Since the return of "Steve" 12 years ago, Apple’s success has rested on its ability to innovate, from 1” thin aluminum laptops, to revolutionary mp3 players, to the re-invention of the mobile phone.
As a result of all of this innovation and great products, we as consumers were willing to put up with the obvious gaps in customer service that has become part of the Apple brand, or the faults with first generation products (I still have the burns from my overheating first generation MacBook Pro).
We’ve given Apple the benefit of the doubt, because they’ve always pushed the boundaries. However, if you look at Apple over the past two years or so, there hasn't been a lot of innovation. There has been the illusion of innovation with press conferences dedicated to uni-body laptop construction, new colors of iPods and new apps for the iPhone.
When you pull back the marketing veil that Apple has used so well with its product announcements, you have to admit that real innovation last occurred in Cupertino with the first generation iPhone and MacBook Air. Everything since have been iterations at best, and at worst, fixing things that should have been done right in the first place (iPhone 3GS software, anyone?).
Given that product innovation seems to have slowed, I believe the arrogance that often surrounds Apple's customer service has to go too.
For example, if you buy a product from an Apple store and want to return it, you’ll likely be charged a 10% re-stocking fee. There will be no fee if you buy the same Apple product at Best Buy and return it.
Unhappy with an app you buy on iTunes? Good luck resolving your issue. Apple will sell you the app but will not help you solve a dispute (or at least I can’t find a way to do it).
So with the drop-off in innovation, are customers going to start expecting more from Apple's customer service, or are we going to continue to let Apple off the hook because their stores look cool and their products are still hip (but expensive)?
Based on Apple's latest financial results, it is the latter. We will continue to drink at the fountain of "cool" even if it costs a lot and the service sucks. It is a shame because Apple could give us both great products and great service if they wanted to and really show everyone else how it should be done!