How Apple empowers its employees…


I am a long term Apple customer

I am a long-term Apple customer. Also in the last year, I bought a lot of Apple stuff (three MacBooks Pro, a 27′ LG Screen, an Apple Watch, earpods and various accessories).

The small issue

The cheapest item (EUR 39,95) I bought online in the Apple shop was a Belkin USB-C to ethernet adapter. This was delivered to me on December 11, 2016. Last week it did not work any more. As you can expect such a simple connector to work for years, I decided to call Apple for a replacement.

Calling Apple Support

It takes a while before you have a human on the line. First you must convince the chatbot to connect your call. After pushing a few buttons, she spoke to me.

  • What product do you need support for?
  • An accessory.
  • An accessory. If this is right, say yes.
  • Yes.
  • With what Apple product do you use this accessory?
  • MacBook Pro.
  • What is the serial number of the MacBook Pro? If you need more time, please say: wait.
  • Why do you need the serial number??
  • Please say the serial number. If you need more time, please say: wait.
  • After some resistance, I gave the serial number.

An easy solution

The chatbot connected me to an operator in the service centre. Let’s call him Karel. I explained my situation to Karel, and he quickly agreed with me that they would send a replacement. He needed my credit card number, as if I did not return the broken product, I had to pay. No problem at all. Karel put me on hold to make the necessary arrangements.

The system does not accept it

Karel back on the line. Unfortunately, the system did not accept that he entered a price of zero for the connector. The connector was bought with a MacBook, and as the guarantee period for the MacBook was one year, the guarantee period for the connector was also one year. As 12 months and one week had passed since my purchase, the system could not handle a free replacement. He had to discuss with his supervisor. If I could wait.

It is not our issue

After 10 minutes or so, Karel came back. He had discussed with his supervisor, and the supervisor had said this was not an Apple issue. As the connector was from Belkin, I had to contact Belkin.
I said I did not agree. The shop where I bought this (the Apple online shop) had to arrange this, in my opinion. Karel agreed, and he put me on hold again, to confer with his supervisor.

Can you contact the online shop?

After another 10 minutes Karel told me, that his supervisor was not willing to move. And, by the way, I was speaking to the MacBook service department (as I used the connector with a MacBook), but this was really an issue of the Online shop department. Maybe I could call the Online shop department myself?
I said for me there was only one Apple, and that I expected Karel to solve my problem. I repeated several times what I expected: a replacement to be send to me. Could I speak to Karel’s supervisor, as was not very happy with the lack of a simple solution. And the call had lasted around 60 minutes in the meantime! Karel would try to connect me.

I am your senior agent

This took a bit longer. After 15 minutes Karel was back. He had discussed, and his supervisor had said that he, Karel, was to be considered the senior agent on this case, and he should find a solution with me. I said; Karel, I want you to mail me a replacement. No, said Karel, he was not able to do that.

I will try to solve it

In the meantime, I was running out of patience. The only reason I was still on the line, was that I saw a blog post appearing on the horizon. Karel agreed with me the case was handled very poor. He seemed to be the victim of the internal politics in the service centre. I told him I hoped he would say: Tom, I will solve this for you. It took some effort from my side to convince him, but in the end, he told me: Tom, I will [try to] solve this…. After 90 minutes [!!!] I finished the call.

End good, all good (I hope)

Two hours after the call, Karel called me. He had felt bad about the way they had handled this. Apologies. He would mail me a replacement, and out of courtesy, I would not have to return the old connector [Hurray!].
I have not received the package yet, but I hope it will arrive after Christmas.

The main lesson

Apple: please empower the people who work for you in the service centre to solve small problems on their own. And make your systems so flexible that they can handle requests that are somewhat out of line.
My issue could have been solved in one minute. The costs of what I described above, far exceeded the costs of the connector.

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