Apple Support disappoints

By | January 12, 2011

As I recently wrote, I had trouble on my iMac when one user was suddenly unable to send mail using Mail.app. After attempting to fix the problem myself, I opened a support case with Apple under our AppleCare contract on Friday, December 24.

Apple’s initial handling of the case was very good. When the tier-I support representative with whom I spoke first started to go through his script, I interrupted him, told him I was an advanced computer user and system administrator, and suggested that I could save us both a lot of time by just telling him everything I’d already tried. He agreed, and I described in detail the steps I’d already taken, after which he immediately escalated the case to tier II.

The tier-II support representative was also quite competent, and although he was unable to solve the problem, the steps that he took when attempting to do so were intelligent and thorough. At the end of our conversation, he said he would have to escalate the case to the “Engineering Team.” This is when things started to go south.

I emailed the tier-II rep on January 3 and asked why I’d heard nothing back. The next day, he responded, “From what I understand, that group only returned to the office from holiday break yesterday, so hopefully there will be a response this week.” Either Apple lets an entire Engineering Team needed for product support take an entire week off between Christmas and New Year’s, or the tier-II rep did not tell me the truth. Neither of these possibilities reflects well on Apple.

The next Monday, January 10, I still hadn’t heard anything back, so I wrote again. I received a response near the end of the day, in which the tier-II rep said that the Engineering Team had gotten back to him on Friday, but that was his day off so he couldn’t pass on their response to me. Surely there should be a process in place for one tier-II rep to cover for another who is out of the office, so that customers waiting for answers get them as soon as they are available. And surely if the Engineering Team had responded to him on Friday, he could and should have sent their response to me on Monday morning, not near the end of the day.

The answer he passed on to me from the Engineering Team, and again please note that this was 19 days after I opened the support case, was entirely unacceptable:

According to my Engineering Team, since the issue is only affecting your daughter’s account, then the Mail.app in use by the other accounts is not malfunctioning, and there is most likely a conflicting item within her home folder causing this user-specific issue. [Well, duh, like I couldn’t figure that out? What I was waiting for and expecting the Engineering Team to do was for someone with knowledge of Mail.app and/or access to its source code to figure out what conflicting item was causing the problem.]

They have suggested using the split-half method: removing user-specific files (ones we have not already tried), letting said files auto-populate a default version, then testing the ability to send email, and, finally, restoring the original files making sure not to overwrite the working/corrected ones. This method will still allow preferences for applications outside of Mail.app to be retained, so they will not have to be reconfigured. [In other words, we want you to spend hours using trial and error to try to figure out what broke your daughter’s Mail.app, over and above the hours you’ve already spent trying to solve this problem, because we’re too lazy to spend ten minutes looking at the Mail.app source code to pinpoint exactly where the invalid data is coming from.]

Minutes after I received the tier-II rep’s email, I responded  and demanded that someone on his Engineering Team actually make an effort to isolate the problem rather than making me do their work. He did not respond.

I wrote back to the tier-II rep again the next morning to tell him that I had figured out the solution myself (as detailed in my other blog posting). I told him the solution, and I also told him that I was extremely disappointed with Apple’s handling of the case. He did not respond to this message either.

Apple could have handled this much better than they did.

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