If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ll be able to garner that I quite like Apple products. I like them because they just work. Except when they don’t. This is a story about when something didn’t work, and how Apple and I went about fixing the problem – on my terms.

It started on the evening of August 22nd, when I noticed some odd behaviour that my iPhone was displaying. Plugged into my laptop, the default battery indicator showed that it was 100% charged, but when waking it from sleep I noticed a second battery indicator just below the clock, which showed a 78% charge.

Four important lessons in service

It was late, and the problem wasn’t extremely urgent, so I decided to send Apple Support a quick message (complete with a screenshot) on Twitter and resumed my evening. 24 minutes later I received a response – which is impressive given that 32% of customers expect a response within 30 minutes and it takes brands (on average) 157 minutes to respond.

This is the first important lesson – not every customer service query is urgent and needs to be resolved ‘right now’. Managing less urgent customer queries through social media will not only meet today’s customers’ expectations, but it will also free up telephone lines for the more urgent enquiries. Forcing me to use a ‘right now’ channel like telephone and even the increasingly popular live chat will likely leave me frustrated, as I’m unable to get on with my day until a resolution is found.

After some back-and-forth troubleshooting, Apple needed some more information (my email address, device serial number etc.) and requested we move the conversation to Twitter’s Direct Messages. This is the second important lesson – meet me in my preferred channel. Countless times have I started a query on Twitter, only to be asked by the brand to send them an email, or visit an online form – forcing me into a channel they want me to use, not one that I want to use. 

In Direct Messages, I answered a few more troubleshooting questions and Apple decided the best course of action would be to run a remote diagnostics test on my battery. They pushed a test to my iPhone and requested that I initiate it from my phone. Unfortunately, that was a particularly busy day at work and I didn’t get to do that before the test expired. The next day, I requested they send the test again and was shortly back on track. This is the third important lesson – ensure my experience is seamless. Despite spanning a couple of days and nights, at no point was I asked to repeat information or clarify the situation to another person. I’m sure many readers have suffered the angst of being passed from one department to another on the phone only to have to repeat the exact same information you just told the previous person.

The diagnostic results came back: battery failure. I would have to book an appointment at my local Apple Store to get the battery replaced. Now, my query was more urgent and I wanted to speak with someone in person. The team on Twitter provided me with a link to the contact webpage where I was provided with a number of options, shown below.

The image above demonstrates the fourth important lesson: service me on my terms. Providing me with different options to suit my current situation makes me feel like I’m in control. The transparency of information about how long the wait time would be was also a nice addition.

Although the query was now more urgent, I still couldn’t do ‘right now’, so I opted for Apple to call me later when I was more available. Right on schedule, I got a phone call where we discussed my options, what I would need to bring with me if I booked an appointment in-store and so on. We scheduled an in-store appointment for the next available slot (a couple of days later) and my online service experience was over.

The in-store experience was as you would expect from Apple. My details were pulled up from an iPad, I signed digitally using my finger, paid using Apple Pay and before long I was heading home with my newly restored phone.

First Contact Resolution, not Fast Contact Resolution

From my first Tweet to having my repaired iPhone back in my hands took just less than a week. Some may argue that this is too long, but for me this was perfectly fine in this instance, because it was done on my terms. It was by no means the fastest resolution, but it was a first time resolution. This is an important – if not the most important – metric for customer service departments to measure. However, too many organisations still hold Average Handling Time (AHT) as the best way to monitor the service they offer. The issue with this is that this means the service is being done on the organisation’s terms, not the customer’s.

AHT can provide businesses with short-term cost savings, and can help them win a few battles, but at the expense of the customer experience. In order to win the war on customer service, organisations should prioritise creating an atmosphere of positive customer experiences in order to achieve longer-term gains. But most importantly, whatever service you provide, make sure you do it on the customers’ terms.