About six months ago it seems that Apple employees must have undergone some new customer service training, and apparently the emphasis was on making their customers “feel heard.”

This sounds like a good thing, right?  I mean, it’s hard to argue that callous customer service reps are preferable to real human beings.  Human beings that actually care about what’s going on in your life.


Well, I kinda need you to dial it back a notch.

Apple logo

Don’t get me wrong, we are Apple peeps all the way.  Seriously, when we eventually joined civilization in the smart phone arena we chose iPhones and never looked back.  And when we upgraded from a desktop to a laptop, our first (and last) stop was at an Apple store to gather information and compare products.  I’m on my second MacBook Pro now and you’d be hard pressed (really, don’t even bother trying) to convince me to return to the Windows world.

With all of my products Apple support has been a God-send on many occasions, and I’ve always been impressed with the phone reps’ restraint as they walked me through whatever numbskull problem I was having.  It didn’t matter if it was an actual technology glitch or one I’d somehow managed to cause myself…they are as unshakable as 911 operators and have the patience of saints.

I can only imagine the type of interview questions they must use to identify people with these qualities.

–  You’re standing in a room filled with your favorite possessions when fire threatens to engulf the area.  What do you do?

Me:  I’d grab my phone and camera (assuming it’s within reach) before heading to safety and calling 911.

Future Apple employee:  I’d assess the situation and use 2 of my 3 easily accessible fire extinguishers to try to put out the flames.  If that fails, I’d put my most precious items inside the stove in the hope that its metal structure would protect them from the flames.  Then I’d grab my laptop, iPad, and iPhone to take with me to safety.

–  You’re working retail when an enraged customer begins berating you loudly, demanding a refund for product damage that is clearly her fault.  How do you handle the situation?

Me:  I’d calmly listen to her complaint before explaining why the store policy doesn’t cover her product’s damage.

Future Apple employee:  I’d reassure her that she’s being heard.  I’d thank her for being a loyal customer and allowing us a chance to make things right.  I’d delicately review how the product became damaged, in the process sharing a similar experience of my own.  After explaining why I can’t refund her money, I’d explain how I resolved my own issue.  Then I’d tell her to have a nice day.

–  You’re in a downtown area enjoying lunch with some friends when a madman with a gun bursts into the restaurant, demanding retribution for food poisoning contracted at said establishment.

Me:  After noticing that one of the workers has called the police, I’d sit quietly so as not to draw the gunman’s attention.  I’d follow his instructions until the police arrive to neutralize the situation.

Future Apple employee:  I’d stealthily dial 911 on my iPhone and leave the line open under the table so the operator can trace my call.  After noticing that the madman looks a bit green (perhaps still suffering the after-effects of the food poisoning), I’d offer to get him water and some bread to settle his stomach.  I’d also share my own story about contracting food poisoning at a seafood restaurant, commiserating about health code standards today until the authorities have a chance to arrive.

Me?  I am so not a future Apple employee.  I simply don’t have it in me to maintain a calm, collected attitude regardless of the circumstance, and my ability to remain pleasant is directly proportional to the amount of stupid I’m observing.  I also find myself unable to answer the same simple-minded question over and over.  For real, somewhere around the fifth time I just snap, and the forthcoming answer is no longer the ever-patient Mary Poppins response we moms strive for.  (This may be why I was never a good candidate for teaching preschool.)

At any rate, I’ve had years of experience calling Apple support, and they’ve helped solve my problem every single time.  Not only have they helped solve my problem, they’ve done it with a respectful attitude that never once veered into a “geez, stupid, you can’t figure out how to fix this?” tone.  It’s impressive.

So anyway, I got the new laptop last November and started working on a multitude of tech issues at home.  It seemed that over a nine-year period or so I’d amassed more than 15,000 photos (let’s just say I like taking pictures. and that the kids have a VERY well-documented childhood.) so I was trying to transfer the whole library onto an external hard drive.  I was also trying to clean up the old laptop for the kids – there were documents I needed to save and (at the risk of sounding like I was storing porn on there) things I didn’t necessarily want them reading.  Plus there’s always wi-fi drama at our house.

All this tech-juggling resulted in an awful lot of calls to Apple support who, as always, were patient and helpful as we worked through whatever roadblock I’d encountered.  It was probably around January that I noticed the shift in the call representatives’ responses.

I didn’t really think much about it when I first started calling about my trouble transferring all those photos to the external drive.  All the reps listen while you describe your issue before weighing in with the reassurance that they could solve it.  But before saying that, they started adding a statement of empathy. As in:

  • Well, I can certainly understand how frustrating that would be.  I know how important my iPhoto library is to me.
  • Well, I sure get why that’s a problem.  It’s definitely important that your network is up and running.
  • I can see why that’s upsetting you.  Let’s make sure your pictures are sorting themselves into events in the new library.
  • I definitely understand.  I mean, on my laptop…(blah, blah, blah-blah-blah)

Seven months later and there’s no doubt – there’s definitely been a customer service policy shift that requires the Apple rep commiserate with you before launching into problem solving mode.  This is probably reassuring to people who haven’t called as frequently as I have but frankly, after you’ve heard the first ten people sympathize emphatically with your issue it starts to come off as just a tiny bit insincere.  Or maybe that’s just me.

I get it.  Your calls are recorded and probably pulled randomly to check that Apple customers are getting good customer service, so it’s not like you can blow off whatever this new policy dictates.  But maybe there’s a happy medium.  Maybe instead of talking to me like a BFF whose been through this exact same thing and saying (in code) man, that really sucks, you could just agree that you understand the problem and will help me fix it.

That’s all I really called for anyway.