Think back to that time you had to call Apple Support for service on a product. The person who answered the phone with “this is Steve, how may I help you.”
According to CNN, Steve Jobs did indeed on occasion jump in and field some calls on the support line.
Steve Jobs took customer service seriously, which was a part of Apple’s business for which he exercised a great deal of care and detail. He read emails about broken laptops and at times intervened on support calls.
When a customer asked Jobs via email in 2008 why BlackBerry owners could tether their phones to their computers for wireless Internet access but the same could not be done with an iPhone, Jobs wrote, “We agree, and are discussing it with ATT.” The feature eventually came.
Asked about tethering an iPhone to an iPad on AT&T, Jobs replied only, “No.”
Job’s reputation for responding to customer e-mails made his inbox a bulls eye for customers looking to leap over supervisors to get broken computers replaced and a sometimes a rather generous credit for service outages. This approach increased as Apple’s customer base grew.
Apple took notice and repurposed the messages to be used as data points for internal use, evidenced by a graph charting customer complaints about the ill-fated Internet service, MobileMe
A search on Google shows lots of stories about the times when an e-mail to Jobs yielded a phone call from an executive support team and an outcome that far exceeded reasonable expectations. In 1999, a customer got his G4 Tower desktop repaired after an e-mail to Jobs resulted in a phone call from the “mysterious Executive Relations team.”
In 2001, a student software developer was told by Apple support that, despite his sob story about dropping the hard drive connected to his laptop causing damage, they couldn’t resolve an issue that resulted from physical abuse. After writing to the CEO, he got a call from one of Jobs’ associates who asked him several questions and then tempered his expectations by saying similarly that he did not meet the standards for a comped repair.
But a month passed after he took his computer in for repairs, and there was still no charge from Apple. The customer recalled on an Internet message board: “I contacted the support people, and they said the charges had been waived by ‘someone higher up.’ Uncle Steve must be smiling on me.”
Jobs would not always grant customers’ wishes, and he certainly did not buy into the standard saying that “the customer is always right.” Once, a customer complaining about Apple not honoring its warranty for his computer received the following response from Jobs in 2008: “This is what happens when your MacBook Pro sustains water damage. They are pro machines and they don’t like water. It sounds like you’re just looking for someone to get mad at other than yourself.”
Jobs didn’t often pick up the phone to go back and forth with customers, but at least one Apple customer, recalls a time when an e-mail to Jobs, explaining how there seemed to be no end in sight to his wait for a computer repair, was met with a phone call.
“Hi Scott, this is Steve,” Steckley recalled hearing from the other end of the phone.
“Steve Jobs?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Jobs said. “I just wanted to apologize for your incredibly long wait. It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just one of those things.”
“Yeah, I understand.”
Then Jobs explained that he expedited the repair. “I also wanted to thank you for your support of Apple,” Jobs said. “I see how much equipment you own. It really makes my day to see someone who enjoys our products so much and who supports us in the good times and bad.”
I wonder how many customers knew it was Steve on the line or just thought of him as just another service rep.