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Apple VP departs amidst Apple Care reorganization

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
The top dog of Apple customer support has exited the company ahead of significant changes to the struggling program.

Mark Wilhelm, former Vice President of Apple Care, has left Apple Computer, AppleInsider has learned.

Sources close to the computer maker said that Wilhelm parted ties with the company last Monday. AppleInsider later positively confirmed his departure through two independent sources, despite Apple's refusal to comment on the subject.

Wilhelm's departure comes amongst a major restructuring of the company's Apple Care customer support division, which sources said would be put into effect sometime this week.

A downsizing of Apple call centers is expected to follow the restructuring, as the company continues to outsource its customer support to locations in India, Holland and the United Kingdom.

It's unclear if Wilhelm departed from Apple on his own terms, or if he was forced out of the company. However, speaking to AppleInsider under anonymity, one source said that Wilhem was 'let go.'

Migrating to Apple from NeXT Software, which Apple acquired in 1996, Wilhelm climbed the corporate ladder to become vice president of Apple Care--a title he held for at least two and a half years. But unlike the company's prosperous iPod and retail divisions, Apple Care has been described by sources as 'a mess' that continues to underperform in terms of profitability.

Like several members of Apple's executive team who have recently cashed-in while riding the success of the company's recent stock surge, Wilhelm too stands to gain a pretty penny from options garnered throughout his tenure at Apple.

According to sources with ties to the computer maker, Wilhelm is likely to be succeeded by Farrel Farhoudi, a close associate who has recently acted as director of Apple Care's business development.

Neither Apple, nor Mr. Farhoudi were willing to comment on Wilhelm's replacement.
post #2 of 14
outsourcing customer support is a really great way to show you care. :P

customer support means having someone with skill and knowledge giving customers solutions, not just have some trained robot read a manual back at them. nor should it just be seen as another avenue to pursue profit.
post #3 of 14
The American consumer is ultimately responsible for the downturn in customer support. Whether because of socioeconomic realities of the last thirty years or some other motivation, low prices has trumped customer support. Call it the "WalMarting of America".
post #4 of 14
Global outsourcing is a modern trend, and not just for Apple. The company I work at has essentially outsourced our first level IT support to India. If we have a problem, we need to either email or call the "global helpdesk," who either fixes the problem remotely, or kicks it up to second level support, where someone from the local IT group (in my case, two cube rows over) comes around to address it.

I'm not saying I like or agree with it. It's extremely frustrating to have to call an international number, and be put on hold and subjected to Indian music, when our on-site IT guys are within shouting distance of my cube. But it is a reality of modern business, and Apple isn't the only one doing it.
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post #5 of 14
One observation that may be more a matter of perception and not based upon factual documents is that Apple isn't centralizing its outsourcing.

It appears to be outsourcing to three regions it most certainly could gain in marketshare with having local support available.

I may be stretching on this but mindshare in Holland is a long stronger when it is supported in Holland and not from the U.S. exclusively. The same for the U.K. and India.
post #6 of 14
I may be wrong, but it may not be the management of AppleCare that's causing poor revenues. With all the repairs Apple has needed to perform (I speak of iBook logic board replacements), this may well be a factor in computing its profitability.

Fortunately for me, I live relatively close to an Apple Store. The people at the genius bar have graciously offered any support I've needed at no cost.
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post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally posted by mdriftmeyer
One observation that may be more a matter of perception and not based upon factual documents is that Apple isn't centralizing its outsourcing.

It appears to be outsourcing to three regions it most certainly could gain in marketshare with having local support available.

I may be stretching on this but mindshare in Holland is a long stronger when it is supported in Holland and not from the U.S. exclusively. The same for the U.K. and India.

Actually studies in economic geography (ie the flow, distribution and localisation of economy and things closely tied to it) shows that this is a large factor for companies when outsourcing. Except getting access to new labour wich for diffrent reasons require less money, plus in some cases less taxes (can be negotiated in cases where it really shouldn't be so) more profitable goverment grants and so on.
post #8 of 14
For me "outsourcing" your customer care is not the smartest move a company can make, especially when you want repeat customers. The people you get on the phone will work for another company and, in my experience, their goal is to get you off the phone as fast as possible - that is the way THEIR company makes money.

The few times I have had to call Apple I have been connected to an Apple employee who worked hard to take care of me. An hidden benefit was that he was selling Apple as a company and Apple products through good service.

I believe that Apple, more than any other computer or tech company, benefits from their employees working customers through problems. It helps build that special relationship that Apple enjoys with their mac lovers.

Localized support can also be important in building that relationship. When Apple establishes a significant market somewhere, like the UK, then there is a benefit in providing localized support with Apple employees. Part of the benefit is easier communication (accents can be a problem at times) and part is cultural understanding.

For a Mac user with a problem customer care is just as important as design, OS X or iLife. I would hope that Apple would be as aggressive in being the best in this area as they are in the visual areas. Outsourcing is the equivalent of Apple moving to Windows.
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post #9 of 14
You would think this, but I am sad to say that it isn't true.

I have had many problems with Apple's tech support. While they may make great products, there customer support isn't the greatest. And outsourcing it isn't the way to make it any better.

I mean, what is wrong with just keeping your customer support locally and training them to be the best. I realize that it may cost more, but the benefits are huge.

Happy customers are repeat customers. And repeat customers bring in new customers by recommending the company to their friends.
post #10 of 14
Why does Applecare have to be "profitable"? Are repeat purchases a factor in determining Applecare's "profitability"?

Hint to Apple: You want Applecare to be more profitable? Then make your products more durable and dependable. Duh.
post #11 of 14
I have to agree with the last comment. Surely the "profitability " of one's care setup must have the reliability of the product as one major factor. I think that the "UK" care operation, which I have used recently, is like the store in Ireland - either that or they only employ Irish staff!
The service I received was patient and helpful - even if it took a 45 minute phone call - a 2nd level referral was needed to authorise a new part for my iMac G5. Perhaps speedier analysis would cut costs if throughput of calls is another benchmark?
post #12 of 14
No, that's not it at all. AppleCare is a division of Apple. AppleCare is ONLY call center stuff. So the amount of product sold has nothing to do with the tech support people who work in the AppleCare dept. Why do you think tech support people try to sell you stuff when you call? Because they are forced to so the dept. can profit in order to run. Obviously, not working as tech support people aren't sales people. But, that's why they need "profit."
post #13 of 14
AppleCare should not be outsourced to India for US and Canadian customers. As a product that commands a premium price in the market (and also enjoys top tech-support ratings) it risks those top consumer ratings by shipping that essential function offshore.

This is not a political or globalization-correct observation: in my calls to Indian tech support call centers, 95% have been utterly useless due to communication barriers. Also, the agents did not have adequate technical training. Using an American name and taking a course that attempts to minimize your native Indian accent does not qualify you to provide quality tech support to this geographical area.

Enterprise (i.e., higher-paying) hardware and software buyers have forced vendors such as Dell to move their tech support back stateside. The average individual consumer of Dell, HP, or Compaq products is forced to accept inferior Indian tech support. Tech support is a drag on the bottom line- too often, management wants customers with problems to go away and find solutions themselves.

Apple would throw away their superior (deserved or not) tech support ratings by focusing on the bottom line while ignoring customer satisfaction.
post #14 of 14
I probably won't buy AppleCare with my next Mac and instead switch to buying replacement Macs more often. That means my current plan to replace this iMac I have in 2007 gets bumped to 2006.
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