A User’s Experience: Apple Customer Service

I recently wanted to get my ageing iPhone 6 battery replaced. It had become excessively worn, would no longer last through the day on a charge, and – perhaps my imagination but probably not, given the well-publicised criticism Apple recently received in this respect – the phone felt a lot slower than it used to. In response to all the negative publicity, Apple were offering replacement batteries for just £25 instead of the usual £75.

As it turns out, you can’t just walk into your local Apple Store and get it done there and then. You need to book an appointment, so that they can make sure ‘your’ battery is in stock.

No problem, I thought – there’ll no doubt be a booking form on the web site.


Instead I was directed to use online chat. I have no idea whether I was talking to a bot or a human – hard to tell, especially as human contact-centre agents these days appear to be wedded to their scripts, with very little leeway to use their initiative. The whole thing took 20 very tedious minutes, with the outcome being that I’d receive an email when my battery was in stock. Whereas the same could have been achieved in seconds, a minute tops perhaps, via a web form – enter my phone serial number, select my store, done. Not the best start.

A couple of weeks later, I received the promised email. My battery had arrived and would be held for seven days. So get to the store. Except I couldn’t – I was overseas and wouldn’t be back in time.

No problem, I thought – I’ll email the store and ask them to hold it for a bit longer. There must be a contact form or email address somewhere.


So another online chat experience. This time the outcome was “we need to have someone call you”. So arrangements were made, and several minutes after the agreed time, the call came in.

“Thank you for calling Apple. Calls are answered in the order they are received. Please wait for an agent.” Followed by five minutes of hold musak before I hung up in frustration.

Honestly, Apple, if you’re going to arrange a time for YOU to call ME, make sure you have an agent ready. Don’t expect me to wait on hold. Don’t waste my time. Message me if you need to delay or reschedule.

Five minutes later, I was called again. And exactly the same thing happened, again. I gave up.

A few days later, as I was in Hong Kong at that point, I went to one of the little repair stalls in an electronics mall in Causeway Bay – ten minutes and £20 later, the battery was replaced and all was well. Stark contrast to Apple’s customer service.

Thing is, Apple, I get that it’s not really in your interests to make it easy for people to replace their phone batteries – better (for you) that they instead buy a new phone. And yes, you still have (for now) the best products – not withstanding the increasing number of silly design mistakes you’re making, which may soon see that change. So maybe you can afford a certain amount of hubris.

But that’s short-sighted and will eventually backfire. Your products don’t stand alone – they are part of a bigger ecosystem, and customer service is a key part of the user experience. It’s when things go awry that the quality of a company really shows through – just ask any frequent flyer. On that measure, if my experience is typical, you’re doing terribly.

You may be at the top now, but there’s really only one way you can go from there. All empires eventually fall. Fix your customer service or you may find that long slippery slope becomes a lot shorter, steeper, and faster to fall down.

About Jonathan Hirsch

I've been working in the interactive media industry since 1995. I'm a problem-solver with a multi-disciplinary skill set. I work on a freelance / contract basis. I help clients create great digital products.

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