I was up at 5am yesterday and tried to pre-order the iPhone before my morning workout with no luck (my buddy Dan highlights the universal frustration with the pre-order process here). Error after error message I slowly broke down and decided to drag my butt to the Apple store after all I needed to get my MacBook Pro battery checked anyway.
Trips to the Apple store used to be a joyous moment. Fancy toys, good service & zero chaos. And then the iPhone happened. It used to be that only us geeks had iPhones but now everyone and their brother has an iPhone, iPad, MacBook or other Mac related product and it shows. No matter what time of day you go to an Apple store it is pure hell. People and kids running everywhere, grandma getting ever feature of her new iPhone explained to her and every Genius Bar appointment is booked for days in advance by people trying to figure out where the button is on their Magic Mouse.
As I was standing in the store looking around in circles trying to find someone to ask about getting my battery checked (a 3 minute check) I realized that the Apple Store I knew and loved is no more. I snagged an employee and asked to get my battery checked and she informed me that there were no more Genius appointments open today and they didn’t have time to check my battery. Holding back my frustration I then asked her if I could buy an iPhone3Gs for my girlfriend since I had just broke her 3G when she kindly informs me that I needed to check-in with an employee up front who would then put me in line with a customer service rep to help me out. So not only did I have to make an appointment to get my battery checked but had to essentially get an appointment to actually buy something. Unbelievable.
It’s pretty evident that the Apple brand has outgrown the Apple Store and w/o adjustments I’m predicting Apple customer service going through the same pain points that ended up hindering Microsoft and Dell in the eyes of the consumer.