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The ugly side of Apple’s ‘great’ customer service

The ugly side of Apple’s ‘great’ customer service post image

Apple’s vaunted customer service took a nasty knock this week when sales staff unwittingly alienated and offended a new customer.

‘T’ went to the Apple Store to buy an iPad for her mum. All her friends (including me) had raved about the iPad, talking up the whole Apple experience, including its renowned customer service. Buying an iPad seemed an easy decision to make for ‘T’.

But things didn’t really work out as expected.

  1. Entering the Store ‘T’ felt she was walking into an unknown country. It didn’t feel ‘right’, somehow. Many people — who  might be customers — seemed to be working away industriously on assorted Apple products.
  2. The Store wasn’t layed out as a tradition retail outlet; ‘T’ could see no identifiable till or purchase point. The experience was disorienting.
  3. Although there was an  overwheleming number of Apple assistants, ‘T’ couldn’t get a straight answer to her questions.

Afer explaining what she wanted — an iPad plus an email address for her elderly mum — the exchange went something like this:

Q: “Do you have an appointment at the Genius Bar?”

A: “What’s a Genius Bar?”

At which point the assistant started texting on his iPhone. ‘T’ was baffled and a bit offended. She didn’t expect a sales professional to be texting his mates while serving a customer. Then the assistant started speaking gobble-de-gook into a wrist microphone.

‘T’ told me, “Everything seems slightly off-kilter or skewed. Nothing is quite how you expect it to be. It’s like your drink has been spiked.”

She felt second-class because she wasn’t initiated into The Apple Way.

There was a happy ending to this story, and, of course, throughout the Apple staffer was probably trying to communicate with colleagues and book ‘T’ in with the experts who could get her set up. But it makes you realise how powerful brands can make you feel like an outsider if you are not yet initiated into their brand identity.

This post was written on a MacBook Pro.

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