Apple’s vice president of AppleCare and technical support initiatives, Tara Bunch, held a Town Hall meeting for for AppleCare employees earlier this week, according to several employees in attendance who asked to remain anonymous. During the meeting, Bunch, along with a few other Apple executives, spoke about Apple’s progress in customer service and support over the past few years, improvements from 2013 to 2014, and future plans.
Throughout the meeting, Bunch noted that customer satisfaction numbers from AppleCare and Apple product users are at the top of the industry. Going into the 15th year of AppleCare, Bunch asked employees to celebrate and be proud of their accomplishments, but she also noted that Apple still has room to improve its support practices. Employees in attendance during the meeting have shared some details regarding Apple’s future plans for its support initiatives…
According to Apple employees, a large area of focus for Apple is the AppleCare+ protection plan. AppleCare+ is Apple’s premium support service for iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone. Unlike the standard AppleCare protection plan, AppleCare+ supports users with accidental physical damage to their devices. As Apple details on its website:
Every iPhone comes with one year of hardware repair coverage through its limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary support. AppleCare+ for iPhone extends your coverage to two years from the original purchase date of your iPhone and adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a $79 service fee plus applicable tax.
Bunch told employees that AppleCare+ has been doing well in terms of both sales and customer satisfaction. She said there have been over 30 million signups for AppleCare+ and this has created over $2 billion in revenue for Apple. AppleCare+ is currently in 14 countries, and Bunch noted that expanding AppleCare+ to additional countries is a tall task due to the inconsistent insurance and government-related legal processes across the globe. However, she hinted that further expansion will soon occur.
Even with the success of AppleCare+ thus far, Bunch focused on sharing information about major changes coming to the program. Currently, AppleCare+ must be purchased within 30 days of the purchase of a supported device. Bunch says that Apple has begun piloting an expansion of this timeframe to 60 days, and that the company in the future may ultimately completely move the 30 day time limit to 60 days. Currently, a customer must purchase AppleCare+ at the time of purchase online or in a store, but she said that Apple is experimenting with new online diagnostic tools to make the purchase process of AppleCare+ simpler after the time of the device’s purchase.
Bunch also noted that Apple is considering further pushing AppleCare+ as a subscription service via Apple’s iTunes-based billing program that is used for iTunes and App Store content. Bunch said that Apple is also looking into a version of the AppleCare+ program for Mac computers, but she noted that such program may never appear because the economics are not prime for such an offering. Bunch also addressed the competition from third-party and carrier insurance/support programs. Many carrier programs offer support in cases of lost and stolen devices, and Bunch noted that in order to remain competitive in that space, Apple will have to move to offering those services in the future as well.
Besides changes to AppleCare+, Apple will be rolling out a significant new iOS device support feature this fall, according to Bunch. Late last year, Apple rolled out the ability for AppleCare support technicians to screen share onto a customer’s Mac in order to diagnose or fix problems. This fall, that functionality will roll out to iOS devices. This sounds quite similar to Amazon’s MayDay feature which allows customers to get instant technical support from their devices, but it does not appear that Apple’s offering will include a dedicate key on future devices or that the Apple service will be a core element of iOS.
Apple is also working on improvements to its 24/7 chat support service. Last summer, Apple rolled out 24/7 chat support for AppleCare in the United States. This week’s Town Hall announcements to AppleCare employees reportedly hinted that Apple is looking into 24/7 phone support for some regions. There are apparently is no firm time-table on this and the service sounds far off into the future, but it is interesting to hear that Apple is considering this.
Speaking of phone support, Apple is said to have played a recording of Tim Cook’s now famous support call during his visit to Apple’s Austin-based offices earlier this month. According to employees who listened to the recording, the call between Cook and a lucky Apple customer was short, but Cook asked the user what he thought of Apple’s announcements at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier in the month.
Even while Apple is still working on improvements to its phone support, Bunch also told employees that significant enhancements would be coming to Apple’s online support site. The AppleCare executives reportedly said that they imagine a time in which all Apple support will be solely handled through online resources, and the changes coming to the support service in the near-future indicate that Apple is serious about that belief. Apple is said to be developing new tools for customers to more easily self-diagnose and troubleshoot problems with Macs, iOS devices, and other Apple hardware, software, and services. Apple is also working on complete redesigns for the user-facing support tools website and discussion forums for debut later this year, according to employees who attended the Town Hall. One of the major focuses will be improvements to social networking integration with the support tools as well as much improved searching.
Apple is also reportedly working on significant enhancements to Apple IDs and how support for the IDs are handled. Approximately a quarter of Apple’s technical support calls are in regards to Apple services such as Apple IDs, iTunes, and iCloud, so Apple feels that it is important for more self-help tools to become available for troubleshooting minor annoyances such as password resets and login problems. Bunch also reportedly promoted a recently launched “One Apple” program that serves to more closely align Apple’s support offerings between online, phone, and in-store Genius Bar support. With Angela Ahrendts now running both online and physical retail stores, it is likely that the One Apple concept will be pushed even further in the near-future.
Bunch reportedly ended the meeting by saying that Apple is due for a “Super Bowl” of a fall in terms of product launches, and that these new enhancements will assist Apple in helping new customers learn how to use Apple’s new products. Apple will be debuting new versions of the iPhone, iPad, a new wearable device, iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and many new Macs, and Apple’s AppleCare support staff will be critical in ensuring that the new Apple customers have smooth product experiences.
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