Apple Store Genius Bar Trip Highlights Challenges With Tech Support
Leave it to me to find a way to turn a recent Apple tech support trip into a work thing, but here we go. Let me start, though, by saying that I know Apple’s Genius Bar gets a bad rep. So, this isn’t going to be a straight dig at Apple and their in-store customer support service. Rather, the situation we’re about to dive into should serve as a reminder to the wider consumer electronics retail community that every interaction matters. Additionally, in a roundabout sort of follow up to Target’s issues from earlier this month, it’s a gentle reminder that retailers need to ensure their systems are adequately maintained and up-to-date.
Now, diving into my situation.
I’m the relatively proud owner of an iPhone X—the first iPhone to feature FaceID and the no-home button layout. It’s a phone I’ve had since its launch back in November 2017, and it’s one that I’d preferably like to hold onto until Apple adds 5G to their flagship phones in Fall 2020. But, after this weekend, I discovered I may be upgrading sooner than anticipated.
All of a sudden, and after no particular notable event that would have caused a malfunction, the phone started acting nuts. The screen was responding to swipes and touches that weren’t being executed by me. My iPhone X all of a sudden had a mind of its own. The volume and power buttons were still in working order, so I was able to turn the screen off and then perform a hard reset of the device. When it booted back up, though, I wasn’t able to swipe up to unlock the device. I tried several more hard resets, hoping haplessly that something would change, but each reset left me in the same position, unable to unlock the phone.
After some scouring of Apple’s support forum, I did find that I was experiencing a known issue with the iPhone X, something that Apple was offering screen replacements for—hence my setting up an appointment with the closest Apple Retail Store for the next afternoon.
Everything from the time I walked in the door right up until I was asked to take a seat for the start of the appointment was perfectly fine and dandy. I showed up a few minutes early, checked in, looked at some product while I waited, and then finally heard my name called maybe three minutes after my scheduled appointment time. Of course, by this time, my phone was back to somewhat normal working condition. The touch inputs worked as they were supposed to, so I was left having to explain myself to the Genius Bar representative. Luckily for me, during a brief diagnostics test the screen did lock up on him, so we were able to determine that there was in fact an issue.
He offered two options: Plan A was to see if it was a software issue, which a hard reset of the device presumably should have fixed. Nevertheless, we went through a full OS re-install, which should have cleaned any software issues up. Everything seemed to be in working order, as it was when I walked into the store, but I still wanted to be sure we exhausted all options here to prevent this from happening again. His suggestion was to move to Plan B, which was to do a full screen replacement. Well, according to the iPad he was carrying around, which had my information pulled up—including the fact that he was inspecting an iPhone X with an unresponsive screen—this would run me $270-something because my device was out of warranty.
Cue the scratchy record coming to a halt.
To this point in our discussions, I hadn’t mentioned the fact that I had been on the Apple website and discovered this was a known issue that Apple had identified and was offering complimentary fixes for. But it was time to pull that card out. And once I did, and after a few taps on the iPad, Mr. Genius Bar representative all of a sudden informed me that, oh right, the service would be free of charge—which I happily accepted. So, I signed the proper digital forms, handed my phone over, and one hour later received my iPhone X back with a fresh screen and a $0 bill.
Now, I’m sure it’s of no serious fault of the Apple Genius Bar guy, but if I were just some unassuming customer who didn’t know better what I was dealing with here, I probably would’ve begrudgingly forked over the $270 and gotten my phone fixed, no questions asked. And there’s no doubt in my mind that that’s happened to countless customers who’ve experienced similar issues with their iPhone X’s even within the past few months. I mean, I literally sat across from a guy during this appointment who thought he had cracked his iPad Pro screen and was ready to pay to get it fixed, only to watch the Apple rep peel the glass screen protector off and magically reveal a screen in pristine condition underneath. Customers seeking tech support either truly don’t understand what’s going on with their device(s), or they don’t have the time or patience to figure things out on their own. In either instance, they’re placing a great deal of trust and power in the hands of the customer service representative. So it really behooves the retailer—whether that’s Apple, or a local mom and pop shop—to provide proper care that doesn’t place revenue above the customer.
Again, this isn’t to say Apple was trying to squeeze me out of $270. But the blame for an oversight of that magnitude has to fall somewhere, right? Apple likely shared messaging around this issue with their retail stores, which would’ve then been communicated to employees within the store by the managers. So, perhaps there was a miscommunication or sloppiness on the part of the service rep? But even so, wouldn’t it have made sense for their service system to pick up on the fact that I was experiencing an identified issue on a product that they were offering free fixes for?
Apple, on the specific page for this issue, does offer consumers a way to get refunds for customers who paid for a screen replacement for this issue. But even then, the customer would’ve had to do some digging on the Apple support forum just to know that this is a commonly known issue to begin with. Somewhere within this customer service logistics chain, something is broken and needs to be fixed.
The worst thing any retailer can do, no matter their size, is to leave a customer feeling scorned after an interaction of any kind. And with their tension and stress level already high during a service appointment, the smallest of missteps is likely to be magnified here. So shouldn’t it be a top priority to ensure that they leave feeling happy and well taken care of? Having me unnecessarily spend close to $300 would’ve done the exact opposite. So whether it’s service software issues, or in-store employee training, or inter-departmental communication, every step should be taken to make the customer service experience one that’s painless and mistake free. Otherwise, retailers risk losing that customer, no matter how loyal they once were.