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The Apple Support Experience

So, having jumped into Apple land with a Mac Mini recently, and having some problems, I of course took advantage of my included 90 days technical support. Being part of the Apple ecosystem includes being subject to how they support their customers, so I think it's important to write about.

Normally my idea of support is to figure out what piece of software I'm having a problem with, locating the open-source community responsible for it, and then tracking down a mailing list, IRC channel, whatever, where I can ask for help. I usually loathe help lines of any kind, as North America and most of the world handles these very poorly these days.

You know the story. You call hoping that you'll talk to a flesh and blood human, and you get a machine telling you that, "we are currently experiencing a higher than normal call volume," which is what you'll hear every damn time you call so obviously it's not higher than normal, and they're just cheap bastards who understaff their support infrastructure, but I digress.

Well, I collected a few questions together before calling Apple Canada, as I hate calling help lines so I figured once I found a human I'd hammer him/her with several questions. Better throughput. Can't help it, I think like a programmer. And, of course, I got a machine. I asked me what product I was calling about, using voice recognition to understand me as I said, "Mac Mini", and asked me for the serial number. That all worked, and I finally got a human, with little difficulty. No Indian accent either, I think it was Spanish, but I've called a few times since and there's no discernable pattern, so perhaps it's not overseas for a change. Not that I care all that much, as long as they actually help, but I've had some really bad experiences before with uninformed first-line support reading from their scripts.

Well, the guy I talked to couldn't help with the software bugs, obviously he doesn't own the code, but he can report the issues and I can hope that a developer at Apple will fix them. I already reported the issues at anyway, and hopefully that's not a digital black hole like most feedback pages. He did help me understand how to do a couple of things that OS X considers advanced, like launching a terminal from a keystroke. BTW Apple, that's pretty basic in any Linux window manager, so please do better.

Then we got down to the hardware issue I'm having. At least, I think it's hardware. Many other people are having the same problem. It makes me wonder if there was a bad batch of Mac Minis out of Apple recently. I called in about it, mentioned to the nice lady that wanted to sell me an Applecare package that I likely wouldn't need it, as I was thinking of taking the unit back, and suddenly I was talking to a nice man in second level support.

He took the issue on personally, gave me a direct contact number to him, and the email address, and we started swapping hardware to narrow down the potential problems. I swapped the LCD with one upstairs, no help. Got a new HDMI to DVI adaptor from Apple, no help. He arranged for a full unit exchange and data migration, which was done very professionally (albiet with some data loss that was easily made up for), unfortunately it didn't help.

Finally, we're running an app from Apple to gather up logs, and I'm told that the Engineers at Apple know what the problem is, they think it's software, and to keep my eyes on the software updates. There was one recently in fact, labelled graphics performance and reliability, so I wonder if that was it. I'm waiting to see if the issue happens again.

Thus far, I must say that Apple raises the bar for what good customer support should be. I've had plenty of bad experiences with other companies, and so far I've had mostly good ones with Apple, and now an exceptional one. The guy I'm talking to deserves a raise. Fingers crossed that the experience continues to be this good.

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