It is a dilemma talking about Apple and customer satisfaction. The most recent numbers that I can find show that Apple has topped the survey of user satisfaction for the eighth time in a row and set a record in the process. That should be the end of the story, but it isn't.
Even if you look at automobiles, Apple's customer satisfaction numbers are stunning in comparison.
So why bother writing about Apple and customer satisfaction. It's simple. As a former Apple manager, I know that Apple could do a lot better.
There is a trend in the technology industry for companies to be unreachable. Whatever you think about Apple's Genius Bar, it is an effort to put an Apple face on help. It is a great idea, and for the most part I think it has worked very well.
Unfortunately Genius bars aren't available everywhere. Don't bother quoting me the statistics on the percentage of the US population that lives within fifty miles of an Apple Store, it is irrelevant if you're in an area without one like I am.
I certainly don't expect Apple to put a Genius Bar in the middle of North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. Even with our population swelling in the summer time, it is not economically feasible. However, we are not the only place around the world which doesn't have an Apple badged person nearby.
If Apple wants to get to the next level of service, Apple needs to start investing in online help well beyond what is available in their support forums. I was recently faced with the problem of "slow Snow Leopard." I could find nothing in the support forums about the problem.
The problem was bad enough that I tried doing a clean system reinstall but my Snow Leopard DVD would not boot. I finally found a website with some suggestions and managed to get my boot time under 12 minutes. Of course that didn't happen before I ended up installing Lion on a new external drive.
While I was trying to resolve this issue I had a long time Mac user get in touch with me about her problems trying to keep her .Mac email. There was really almost nothing I could do for her because her MacBook Pro was too old for iCloud. She ended up going to Gmail.
I finally managed to migrate most of our family MobileMe email addresses, but I had to do it by trial and error. There was no decent document on the migration, and I came across some interesting surprises when I did migrate. This isn't the way a company that wants to remain at the top of customer satisfaction should behave.
I continue to be surprised and pleased by the ingenuity of Apple users in figuring out things that Apple has chosen to hide. The library folder in Lion is just one item on the list.
The missing library folder brings me straight to Lion which has been a real disappointment. One of the things that I used to love about Mac OS X was its simplicity. Lion certainly isn't simple. I've been a Mac user from the beginning, and this is the first time that I have ever felt the user interface was a little bit out of control.
There are just too many options. It is really scary when I find the user interface on my latest version of Ubuntu Linux more user friendly than Lion. It is not that Lion is a bad product like Vista was, it just needs some simplification.
Then there is iPhoto which is a dead horse that I don't enjoy beating. However, I cannot believe that the current iPhoto user interface is more productive than the earlier ones done when Steve was paying attention. Picasa certainly does not have a pretty user interface, but hands down it is better organized and more productive than iPhoto.
Picasa also doesn't crash. I created a new iPhoto album when I installed Lion on an external hard drive. The library only has a couple of memory cards of photos plus the ones Apple decided to move from MobileMe to my new iPhoto library. I have had iPhoto on Lion crash at least three times in the last two weeks. Recently I shared a photo to Facebook using iPhoto. As I was sharing it, I got a message that iPhoto had removed a Foursquare album from Facebook. Facebook is squirrely enough without iPhoto adding to the confusion.
One of the things that really stings me is when I try go to the blog which I published with iWeb, I get this message. It is just a reminder that Apple did not want to spend any resources keeping legacy sites and photos viable.
I'm sure that most Apple users would be stunned by my assertion that Windows 7 is a better operating system than Mac OSX. It might not be prettier, but it always works in my experience.
The one key thing that those of us who have been inside Apple worry about with Steve's death is the high probability that Apple's culture cannot generate strong leaders because few Apple employees ever had real decision making power when Steve was around.
Lion, the iCloud migration, and the dumbing down of iPhoto lead me to believe that Apple doesn't have the product leadership that it needs to deliver real customer satisfaction.
There are only a few ways to get really good products. One is to have a genius like Steve Jobs. The other is have brilliant, motivated engineers listen to some really smart customers and make some tough decisions as to what you are going to deliver. I'm not sure Apple's culture allows the amount of cutomer contact needed to bring customers back into the product development loop.
I cannot believe that anyone who takes more than a handful of photos would be satisfied with Apple's iCloud photostream. I can only surmise that they let some engineers who are hardly ever out of Starship Apple make the decisions on photostream. They must have no life outside of Apple and you certainly aren't going to be taking many pictures at Apple.
In spite of its money and market clout, Apple cannot be everything to everyone. One thing Steve Jobs preached was the necessity of saying "No." Apple currently has enthusiastic customers with unquestioning love for Apple products. It is a window of opportunity to make the changes that need to be made.
My recent experiences lead me to believe that the changes are not happening at Apple. Apple has to re-invent its leadership culture to find its way to continued success in the next ten years. Risk taking and saying no at the appropriate time must find their back into Apple.
Some folks might think Apple's MacBook Pro Retina display is a wonderful boondoogle, but I just see it as something 99% of computer users don't need. I know the life blood of Apple is new products but I wonder about the true usefulness of the Retina display.
I would rather see a rock solid operating system, apps that never crash and a 15" laptop that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
However, we know when Apple shows users something new and better, a certain percentage will buy it, and Apple will bank even more money. I could be completely wrong about the Retina display. Maybe everyone will want one, but I'm guessing that might be in three or four years.
Perhaps I will feel different after Mountain Lion ships. An Apple user is a lot like a fisherman. We never know exactly what we are going to catch or when we will catch it, but we remain ever hopeful.
I'm digging into the iBook Author program in the next few days. I will soon have some comments on the difference in writing for an iPad and a Kindle. I have just published my first Kindle book, "A Week at the Beach, An Emerald Isle Travel Guide." I've just started work on the iPad version.
The book on my nearly 20 year career at Apple is going through one last round of edits. I hope to have it published on the Kindle by mid-August.
That is it from the Crystal Coast where I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mountain Lion and a few schools of fish. The summer weather is as it should be, and there isn't much traffic of any kind out beyond the yellow houses on the Point.