A Few Minutes with AppleCare

Email from Apple
One survey I was happy to receive.

I know from comments I’ve received on previous posts that I have some followers who are not fans of Apple. I’m not so much a fan of Apple, as I am a developer who has to work with Apple as we create iPhone/iPad Apps for our employees.


I’m not trying to convince you to buy an iPhone, an iPad or a Mac. I don’t care what you use to do your job, pay your bills, process your photos or write your blog. If you’re happy, I’m happy. I use my iPhone for nearly everything one can do with a phone these days. I use my iPad in support of business, especially while traveling. I write my blog, process my pictures and do the bulk of my job on Windows laptops. My wife pays the bills.

Regardless of what technology, platform (if my boss is reading this, his eyes just rolled) or operating system you’re using, occasionally, you need help. Sometimes, you have to deal with a large vendor’s myriad-level-deep-voice-mail-to-nowhere. Sometimes, your request is routed “off-shore.” Sometimes, you’re relegated to a web-based process, be it a chat or an email exchange. Quite often, you’re left on your own to google your way out of a deep hole.

When I began my quest with Apple’s Developer Support Group, I wasn’t optimistic. Mine wasn’t a technical issue, it was an account governance issue. I can’t share the details (try to hide that smile), but I want to share six things that AppleCare did well. So well that I would recommend that any organization, technical or otherwise, steal these ideas. Seriously, steal them! This is one case where you want to be like Apple.

Survey Pg. 3
I liked that they asked this question. I think the questions they ask speak to a commitment to service.

1) Four simple options – There was no guesswork involved in the simple voice mail prescreening message. Choices 1-3 were binary. They wanted to know if I was involved with three very specific things. I wasn’t, so I pressed 4 as instructed.

2) Hold Music Options – This is one thing that could make all tech-support / customer service so much better. I had the option to: hold with pop/rock, hold with classical music, hold with jazz or hold in silence. Please, steal this idea, even if you only add “hold in silence” as an option.

3) Fast & Accurate – I was expecting my ‘4 – other’ key press to lead me to a long wait. Instead, in under 3 minutes, a cheerful human being picked-up. Matt asked me several questions. He repeated back the important information, use phonetic “N as in Nancy” spelling to verify details like my email address, and he summarized my problem and stated his understanding of my objective. Oh my word, this guy actually wanted to make sure that he knew what I wanted as an outcome!

Unfortunately, after all the gathering, spell-checking and objective understanding, Matt couldn’t actually help me. But, he said that he knew the group who should be able to help me. Now you know as well as I do, that this is where customer service sinks into a frustrating, seemingly endless, often circular journey of despair. My experience was different:

4) Information gathered and provided – Matt asked for a callback number, in case his attempts to transfer me failed. He also gave me the direct number of the group that he was transferring me to. He put me on hold (previous options, still in effect) for what initially seemed like a long time. Then Matt came back on the line and introduced me to Ashley.

5) Amazing – Number five is now known as “The Amazing Number 5!” I’m talking five golden rings amazing. When Ashley picked up she said: “Matt briefed me on your issue.” What? What tech support school did you guys go to? I was expecting Ashley to start at the beginning, run me through all the questions and then punt me to some no-nothing-schlep who would repeat the process. I didn’t have to repeat anything. She began with a summary of my problem and my expectations, as she understood them. She was correct.

Ashley couldn’t help me achieve the objective I wanted, because Apple doesn’t permit the type of account management I wanted to establish. She did, however, offer an acceptable alternative. She carefully explained the alternative and I agreed that, while different than what I had hoped for, it would work just as well.

6) Insure success – Before hanging up, she asked me if I knew all the steps I had to complete and if I knew how to complete them. She listened while I explained my next steps, she confirmed that my understanding was correct, and she offered to stay on the line while I completed those tasks.

Except for maybe giving Ashley a sweet southern accent, I can’t imagine anything that could have improved my experience. Again, I’m not shilling for Apple, but I do think there are some lessons to be learned from this experience.

51 thoughts on “A Few Minutes with AppleCare

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  1. It is interesting how when we encounter old fashioned customer service, we are appreciative. I went to a local computer repair store last week and my problem was corrected for 15 minutes of service/$15. I was so impressed I’m off this morning to take them another problem for a solution :-)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good luck with problem #2 Judy. I rarely get to the end of a customer service encounter feeling good about the experience. It’s amazing how big a difference some common courtesy can make. Thanks!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I always wanted to convert to Apple products, except the cost always holds me back. I have to stick with Windows for the moment. But good for Apple that they have the customer service part down pat. That is huge.

    Our tech support at the office is a call to “The Help Desk.” Depending on who I reach, I may get help and I may not. Some of the IT guys are terrific, some take far longer than they should to resolve a problem. There is no music on hold, only an on-again, off-again repetitive message to keep holding in the que lest we lose our place. I will have to make a suggestion about hold music options next time I need help.

