an update to its hugely successful tablet I can’t deny getting excited. The iPad 1 was nice, but it wasn’t quite right for me. After testing it at home I found it slightly too bulky and, like many, wasn’t willing to invest in a first generation product. There is no denying that surfing on the iPad is second to none. It just feels right, as if the internet with all her content was made to be touched.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just scroll through any news item on an iPad or swipe through Boston.com’s The Big Picture. You will be sold.

    When the iPad 2 was announced I decided I would buy one to compliment my four year old MacBook, which has a broken screen. At the moment I need to be in my office if I want to surf the internet. No quick cinema time look ups, no idle browsing when TV gets boring. No separation between work and play.

    So two nights ago I set my alarm to wake up at 1am, the time at which online sales went live on Apple’s website. The plan was to order one should I not be able to get one in store. After several failed attempts (Apple’s website couldn’t take the strain, even at 1am) I managed to order a Black 32GB iPad. It was the middle of the night and I was feeling woozy.

    Morning came and I made my way into Cardiff. At 11am the queue already stretched to 30 people. I spoke to one or two guys asking how long they’d been there and whether they thought it would be ok if I were to come back several hours later. After all, it was a whole 6 hours before launch. They were in the queue already so naturally thought it was wise I joined the back and waited. It was at that very moment something clicked. After several weeks of being caught up in the hullabaloo, I decided the iPad was not for me.

    I’ve been a Mac user / Apple fan since, well, before my first iBook in 1999. Over the years I have witnessed Apple fanaticism reaching almost ridiculous heights. We now have a culture where any new product, even a new mouse, requires bouncer-guarded lines outside Apple Stores worldwide. Even my mum admitted on Friday “I’ve read so much about the iPad I feel like I need one. I need to join that line.” I have never lined up for anything in my life, certainly not for 6 hours. The giant PR machine surrounding Apple had never gotten to me before, it wasn’t going to start now.

    So what actually clicked? I suddenly realised I didn’t have an iPad yesterday, nor the week before, or the week before that. Living without an iPad before my online order arrives wouldn’t kill me. In fact, staying in a line for 6 hours may finish me off sooner. But it wasn’t just that. I realised an iPad would be a waste of money for me.

    My main setup problem at the moment is I don’t have a laptop. I’m an occasional traveller (few weeks here and there at house in Italy, ~ 3 x 4 day breaks visiting friends) but I do need a machine I can work on when away from my desk. I don’t use particularly powerful tools, Safari, TextMate, Espresso. I am also a stickler for portability after nearly destroying my back lugging my Macbook to university for four years.

    The MacBook Air fits the bill exactly. It isn’t much bigger than an iPad, I can use it for the internet around the house, returning to my older Macbook + 24″ for work. The times I’m abroad and have to work, I can. I store everything on Dropbox so there’s never that painful syncing process akin to the iPad. The MacBook Air on one hand is a handy, ultra-portable suitable for low-power tasks, perhaps making it more of an iPad big brother than a totally different device. Where it does show its maturity is when you have to do some work on it, you have the full range of Mac OS applications you are used to and a keyboard you are comfortable using.

    It just wasn’t logical for me to go the iPad route only to have to buy another laptop at some point down the road. I felt buying an iPad would probably be underused in several months time when I have to upgrade my MacBook.

    Most importantly the MacBook Air 11″ doesn’t cost the earth. In fact, I ordered a refurb in store for £739 inc. VAT. As a business purchase, I’m only paying £615 ex. VAT compared to the £400 ex. VAT I was going to spend on an iPad 32GB. What’s more, should this old MacBook ever die, I can now consider an iMac rather than always having to opt for MacBooks.

    There are iPad 2s still available to buy in Cardiff today. Go get one if you it’s right for you.