Will a new Apple app reshape customer service?
In some ways Apple’s Genius Bar has been a standout in customer service. The company employs people who are highly competent, customer focused and uniquely brand loyal to discuss, troubleshoot and fix phone and computer problems at the Apple Store. Recently, however, the Genius Bar has fallen victim to criticism because of the inefficiency of the reservation process to see a "Genius," which sometimes results in very long lines. Apple now may be rolling out an app that will both mitigate the problem and increase the ease of customer service in general for iPhone users.
The Verge reported that recently-leaked images of the as-yet-unannounced (and unconfirmed) iOS customer service app show features similar to Apple’s existing web support offerings, including a feature that asks users questions to help them narrow down and troubleshoot problems, the ability to chat with support specialists and the ability to book an appointment at the Genius Bar. The article indicates that, while the features already exist on Apple’s support website, making them easier to access via mobile could lead to more efficient troubleshooting before the customer reaches the point of needing to schedule a Genius Bar appointment, cutting down on lines.
This is only the latest attempt Apple has made to streamline the Genius Bar. International Business Times reported in March that the company was rolling out a "Concierge" scheduling process to cut down on bottlenecks caused by walk-in appointments.
Despite the increasing use of mobile devices for both general web use and e-commerce needs, customers have been reticent to use retailer apps, opting instead to use mobile browsers. A Forrester Consulting study commissioned by RetailMeNot in August 2015 indicated that of those users polled who had used a mobile phone in the previous three months to do something retail-related, 60 percent had two or fewer retail apps installed and 21 percent had no retail app installed.
Apple is not the only company working on integrating customer service into an app. VentureBeat reports that Best Buy has rolled out a feature in its app that allows customers to contact staff via call, text or email while in-store.
- Leaked Apple Support app could lead to shorter lines at the Genius Bar – The Verge
- Apple Inc. Will Overhaul Store Genius Bar By Dumping Appointments: Report – International Business Times
- Why aren’t retailer apps cutting it with Millennials – RetailWire
- Retailers are finally giving shoppers a good reason to use their apps in stores – VentureBeat
Could adding features like chat and other customer service necessities lead to greater retailer app use by shoppers? Would it be wise for retailers to try to leverage customers’ use of customer service apps by adding couponing and other features?
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9 Comments on "Will a new Apple app reshape customer service?"
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It might, but, let’s start in the realm of the practical for a moment. While I hate anecdotal research I have personally seen many, many people crying “Help!” in both Apple and Verizon stores because they couldn’t unlock their phones. So, for these folks, an app won’t help because they won’t be able to access it.
That said, there is another group of people who resist app usage because they are convinced (rightly and/or wrongly) that app use will cause them to be targeted by all kinds of offers from that retailer and/or others they don’t want. For the rest of the public, the simpler you can make a service experience the better.
Now, offering service is one thing using a service or service recovery moment to flog coupons is another. If I need service, I’m likely upset. And, if I am upset, the last thing I want to hear is how I should do new business with you — at least until the old business is settled.
As an avid Apple user, I’ve experienced the frustration of the Genius Bar one too many times. Customer service, especially on tech issues, is not a place to stumble in these times of fast change. It frustrates people, especially those of us who do not change phones or operating systems with every update issued.
That said, I do believe Apple will address and solve much of this with an app, and that it will be useful. My suggestion to them is to take the time to learn the frustrations of ALL the shopper segments, not just the tech-savvy generation!
@ShopperAnnie wishes a Happy Thanksgiving to the RetailWire community. Let’s not forget how gratitude can translate into action at retail. Buy something extra for someone who could really use a random act of kindness.
Over the years Apple has experimented with many check-in processes. None have been particularly successful from the consumer’s point of view! That is why the changes continue. Not all Apple stores serve the same consumers and not all consumers at all locations have the same issues. Having employees at HQ design the new process, even if they visit one or two stores or receive information from some employees in the store, is not a good way to create a successful process. The idea of an app is good. However I am skeptical about the success of the app unless a new approach is used.
Yes, yes, yes. Retail companies are looking for new ways to connect with customers, and apps, if carefully thought out, can define a successful shopping experience. (Think about the Starbucks app, which allows customers to bypass the line.) An app that creates compelling value is worth the real estate on a consumer’s phone.
Apple support should be a default application like the settings app, or it should be in the settings app itself. However, having a chat feature on a consumer application for support can be painfully expensive to staff properly. For B2B a chat feature is excellent, and for pre-sales it also works.
Absolutely, it will influence user comfort. Apple is on the front line with this and we could see many others following soon. Things are changing as quickly as we pick up the device to do something or make a call. If you are like me, you are weak in how fast you can pick up on what you need to know to make yourself more effective using any device. So bring on the customer service app. We are waiting for you to either make our lives easier or complicate them even more.
The Genius Bar worked well. The problem is there are more and more people using Apple products, but the number of geniuses at the Genius Bars haven’t expanded at the same pace. That means more people needing help than there are people to help. Anything that Apple — or any business, for that matter — can do to offer alternative support options will only enhance their service.
Is the question whether adding these features will lead to great retailer app use by shoppers, or is it whether Apple (or whomever is using it) can use it efficiently and effectively? I too am a victim of overkill (or want to kill) in the Apple Genius Bar line, even with appointment, it’s crowded, pressured, and I wasn’t taken until at least a half hour after the appointment was supposed to happen. And the guy worked between me and another customer at the same time. Very frustrating and upsetting. As for coupons and other features, see Ryan Matthews. That is not the time in an already pressure situation, surely. (And don’t call me Shirley).
The real question raised by this article is about better Genius Bar service delivery, not getting shoppers to use an app.
But if an app helps Apple divert visits to chat and phone support, as the screenshots suggest, it will help. When face-to-face is the only way, if the app drives more service visits through the reserved appointment path, it will help. Both paths are measurably more time efficient for shopper and Genius.
If the app provides device-specific tips (think battery or memory management) because it knows what a user owns based on his/her Apple ID, it will help owners cut through the support clutter. If it prompts users to back up their data before their appointments, as some of the fixes will wipe their personal data, it will save the hassle of backing up during the appointment.
But an app should rarely mix outbound marketing and inbound trouble-shooting. If it does, it must be a post-session “thank you” rather than a pre-session distraction.