    At home, when there is a problem I cannot fix, I call a local IT guy, Jason, who isn’t cheap, but fixes most issues in an hour or less. He’s super smart, patient, always friendly, and talks to me in language I can understand.. I will never go back to the Geek Squad (the Un-Help Desk) or anyone else for that matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you have a good tech-support option, you are lucky. So many of the choice that are out there are scary. Apple products are expensive, but there are a few benefits. My at-work option right now is a Microsoft Surface, and I am not all that happy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m still getting used to Windows 10 on my laptop. Trying to save and edit photographs is totally different and I am probably not using the apps to the best of my ability. Then again, I use a computer at home for specific reasons and tend not to delve into all of the technological abilities. If I can throw out a post on WordPress, answer an email and make silly comments on Facebook, I’m pretty happy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I just wish Windows 10 hadn’t removed the Recent Documents thing on the Start Menu. I practically live(d) out of that in Windows 7. I keep trying to add that option to Windows Explorer, but it keeps disappearing.


  3. It’s good to know that there can still be exceptions to the call-center-hell conundrum. Most times I just YouTube it first and use calling the company as a last resort, but that was probably not an option in this case.
    I think it shows wisdom and insight on the part of management to make sure the employee is empowered enough to see the problem through to resolution rather than to just shunt you off to someone else, as is usually the case, because they all have call quotas to meet.
    The worst thing a manager can do to a customer service employee is tell them to hurry it up and move along because they’re spending too much time with a customer – biggest demotivator ever.
    This is a pleasant change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Norm. It is the exception, and it shouldn’t be. How much reputational damage are you willing to accept in exchange for the few cents you save by rushing someone off the call, especially if they have to call back and start over.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess Apple likes to have things the “Apple way” but it works for me, and it’s not an inconvenient solution. I think the fact that they were so helpful helped me see that I wasn’t compromising anything by doing it their preferred way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had similar pleasant experiences with other companies, but as we all know – it’s rare. This post changes my perception of Apple a bit, but I will still refrain from dialing any support number unless I have at least an hour to spare.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s so nice :)
    Hold in silence would be splendid. Everywhere should offer that. Omaword.
    I love all my iThings, I really do. I know some people hate them, but some people also hate puppies, ice cream, and the smell of gasoline, so who knows what else is wrong with them!
    My bank is like that. My bank is seriously the nicest, most helpful business I’ve ever called. It’s as though they’re waiting for me, hoping I call for help.
    I’m glad you had such a good experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – good customer service from a bank! That’s unusual. I know some people are anti-Apple and anti-iThings, but a good experience is a good experience, even if yo don’t like the company. If I ever have a good experience at Motor Vehicles, I’d write about that too. Who doesn’t like puppies?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, this is certainly not the norm, Dan, though it really SHOULD be. Stories like this make me feel a little bit better about life. It’s nice to see a positive outcome for a change in the seemingly never-ending cycle of negativity that we live in. Good job, Apple!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My biggest issue when calling someplace is not being able to understand the rep. This has NOTHING to do with racism, at ALL, but it can be very disheartening when you’re talking to someone in India (or up here, even a strong Quebec accent can be nearly impossible to understand over the phone!) and you have to ask them to keep repeating what they just said. As a Canadian, I’m already used to the phrase “I’m sorry” being present in practically any and every conversation I have, but it’s even worse when you feel bad that you can’t understand the other person. The only thing those calls ever seem to establish is that I’m sorry for something, the actual reason that I called be damned! :-/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. IT is frustrating when you can’t understand or can’t hear someone. Sometimes, the persons voice is so soft, or perhaps they are on a bad speakerphone, that I have to keep asking them to repeat themselves. It’s especially annoying when they are giving instructions.


  7. Matt briefed her on your issue?! What a concept! What really ticks me off is when I call (insert company name here) and receive their automated voice which tells me to speak or punch in my phone number/account number/ SS# and am then transferred to an actual person who asks for this information all over again. Many times I have said, “I just gave that info. Don’t you have it?” That is always met with silence. Very surprised, but pleased, that you had such good phone service, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan, I was relieved to read a positive post on what I thought would be a definitely NOT positive experience. We have iPhones, which I love (except when trying to do some things or read on such a small screen), but I have a PC for everything else. We have an Apple store very near, so the few times I’ve needed help, I’ve gone there. (But make an appointment!) The Apple arrogance is what has always put me off and the prices.

