It’s 11 a.m. and time for your coffee break. Leave the office and stroll the 14 steps to the café next door. Your iPhone vibrates and asks if you’d like the usual double-wet cappuccino. Of course you do, so you tap Yes. Within a minute your name is called and you have your caffeine-rich libation in hand. Again, no cash or credit card necessary because your iPhone automatically picked up the tab.
I just got off the phone with Casey, a customer support representative with Apple. He was extremely helpful and has taken at least some of the bad taste out of my mouth regarding the customer support side of Apple. The frustrating thing is that it is impossible to find a simple email to send a customer support question to. That’s all I need. I understand you are a large company that would get flooded with email. But that doesn’t change the fact that you are have customers who get really ticked when the support pages on your website all link back to the page you were just on, and claim that you can “Contact us.”
But Casey did go above and beyond, and walked me through fixing the problem, or at least diagnosing it, even though he is not technically a MobileMe support representative. According to him, they are under a pile of complaints, and are so slammed they can’t even get traction.
Again, I understand you have a lot of stuff going down over in Cupertino. But just say that out loud. Say something on the support website like “Here are the problems we are aware of, and here’s how long it will actually take you to talk about this with a customer support specialist…” Or say “Live chat at this point actually isn’t live, and that’s because we screwed this product launch up so bad it makes Vista look bug-free, we will contact you as soon as we can to let you know when all services are running as expected and advertised”
Take a page out of Twitter’s playbook. When it hit the fan over at Twitter, they said “Oh crap, it just hit the fan… we’ll fix it when we can, and we are working tirelessly,” and then updated folks on a very regular basis. Apple puts out a blog “every other day” (which translated means we are gong to say something on the 25th, 27th, and 29th of July, and then not update it ever again.) to keep people updated, but they could do so much more. We all know that you’ve got us right where you want us, and that we can’t leave for a better option, because there isn’t one… but that doesn’t change the fact that when customers pay you money (especially annual money), you should both bend over backward AND let people know that you are bending over backwards.
Welcome to web 2.0, where every Joe with a browser can get online and update by the minute how things are going. Hire someone with the full-time job of blogging about how things are going. Get a twitter account and tell us how things are going, what you are currently working to fix, and how long you estimate it will take. Then the public will cut you some slack. Stop acting like a giant corporation who has lost it’s soul. Being tight-lipped about how things are going was cool in 1998. It’s smug and irritating ten years later.
And while you are at it, give Casey a raise. He went the extra mile, offering support advice for a product he wasn’t actually trained to offer it for.