ACG Research

ACG Research
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Apple Turned a Loyalist into a Critic in One Transaction

Apple’s current disinterest in customer service, once a hallmark of differentiation, has propelled the company from being outstanding to just ordinary.

I did not realize that I would have a personal experience with how far and quickly Apple has fallen. I am on my second battery with my four-year old MacBook Pro; the new battery is a little under two-years old. Two months ago, it started saying “service battery.” The message said it was not urgent but should be looked into soon. I checked it today and it was under 70% percent of design capacity after 282 cycles. Online, Apple issues guidelines that its batteries should have 80 percent life after 300 cycles ( Several people had written that they got some help from the Genius Bar. Silly me, I figured customer service was important to the company, and it would give me the benefit of the doubt and replace it or at least give me some break. After all, I was quite pleased with my other Genius Bar appointments.

At the store, the tech told me my battery was “consumed” and that it was not covered by warranty because it was over a year old. I mentioned the standard was 80 percent after 300 cycles. The tech searched their support site and found nothing so I asked for the manager. Instead of the legendary service I was expecting, he lectured me in a condescending and combative tone. I was miffed and disappointed and left with a bad taste in my mouth (it was worse than dealing with the cable company).

The point: Apple has changed fundamentally. The old culture of obsessing about innovative products and customer service seem to be a distant memory. Instead, customers are now a transaction, and the profit on each transaction is more important than long-term loyalty.

I wonder how much it would have cost Apple to replace my battery or give me something toward the unused portion (like tire companies do), maybe $20? Now, I am no longer a loyalist. I will need to replace two MacBook Pros in the near future, and if you had told me two days ago I would be considering something other than another Mac I would have looked at you as if you were crazy. I like the iPad, but I will definitely look at other devices when I need to upgrade; I’ll do the same with my iPhone. As for the AppleTV I had my eye on, forget about it. I will probably buy a Roku or Boxee. I calculate the failure to give me that $20 has put thousands of dollars of sure business in jeopardy.

I have been reticent to criticize Tim Cook just because he is not Steve Jobs. Now, I feel he deserves a big dollop of criticism. Although I do not expect him to be Steve Jobs, I do expect him to be great in some other way. Besides the major missteps on his watch, he has allowed the company to delegate delighting customers to secondary priority. This was a key area that always differentiated Apple from everyone else. Now it is just an ordinary company. It has good products and O.K. service, but it does not stand out from the crowd anymore. 

For more about Apple, click Peaking Companies: Apple Has Ripened.

David Dines

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