    We’ve had great customer service from both Discover and Chase (we have the Sapphire Preferred card for the latter.) You can always talk to a person right away. My husband has had good experiences with WOW, our cable provider and MDU (Montana Dakota Utilities), the electricity company for the cabin in Wyoming, is stellar as well. (Not that you can switch to their services if you don’t live in the area.) :-) Isn’t is a shame when we have to tout the good service because it’s so often bad?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Janet. It is a shame that good experience is something worth writing about, but maybe the message will spread. I am loyal to brands that treat me well. I don’t know if that means anything but…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Good post. I have worked in a number of support centers and I understand what customers have to go through. However, we used to do the Amazing 5 before we transfer at Microsoft Tech Chat support. Later, when I became the team head at another company, I introduced the same system and made sure no customer has to repeat or wait. I had a personally handpicked team of just out of college youngsters with no experience, but I picked them because they had the passion to serve. It worked and I’m glad today all those people are at better positions serving people in their own capacity.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Personally, I don’t think it’s about my being good. Even if I am bad, I would always want people to get what they pay for. In India, this concept is hard to inculcate because over here companies don’t really care about the customers because it’s a billion people country, if you won’t buy someone else will. I have a different set of morals and values which is why I don’t fit in and keep changing jobs.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. There’s a shopping chain specializing in kitchenware in the UK that not only cares about its customers but cares about its employees and while their products can veer toward the too-expensive and sometimes the overly-gimmicky, it’s their attitude that makes me buy things from them. I started buying from them in the 1970s so that should show you how good they are!
    And oh boy, do I know about the dreaded phone loop of being handed from one person or one phone-number-button and option to another. Grrrr… The worst for that is (or used to be) our biggest phone provider… dreadful, dreadful service that makes one want to jump off a tall building!

    I’ve never used a ‘Mac. They are far too expensive here in the UK and I’d be afraid to get something that expensive that I might not get on with. So I’m stuck for now with Windows which I mostly hate. (An elderly xp on a pc that’s not connected to the ‘net; a Windows 7 that is no great shakes but at least it works; and I’ve a Linx 10″ tablet running Windows 10 which is mostly a nightmare!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish this kind of story wasn’t so rare, Val. Maybe someday we’ll return to a marketplace where people matter as a rule. I have a company provided Mac, for the stuff I have to do on a Mac. Since most of what I do is associated with Windows, that’s where I spend most of my time.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. As much as I endeavour to live in an i-free zone (the Youngest Son broke through a couple of years ago with the purchase of an iPod but has since converted to his Android phone), I begrudgingly bestow kudos on Apple for such a good customer service experience.

    By the way, during a help call to the local Telco about our wifi, he used phonetic spelling to give me the password but he sounded like he was saying “T for kilo”. It took me going “What?” a couple of times for us to work out he was pronouncing K as ‘key’. Still makes me giggle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the term “i-free zone”. I don’t know what I would do if I had young children today. i-stuff can be expensive, My daughter picks on me because I have a Mac but I choose to continue working on a Windows laptop. It’s what you’re used to. The phonetic spelling thing is pretty funny,

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m a big fan of Apple, and your experience (and those of 1000’s of others including myself) is why I continue to buy their products. If the Customer Service is poor then why continue to buy the products? Even in the Apple Stores, staff can’t seem to do enough to help you. The only downside I had with Apple was when I wanted to recycle my old iMAC. Their online service for that was pretty poor and I ended up going to another company who purchased my older iMac from me and gave me a very good price for it. I had the money in my account within days of them collecting it from me.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Apple has always been great at tech support, and that’s why I use their products. Your post made me smile in recognition: it echoes my experiences with them. Not that I’ve needed much tech support with their products. They charge good money, but they also deliver. At least, that has been my experience so far.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. What a heartening story! Practically restores one’s faith in mankind to hear about experiences like this. It makes all the difference in the world to be treated like a human being to be helped, not a problem to be disposed of. I truly despise the modern trend toward making it all but impossible for customers to get through to an actual person, let alone one who isn’t clueless or rude. (Of course, it’s a two-way street — I HATE it when people abuse a phone-answerer right off the bat because they’re upset about some issue.)

    Apple really went above and beyond the call here. I mean, pick your own style of hold music? I’ve had some good experiences, but that’s a new one to me!

    Just think about what a difference this can make. We talk about “pay it forward” in a positive sense, but it also works in a negative one. A bad experience can make us more surly toward others, while one like this can make it more likely that you, in turn, will be a bit nicer and more patience with others.

    And as the saying goes, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind. Thanks for sharing this, Dan.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you liked it Paul. I was pretty quick to write about the bad experience I had with my car dealer (which unfortunately, got even worse) so I figured I should share a good experience too. The best part of this for Apple, is how quickly they “got rid of me”. I mean, if they did all the things most crummy places do, I would have been on the phone / in the system, a lot longer. This really works for everyone.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I feel very guilty but am not sure I am good with reading technical posts unless they have your usual articulate and accurate diagrams, Dan. Using steps, numbers or A-B-C connect the dots may help my feeble mind. . . :) Pleas forgive my lack of real commenting on this one! :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s funny, Robin. I actually thought about drawing a diagram, but since I couldn’t share the underlying details, I didn’t think it would work well. I always appreciate your dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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