Apple's been strutting around — Connor McGregor-style — as the reigning king of laptop tech support for the past couple of years. Does the tech giant still have its customer service charm? I had to channel my inner detective and find out myself. Whipping out my best Oscar-worthy acting performance, I masqueraded as a damsel in distress in need of Apple's assistance with the following queries: disabling automatic updates, downloading Microsoft Edge, and turning on Dark Mode.
Apple's phone-support experience, with its shared-screen remote assistance and helpful agents, was painless and pleasant. As a cherry on top, Apple's online live chat offered a dash of humor that left a positive lasting impression. Apple's Twitter support, on the other hand, paled in comparison to the tech giant's phone and live-chat service. Despite this, I'd recommend Apple's customer service — just don't tweet Apple for help.
Apple tech support
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Live chat, Twitter and Apple Support app
My co-workers’ jaws dropped when I told them that the ubiquitous Apple brand did not have a tech support platform for Facebook. But the Cupertino-based tech giant makes up for it by providing three other avenues for help seekers: live chat, Twitter and an Apple support app
Pretending to be fed up with Safari, I asked a live-chat agent — Florida-based Geovani — to help me install the new Microsoft Edge browser on my MacBook Air. I was expecting Geovani to protest, but instead, he kindly typed, "I understand your concern and would be happy to team up with you to find the best solution." This might have been a canned response, but I appreciated it nonetheless.
In 10 minutes, Geovani patiently guided me through downloading the Microsoft Edge browser, and he even had a sense of humor. After installing Microsoft Edge, Geovani asked me if I saw the icon appear on the bottom dock. When I said yes, he replied, "Good, now let's laugh at it!"
My experience with Apple's Twitter support wasn't nearly as eventful. At 12:24 p.m. EST, through Twitter's direct message system, I asked Apple to help me turn on dark mode. Two minutes later, I received a reply that said, "Sure thing, we're happy to help. You can learn about the requirements, and how to use Dark Mode here." A link to an article titled "How to Use Dark Mode on Your Mac" followed. That's it? Are you not going to walk me through this, Apple?
The third platform I used is the Apple Support App that I downloaded on my iPhone. This time, I wanted to know how to disable automatic system updates. After navigating through Apple's archive of help articles on the app, I couldn't find anything that specifically outlined how to switch off unauthorized updates. But to be fair, Apple's excellent live chat and phone support — brimming with helpful, human agents — eliminates the time-wasting burden of writing an article for every single possible question that could pop up in a customer's mind.
Brandon, a top-notch tech-support agent from St. Louis, provided me with smooth-sailing guidance when I asked for help with disabling automatic system updates. At 8:20 a.m. EST, using a remote screen-sharing service, the friendly agent articulately guided me through ticking off the automatic updates box. On top of that, Brandon spotted that my time zone was incorrect, so he volunteered an extra 2 minutes of help to provide instructions on how to rectify this issue. Bravo, Brandon! My chat lasted no more than 10 minutes.
My experience with Amir, on the other hand, was mediocre. He was friendly, but a little disoriented. When he asked me for my name, he forgot it a few seconds later and called me "Ashley." He apologized and said, "It's been a long day."
At 1:34 p.m. EST, I asked Amir to help me install the new Microsoft Edge browser. He seemed to be in disbelief that I would need help with such a simple task. He asked, "Did you have issues downloading it from the App Store?" What Amir didn't know, though, is that one cannot download Microsoft Edge from the App Store.
Amir, still radiating a warm and friendly aura, inaccurately guided me to the App Store to download Microsoft Edge through the remote screen-sharing service. Realizing the flub, he then instructed me to click on Safari to search for Microsoft Edge. From there, he helped me install the new Microsoft Edge browser. My call with Amir lasted 10 minutes and 12 seconds.
Tiffany — a Virginia-based tech agent — may deter Apple from climbing to the top of the list in our 2020 Tech Support Showdown. She was my quickest phone call as 4 minutes just whizzed by, but this isn't praiseworthy; Tiffany was rushing me off the phone.
When Tiffany first picked up my call at 5:17 p.m. EST, she was having some witty banter with a nearby co-worker. When I said "Hello?" there was some silence for a few seconds, and then Talkative Tiffany suddenly transformed into Tactful Tiffany. She code-switched into her professional voice and began her customer service script. Tiffany wasn't as friendly and warm as Amir and Brandon, but she wasn't impolite, either. I'd describe her as "brusque."
I asked her how to turn on Dark Mode, and she hastily blitzed through the process. She was right on the money with her guidance, but I wish she didn't have such a "hurry up, you're wasting my time" tone. Tiffany's impatience with an undercover spy (who happens to be one of this year's judges on Laptop Mag's Tech Support Showdown panel) may knock Apple off its undefeated pedestal.
Apple will swoop in and save the day with free telephone technical support, but only within the first 90 days of product ownership. If you need an Apple agent to be your helpful hero beyond that time frame, you'll have to pay up. Through AppleCare+ (formerly known as AppleCare Protection), you can lock down three years of telephone support coverage and hardware service. For $99, you can secure coverage for screen and external closure damages, and for $299, you can snag coverage for other blows to your laptop.
Once you've snagged AppleCare+ coverage for your device, you can find out how much time is left on your plan with our Apple Warranty Check guide.
This year, the calls I made to Apple started off with a bang with a fantastic Missouri-based tech support agent, but my satisfaction plummeted into disappointment due to the lack of professionalism that emanated from my rushed chitchat with Tiffany.
This year, the average call time increased by 3 minutes and 22 seconds, but my experience with Tiffany proves that a speedier phone call does not lead to better customer service. For example, although Amir struggled slightly in the beginning providing accurate instructions, his friendly personality and willingness to help made his service charming — I even forgot that he misremembered my name.
If Apple wishes to shoot for a higher score in 2021, I'd make an out-of-the-ordinary suggestion to the tech giant: increase employee morale to re-energize tech support agents, especially those in call centers. Though Brandon had a lively energetic tone, Amir commented that he had a "long day" and Tiffany seemed disengaged and aloof.
Despite a few hiccups, Apple's tech support is solid. At first, I was hesitant about allowing a tech agent to remotely access my MacBook Air, but this shared-screen service ended up being my favorite part of the process. With a few tweaks, Apple could reach the pinnacle of tech-support perfection.