Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“Apple, Customer Service; Customer Service…”

Apple’s MobileMe services, including the various web hosting services associated with homepage.[mac|me].com were shutdown at the start of this month. Apple, a company that has built data centers the size of small towns to support its iCloud Internet services, appears not to have been able to find any resources to keep its existing Internet services going (even after spending years integrating “dot mac”/“Mobile Me” publishing into their various content production/manipulation apps). In the lead-up to shutting down their web hosting service, they were also incapable of providing customers with support for a service as fundamental as setting-up HTTP 303 permanent redirects, so that users’ browsers and search engine crawlers, alike, could be told where all those displaced web pages had gone to.

Apple’s best advice was “associate a custom domain with your homepage well in advance, then change where that domain points at the switchover.” A sound approach as far as it goes (it does nothing to address the loss of some features dot mac customers have been accustomed to for many years), but “dot mac”/”Mobile Me” was supposed to be web hosting for the rest of us – and I think that’s a bit much for many of the “rest of us,” especially if you’ve taken a fresh-eyed look at the home pages of the various domain registrars and web hosting companies – they’re an undifferentiated hell of “do this,” “do that” advertisements for their own mess of conflated/conjoined services. And some of the user experiences behind those sign-up buttons stop me cold, even when they don’t appear to lead into a trap or scam … and I’m one of the people who knows what they’re doing, at least in principle. (Figuring out how to just get services A and B out of companies intent on selling you the world and/or the Brooklyn Bridge is another matter.)

So, Apple’s paying customers are cutoff (if that’s how they’ve decided to treat their paying customers…), chucked out of the confines of the walled garden of dot mac, and granted their freedom in the middle of an unmapped swamp stretching from horizon to horizon. A review of basic customer service principles, and a reading of The Paradox of Choice, seems overdue in Cupertino. Better late than never.

(Sure, lots of companies do worse to their customers everyday, and I feel no need to criticize them for two reasons: in most cases I don’t even know about those incidents, and that’s because I select companies like Apple to deal with … firms that repay any extra up-front costs with the quality of their products or services in the long run. You know … usually … in principle. Which reminds me: Hey, Apple, Mac OS X 10.7 still doesn’t support your own RAID drivers! Screw your Pro users. Maximize the disk I/O performance bottleneck. WTF?)