Apple's Genius Bar Is Cool, But Not Consumer Friendly - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
9/18/2007
02:40 PM
Tom Smith
Tom Smith
Commentary
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Apple's Genius Bar Is Cool, But Not Consumer Friendly

Proponents say the "Genius Bar" is just another example of Apple's superiority -- you go to a hip store to get hands-on support from smart, cool people who fix your problems on the spot. I say the Genius Bar is inefficient and unfriendly to the customer. Read about my travails in obtaining iPod support and see if you don't agree.

Proponents say the "Genius Bar" is just another example of Apple's superiority -- you go to a hip store to get hands-on support from smart, cool people who fix your problems on the spot. I say the Genius Bar is inefficient and unfriendly to the customer. Read about my travails in obtaining iPod support and see if you don't agree.The whole experience promises far more than it delivers, starting when you first decide that you need an Apple "Genius" to help you with your support predicament.

If you haven't had the pleasure, go to the Apple web site and see how many tries it takes before you can get an appointment at the Genius Bar, if you're lucky enough to have a store within some proximity. If its web site is up to date, the company has a paltry 12 stores in all of New York State, where I live.

Then try to set up a service appointment; you can only do so a maximum of two days from the current day. I had to log on repeatedly to even find an available time when I could get an appointment.

Then there's the unusual Genius Bar vibe. It's staffed by employees wearing black t-shirts that say "genius" on the front and calling out the names of customers when they are ready to be served. The Genius Bar furthers Apple's mystique when it comes to hiring smart people to service brilliantly engineered products. But the notion that these people are (air quotes) geniuses? The words haughty and pretentious come more quickly to mind.

Then there's the service. It's neither efficient nor well organized. It hardly leaves you feeling like you've had your problems addressed by a genius. In fact, it's not totally unlike sitting in the waiting room at your dentist--except that the Macs, iPhones and iPods are more interesting to look at than 3-year-old copies of People.

I twice needed iPod support due to corrupted software. (I am pretty convinced the corruption occurred at the same time my iPod was plugged into a laptop running a corrupted version of Windows XP; whether one system took down the other is open to debate.) So, I twice needed to sit through appointments at which my personal Genius zapped the iPod's memory and all my songs (and of course, my OS corruption didn't help matters in terms of saving purchased music). In one case, I needed to leave the store and set up a new appointment so I could return with my PC.

The last time around, my Genius, when apprised of my simultaneous PC problems, offered little to no help on strategies to recover a small portion of my music files that had been lost. He suggested that I go to the Apple web site and submit a support request. After several visits there, I never could find a way to submit a support request but eventually muddled through the solution myself.

Extrapolating from my experience, it makes me wonder why the Genius Bar has the decent reputation it does. More to the point, Apple's model doesn't seem scalable, and one can well imagine it might come crashing down under the volumes of iPods and iPhones that the company is selling every day.

Given this level of consumer support, it doesn't surprise me that businesses, which depend on repeatable results, are turning their noses up at Apple. I maintain it's another example of how Apple's retail strategy isn't working.

In a coming blog post, I'll compare my experience at the Genius Bar to some challenging PC support requirements and report on how HP took care of them.

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