Apple’s unique take on tech support

Tech support has been the bane of many companies. Watching their costs skyrocket, many began charging for tech support beyond a limited time frame. Many (most?) tried outsourcing to India and the Philippines, but some have pulled back to US-based support after their customers screamed about unintelligible “help.”

imagesMy experience with Apple’s tech support was no different — until recently. As a Mac user since 1989, I even formed a MacUsers group to help sort out Mac issues, which then morphed into an listserve. Luckily, Macs don’t need a lot of tech support, or at least my needs were pretty minimal.

Last week I bought an iPhone. Having difficulty with a few gnarly issues, I went to their online support site to search the knowledgebase. Unable to find the solution, I clicked on the “Online Support” link., then “Speak to an Apple Expert.” There, one enters their product serial number, describes the issue and — get this — choose a convenient time for an Apple Expert to call you! I choose “now” and within seconds my phone rang. The very helpful (US-based) tech helped me sort out my issues for 20 minutes.


Later on, I had issues understanding how to do what I used to do with my old PDA, so I signed up for an iPhone class at a nearby Apple store. Since I also had some complicated issues with my laptop, I scheduled a “Genius” appointment for right after the class. The Genius Bar is where you get live help on the Apple equipment you bring in, generally at no charge. There is a charge if they can’t fix your issue and have to send it out, but I’ve only rarely been charged, and have been informed of the charge in advance of their proceeding.

The iPhone class as well worth my hour, even though I’d figured out many of the basics on my own. Kent, the Apple sales representative guided the 10 of us in attendance. He had an amazing amount of patience with the broad spectrum of attendees’ experience. Some people were at the “how do I turn it on?” phase, and others of us had figured out all but the nuances.

After class, I took my list of issues to my Genius appointment. I luckily got Caley, a very experienced, patient and thorough tech who figured out all of my troubles. Some required reinstalling software, which he did graciously, and while files were loading he answered my questions, even recommending third-party solutions and finding them on the Web so I got the right product number. One fix helped me save $160 in buying new software.

Since my issues were complicated, it took four hours to get it all straightened out. He politely asked if I minded if he helped others while my computer was installing software. Of course, I said yes.

I noticed employees wore three different colored Apple t-shirts. I asked one wearing orange what the T-shirts signified. “The orange t-shirted people are the bosses. We help customers quickly get the right help. The light-blue folks are the sales people. They help people buy the right product for their needs. And the dark-blue wearing ones are the Geniuses. They repair relationships.”

Read that again: “They repair relationships.” Not “They repair your equipment.” Apple understands that if there’s something wrong with your computer, iPod or iPhone, there’s a problem with their relationship with you. So a Genius’s job is to make sure that the problem is fixed. Thus making people happy with their Apple product. This of course, creates absolutely loyal fans. Apple is famous for having the highest loyalty percentage in the computer business, with customers, like me, never even considering buying any other brand.

What is your organization’s take on customer support? Do you make it easy — really easy — for customers to get their problems resolved? Are you calling them to resolve their issue once a problem has been communicated? Are you focused on repairing relationships?


Download your copy of Rebecca’s two newest books, Remarkable Customer Service…And Disservice and Grow Your Key Talent. Order info in the left-hand column.

Download your copy of Rebecca’s two newest books, Remarkable Customer Service…And Disservice and Grow Your Key Talent. Order info in the left-hand column.

1 thought on “Apple’s unique take on tech support”

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    Having lost a hard drive for the first time ever, I was just as impressed with the folks at the Genius bar who helped me sort things out, get everything I thought I had lost reinstalled, and even installed a piece of Adobe software I needed for another program. They were super, and very patient with all my questions.

    When I commented to the new store manager, she was delighted I was so pleased. As we talked, I discovered she was a fairly new hire. Her previous job had been at Starbucks. “A perfect fit,” was my response. My friend only asked how she could manage a computer store when she didn’t have a technical background.

    “It’s the same customer service model!” was my reply.

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