Monday, December 01, 2014

Apple Computer and Reliability

I sent the following as a letter to the Editor of Barron’s on 2003-05-27.  Over eleven years later I’m still waiting for the reliability that I asked for in the letter.  And the unanswered list in Apple’s Support Community gets longer and longer.  At least Apple now offers system upgrades as a free download, even major upgrades like Mavericks to Yosemite.  Still I will wait until I buy a new computer for the major upgrade.  I still do believe “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

I have two other ideas for improving Apple than those given in “Beyond iTunes”.

First, Apple really needs to develop OS X as a super-reliable operating system.  It is great that a problem application rarely crashes OS X, but there are many problems in OS X and applications written for OS X that can be very annoying to users, experienced or otherwise.  This super-reliability needs to be in OS X off-the-shelf and in rapid solutions from Apple as problems arise.

Apple’s AppleCare support staff were unaware of problems connecting some Macintosh computers to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who deployed the latest modems (v.92).  The first two I spoke to about my problems connecting or staying connected could only suggest that I completely reinstall the operating system!  After a few weeks of frustration, I stumbled on the cause (the new modem type at my ISP) and the solution.  The fix for my level of operating system (10.1.5) had been available from another unit of Apple before I even called the first time!  The third support person to whom I angrily told the solution had been ignorant of the problem when I called.

Worse yet, Apple’s own discussion boards had dozens of messages about this problem both for my older level of the operating system and the latest level (10.2.6).  The fix I found did not work for those with the latest level.  Apple did not seem to be responding to any of these messages.  This lack of response loses some business for Apple; I should pay $129.95 to upgrade to a system that may be useless to me?

This leads to my second thought.  Apple should take a page from Microsoft’s customer-relations book.  Microsoft has adopted the slogan “Trustworthy Computing”.  Apple should have the slogan “Responsive Computing”.  Not only must Apple provide a even more trouble-free operating system, but it must respond to customer complaints in a more timely fashion.  It seems too often Apple treats its customers as ignoramuses who haven’t even checked if the computer is plugged in.  It has too often pushed customers off on user groups in the expectation that these will have members who can solve all problems.  User groups may have only five or six members who really delve into problems and then don’t use the same configuration in the same way as many other members.   Apple should better monitor its support lines and its discussion boards to find out what problems its users have, seek to elicit more details from those with problems, correlate similar problems, and provide timely solutions to those problems that are widely available within Apple’s own organization and to its customers.

Whiz bang products may get the public’s attention, but it is great customer service that keeps people coming back.

Melvyn D. Magree

A former programmer who has spent forty-five years learning only a tiny bit about computers and who believes, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” (Now fifty-six years!)