Support not empowered to retain customers

(A letter to Tim Cook)

I just concluded a visit to an Apple store where I was told they could not help me with my chronic iPad issue because their diagnostic application showed 80%, not 79%. My battery lasts for 1.5 hours instead of the expected 10 hours. This is my third interaction with Apple support on this issue and I have already performed a comprehensive set of troubleshooting and diagnostic steps (for a month I haven’t used this iPad for anything other than testing its own battery, since it has been wiped to defaults). Apple authorized repair told me to call Apple, since they couldn’t help me due to the reading in the diagnostic app. Apple online support told me to go to an Apple store, since they couldn’t help me due to the reading in the diagnostic app. The Apple store then told me they couldn’t help me due to the reading in their diagnostic app. The support staff agreed that the iPad was not performing up to expectations but insisted they were unable to take any factors into account other than this 80% number. I would have to take the iPad home and manually charge and discharge the battery until the diagnostic showed 79%.

From a short term perspective, denying hardware support might make sense for the most profitable company in the world, but I think that putting your support organizations on such a tight leash will harm Apple in the long run. I used to buy iPhone and iPad on a regular two-year cadence, and I have products from every part of Apple’s product line in my home. With this experience, and my other interactions with Apple support over the last year, I am reluctant to buy any additional Apple products, and will at best be replacing devices when they die. I doubt my next computer purchases for my wife and daughters will be from Apple. For years I have purchased from Apple because I trusted Apple, and I feel like that trust has been strained if not broken.

When I purchased a new MacBook in 2020, I received a defective device that could not stay up without a reboot overnight and was not working properly after a mainboard replacement. I had to send it in for service several more times, and was told by support staff that they could not process an exception to get my computer fixed until it had been to the depot 3 times.

When my AirPods Pro were replaced due to a broken microphone, I received  a defective charging case with the replacement. I had to process 4 more return requests to get them fixed. The repeated refrain was that they couldn’t do anything to help me until I had mailed the unit into the repair depot 3 times.

I can’t begin to understand the challenges of supporting hardware at Apple’s current scale, but I pay a premium for Apple to provide a better quality product, and then I pay extra for extended warranties and the promise of priority support. In no area (hardware reliability, software stability, simplicity of use) is Apple currently meeting my needs. Most importantly, I would be easily made happy by having a simple, friendly, and frictionless support experience and instead I have been met with helpful, smart, friendly people who have repeatedly told me they are not allowed to help me. This isn’t a failure of the support staff, but of their leadership who have told them that policies and cost management are more important than customer satisfaction.

I have considered myself a loyal Apple customer, and that loyalty requires feedback when things aren’t going well. I really want back the joy I used to feel at the release of new Apple products.