By Sarah Townsend
Comment: A run-in with the tech giant’s customer support programme suggests there are still benefits to human interaction.
A lack of scientific logic is not something you expect from one of the world’s biggest technology companies, so imagine my surprise when I encountered a stunning example of it during a recent interaction with Apple UAE.
My 2011 MacBook Pro seemed to have finally broken down, so my first step was to book a Genius appointment at one of the Dubai Apple stores.
It is well known that booking online is practically impossible – you attempt at the start of the week, it tells you there are no slots and to try again at the start of next week, so you do that only to be told the same thing.
Instead, I walked into Apple’s sleek new store overlooking the fountains in Dubai Mall and booked a slot with a real person. The only available appointment was in nine hours, at 10pm.
I live at the opposite end of town so I decided to do some chores in the vicinity, return home in the afternoon to collect the laptop, and then go back to the mall.
Shortly after 4pm, I received a text message (from a four-digit, no-reply number) saying Genius was ready for me earlier than expected and that I should come at 4.50pm. There was no way to contact the store and explain this would not be possible.
Twenty minutes later I received another message saying, “We’re almost ready for you”, and giving me three options as to how to proceed. I could either reply ‘2’ to request 30 minutes later, ‘3’ for 60 minutes later, or ‘1’ to cancel the appointment entirely.
I did not want do any of these things; I wanted to stick to the original time because I had now made plans around it.
Ten minutes later I was told, “We’re ready for you now. Please check in with a specialist so you don’t lose your spot”. Then, seven minutes later, I watched helplessly as another text pinged through: “You haven’t checked in, so we had to move on to other customers.”
I was fuming. I had physically gone into the store to schedule the appointment and still a computer overruled, rearranged and cancelled the appointment with no way for me to get in touch.
When I tried to telephone the store I spoke to a call centre in Europe. After much ranting and revealing that I was a journalist, it was suggested that I go back to the store at 10pm and I may “possibly” be seen.
Fortunately, after waiting 30 minutes, I was served. The Genius staff were apologetic and fixed my computer the following day. But they also explained that this was a system process from their headquarters in Cupertino and there was nothing they could do about it.
This was a ludicrous case of ‘computer says no’ from a company that prides itself on being light years ahead in terms of sophistication and customer experience.
My appeal to Apple is: like many working people, it is not convenient to hang around a store, laptop in hand, so that I can be served when they are finally free, particularly if I’ve already taken the time to schedule an appointment. It is also illogical to reschedule at such short notice and with no interaction with the customer.
A proper customer service system – no matter how large the corporate – needs to deploy proper human logic and be, dare I say it, customer friendly.
Apple has been contacted for comment.
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Thanks A LOT for posting this
Apple stores in the UAE are the only stores in the world i think that you can't book an appointment online, which is ridiculous!
Whoever decided this , clearly doesn't understand how things are done in this country.
Plus, Apple stores in the UAE, don't offer store pickup yet (order online pick up in store) , even though Apple expanded this service to several European countries two years ago.
That service would be really great for neighbouring countries who don't have Apple Stores yet.
Both services should be available in all UAE Apple stores ASAP.
That being said, i understand they are still testing the market, and trying to adjust their operation accordingly.
However, it's great to hear more noise about this, hopefully they listen , and provide that ASAP.