I love my iPhone. I've never managed to make the iPad more than an expensive toy, but I still enjoy it. But every time I contemplate switching to a Mac computer, something happens to keep me in the Windows fold.
I have friends who swear by Macs. Those same friends seem to spend a lot of time swearing at them. I have one friend who has never managed to get his email working on his iPhone. Multiple sessions on the phone or at the Genius Bar. They can't get it working either. They say it's something weird about his web host. Pretty sure it's not, because we have the same email host. I had no problem getting email to work on my iPhone. “When in doubt, blame someone else” is not a good maxim for tech support.
And then there was my friend Suzanne's recent experience. She's very involved in her church, and is one of the stalwart volunteers who does the Powerpoint presentations for their services. She's a longtime Mac user, but recently supplemented her computer collection with a Windows box, because the computer the church uses to show the slides runs Windows and she needs to make sure nothing gets lost in the translation. Still, she likes the Mac platform. She recently decided she needed to replace her aging Mac, and bought an expensive high-end system.
She's been having trouble making it work. Hasn't been online that much because the last few days have been pretty much dedicated to trying to get the new Mac up and running with all the software and settings she had for the old.
She finally grew so frustrated that she made an appointment with the Genius Bar in the nearest Apple Store—which is a solid hour's drive away. And she drove there in a snowstorm—which isn't that unusual in upstate New York, even in April, but still. She went to considerable trouble to get there.
Her horrible customer experience began when she sat down with Prince, the techician assigned to her. Yes, that seems to have been his name, and also his attitude. They got off to a bad start when she began listing the things she wanted him to fix and for some reason he resented her tone and erupted at her, telling her that she couldn't treat him that way.
Um . . . did no one warn the Prince of Macs when he condescended to take a job in an Apple Store that very few of the customers he'd be dealing with would be interested in sitting adoringly at his feet and absorbing tidbits of enlightenment from him? That some of them might be people who have already spent a great deal of their time on a piece of hardware that isn't living up to the old Apple slogan of “It just works”? That sometimes they might display just a little bit of impatience to start the process of solving their problems? And that courtesy, consideration, and at least lip-service to “the customer is always right” are the foundations of customer service?
Evidently not. He proceeded to treat her, throughout their interaction, with rudeness, condescension, and disrespect. Since he was a twenty-something man who clearly considered himself very hip, she felt that she was being disrespected, both as an older customer and as a woman.
For example, when she complained about the fact that her new Mac has no standard USB ports, he told her, with withering scorn, that USB ports were old technology. USB-C is the new thing! Maybe so, but there are several millions of USB ports out there, along with several millions of cables and flash drives designed to connect to them. Let's not get into an argument over whether eliminating the USB port is a bold, prescient move on Apple's part or another example of their notorious “That's the way we're doing it, and if you don't like it, too bad” attitude. The point is, dude, your employer did away with something a lot of its customers rely on. Learn to sell it in a positive manner, or at least to ease your customer's anxieties by pointing out the ready availability of USB to USB-C cords.
Suzanne had five things she wanted fixed, and the Prince of Rude only solved one of them—and that was the easy one of exchanging a useless cable she'd bought with the computer for the right cable. Since the wrong cable was what the Apple salesperson had told her to get, she thought the vitriol heaped on her for having bought the wrong cable was misplaced.
And she took home a Mac that still doesn't work properly. Me, I'd be making plans to return the thing. She's taking my suggestion that she look closer to home for a Mac tech who's more customer friendly.
And the whole thing reminded me of my first experience with the Apple Store. This would have been in late 2001 or early 2002, shortly after the iPod was introduced. I'd seen the ads, and was seized with an attack of cybergreed. I wanted an iPod, even though I'd never seen one in person. So I went down to the nearest Apple Store.
Even back then, I had at least ten years on the oldest of the skinny, black-clad staffers who posed gracefully while talking to each other in the showroom. They pointed me to where a couple of iPods were tethered and encouraged me—I almost said graciously granted me permission--to check one out.
This was one of the early iPods with the “wheel-based user interface.” But I didn't know you were supposed to rotate the wheel. The wheel vaguely resembled some other piece of tech that was designed to let you click up, down, left or right, so I tried to use it that way, with little success. The commercials I'd seen only showed people in silhouette, dancing around with iPods in their hands—they gave no clue how you manipulated the thing, and there were no instructions posted near the iPods on display.
So I appealed to the staff, who were clustered on the other side of the store, preening decoratively like a bevy of black swans.
“Oh, don't worry,” one of them said. The oldest, who was probably starting to worry about the dreaded 30th birthday he'd be facing in a year or two. “Even my three-year-old daughter can use one.”
This is not a statement calculated to charm the customer. I suspect he realized that from the expression that crossed my face when he said it. He showed me how to use the wheel in about two seconds, and that was about all he was good for. The fact that he—and everyone else in the store—completely disavowed responsibility for any questions or problems I might have if I tried to use one of their precious iPods with –gasp!--a PC!--that didn't charm me either.
I can't remember if I bought an iPod from them or not. I rather think not. I think I went someplace else—although I suspect the only other place back then would have been another Apple Store. At least it wasn't the store that had pissed me off. I'm not sure I've ever gone back to that particular Apple Store.
“There's a reason why I have a PC instead of a Mac,” I recall muttering on my way out. “And you people are a big part of that reason.”
Full disclosure: the Apple Store I go to now--the Fair Oaks, Virginia store--is very nice. Helpful, non-condescending staff. So I'd almost forgotten how bad some tech venues can be, when you're not young, not male, and therefore by definition not hip.
Just a thought—maybe the problem starts with the name: The Genius Bar. Sounds impressive, as if Apple has collected a herd of deep-thinking tech giants who, when the mood strikes, will dispense pearls of their wisdom to those fortunate enough to have an appointment at the right time.
I wonder what would happen if they renamed it the People Cheerfully Helping Other People with their Tech Problems Bar?