The Apple customer support machine

I just experienced a product from Apple that’s incredibly well-designed. Everything worked perfectly with all of the elements meshing together flawlessly. But it was not a physical product that Apple sells; it’s their customer service support machine that’s a combination of many elements. Let me explain.

Element 1: Website help

I discovered late last week that the battery in my four year old Apple Watch 5 was unable to hold a charge through the day. I googled “Apple watch battery” and up came a link to an Apple help page where it led me through the steps to check if my watch’s battery needed replacing: “Go to settings/battery/battery health on the watch;” where I saw a message telling me that my watch needed service and asked if I wanted to do a chat or a phone call with Apple’s customer support. I optioned for the call, provided a phone number, and got a call back in less than 60 seconds. There was also an option to schedule the call for a later time.

Element 2: Phone support

An agent called me to ask about my issue. She took the serial number, verified it was not under warrantee and explained that a replacement battery, if needed, would cost $79. The watch could be sent in with packaging Apple would send me or I could drop off the watch at an Apple store. I chose the latter and she made an appointment at the store of my choice for three hours later.

Element 3: Software tools

With permission, she connected to my phone to do a full diagnostic check of my watch using remote software. She verified the battery was at 79%. (Anything below 80% is elidgible for the battery repair.)

Element 4: Store support

I brought the watch to the Apple store, where I checked in and met an employee that ran some more tests and unpaired the watch from my phone. She took the $79 payment, but said I would not be charged until the issue was resolved. She explained that the batteries are not designed to be replaced and, instead, Apple would mail out a replacement watch without waiting for my watch to be received, and for me to expect it in 3-5 days.

Element 5: Communications

As I left the store I received a text message with a link to use to keep apprised of the progress of the watch’s replacement.

Within a few minutes of thinking I had a problem, it was confirmed that I did, and I was assured that it could be quickly fixed and knew what to do. There was never an attempt to upsell me to a new model or sell me an extended warranty. Apple was there to help me. At each interaction I was assured that their goal was to take care of this with minimal inconvenience.

On Wednesday a new replacement watch arrived by Fedex, three business days after the process began.

As I look back, every element worked perfectly. It could have failed anywhere along the line, but it didn’t. The website, phone agent, software systems, store, and warehouse all worked together to provide a seamless experience. And, I could understand them all!

So many times we encounter issues with products and services that have no easy way of getting resolved without needing to spend hours on a phone, or being shuffled from one department to another. That is, if we can even reach a live person. Many of us know how difficult it is to find a customer service number because it’s purposely buried on their website, assuming it’s even there. And Apple is there to help you, even after the warranty expires.

Cynics might say that Apple’s products are more expensive and we are paying for this conveneience. I’m happy to do so because when I purchase a product, I expect it to work, and, if it fails, expect to get it fixed without any hassle. This is a major reason why Apple has such a high level of customer loyalty and why their customers keep returning. It’s not so much how you’re treated before the sale, but how you’re treated after that counts.

by Phil Baker