Tech Support Showdown 2012
|Apple Tech Support Results
|Average Call Length||13 minutes|
|Phone Grade 2012||A|
|Web Grade 2012||B+|
|Overall Grade 2012||A-|
|Overall Grade 2011||A|
|Overall Grade 2010||A|
Each year that we conduct our tech support showdown, Apple bests the competition. This year it’s getting a run for its money from the likes of Samsung and Sony. The company’s secret weapon, Genius Bars, remain strong, offering reservations for face-to-face tech support. Plus, Express Lane remains one of the speediest and most effective methods for getting timely answers.
Unfortunately, another carry-over from previous years is the limited 90 days of phone support, unless you’re willing to pony up for AppleCare, Apple’s three-year computer protection program. AppleCare is $249 for the 11-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and $349 for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. You can also pay a per-incident fee of $49.
For our testing, we asked Apple about three-finger swiping on the trackpad and extending battery life as well as “How can I share a file through AirDrop?”
Web & Social Networking
On Apple’s support site (www.apple.com/support), simple menus lead you to select increasingly specific parameters until you land at the correct support article. It took us about three minutes of trial-and-error clicking before we arrived at the appropriate articles for two questions. For our third query, we had to type AirDrop into the search bar before finding the correct result within the first three links.
Apple’s Express Lane service (expresslane.apple.com) lets you enter your machine’s serial number, and then helps pinpoint answers by exploring various menus. As customers progress through the options, Express Lane either proposes a help article as a solution or recommends that the user speak directly to one of its specialists. When confronted with this suggestion, users have the option to call Apple or have Apple call them.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have an official Facebook or Twitter feed to answer user questions or complaints. Apple also doesn’t offer email or live online chat.
For our first phone call, we filled out a Web form asking Apple to call us at 5:31 p.m. EST on a Wednesday. When the call came we were greeted with a recorded message: “To speak with an adviser, press 1. To reschedule this call, press 2.” We pressed 1 and the voice informed us of a 5-minute estimated wait time.
In less time than that Michelle from Oregon cheerily introduced herself (she already knew our name). For the AirDrop question, she genially offered expert advice. At the end, Michelle offered to email us a step-by-step help article before reminding us we had 57 days left on our phone support. She also mentioned that we had 330 days left on our limited warranty, suggesting we buy an AppleCare Protection Plan. The entire call lasted 17 minutes and 29 seconds, and we spent less than 4 minutes on hold.
During our second call, with John in Phoenix, at 12:10 p.m. on a Thursday, we asked about three-finger swiping. He correctly directed us to the Trackpad options under System Preferences and had us make sure the gestures we wanted to activate were checked off. The call took a speedy 5 minutes and 4 seconds total.
For our third question — how to make our machine’s battery life longer — we were connected to an amiable-sounding Chris from Salt Lake City at 4:21 p.m. on Thursday. At the beginning of the call, Chris wrongly told us our phone support had run out. Apple’s voice-to-text translation of the serial number had gone awry. But before we gave him the correct serial number, Chris had already offered to point us toward the correct answer.
He suggested we use the F1 and F2 keys to adjust our screen brightness, go into System Preferences to tweak settings within our Mac’s Energy Saver function, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, disconnect peripheral devices and close apps and watch the battery status in the upper right corner of our display to make sure we had enough juice for our pending activities.
At the end of the call, which took 19 minutes and 24 seconds, Chris gave us a link to more in-depth information about Apple batteries from Apple’s support site.
Apple’s technical support is still excellent. Online, Apple has amassed an almost dizzying amount of support articles, yet these are neatly filed away into clear and well-organized topics. While Apple’s phone reps didn’t always have the immediate answer on hand, they were always patient, cordial and determined to completely resolve our issues before we hung up the phone. And while Apple totally neglects social networking as a means to communicate with its customers, it uniquely offers in-store tech support from Apple Genius Bars across the country.