The people staffing Apple’s Genius Bar, the company’s in-store customer support center, seem like an affable lot. That doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of battle stories. When I interviewed former Genius Aaron Epperson, a two-and-a-half year Apple Store veteran who left the company about a year ago, and asked what he wished customers knew before they came in for help, he had plenty of suggestions. So the next time something goes wrong with your Apple gear, keep his tips in mind:
1. Start with the “person on point”
“It’s better to look at an Apple Store more like a car dealership, due to the fact that it has a retail section where you can buy technology, but it also has a very large service department, which is what the Genius Bar really is,” says Epperson.
Regardless of whether you need help buying or fixing a computer, start with the “person on point”—especially because if you try getting assistance from another staffer, they’re just going to lead you back to one of these workers anyway. The person (or people) on point are typically positioned by the doors, have an iPad in their hands, and have their heads up as they look around for customers to help. It’s their job to direct you to the best person on the floor for your particular need.
2. Make an appointment
If it’s at all possible to make an appointment in advance, you should. By not having to sit, wait, and watch others get helped ahead of you, it helps to alleviate a major frustration of getting tech support—all the time it can take. As you might expect from Apple, there’s an art and science around how the company schedules its Genius appointments. “Each Genius, if they’re working on computers, they’re seeing an appointment every 15 minutes, and then they’re taking a mobile appointment—an iPhone or iPad problem—every 10 minutes.” says Epperson. “There’s tricks to keeping everybody on time, but really as a customer you’re shoving yourself into a system that revolves around a schedule.”
3. Always back up your data
If Epperson had just one tip, this would be it. Apple users frequently come into the store without backing up their phone or computer’s hard drives, and the only fix to the problem is factory restoring the device. In these instances, all the data on the device is lost. “To be frank, it’s not the responsibility of anyone but you to have protected your data,” he says.
Going back to the car analogy, “if you own a car, you do an oil change,” says Epperson. “If you own a computer, you need to understand what your data is, and the proper ways to keep that data, should something happen to it.” So whether it’s on an external drive by using Apple’s Time Machine backup feature or remote backup through iCloud, make sure your data is duplicated.
4. Leave your computer expert friend at home
Everybody has the boyfriend, the cousin or the uncle who knows everything about computers. Leave them at home, says Epperson. “I’ve seen this happen at the Genius Bar where a girl will come in with her boyfriend who’s all ‘I built a computer from scratch one time using a toothpick.’ And you’re like, ‘Cool story! But this is the context of the situation, and these are the tools I have.’” Ultimately, having an outside “expert” hovering overhead will just gum up the process and make your repair take longer.
5. Keep in mind that it’s a tough job
While Epperson loved his time at Apple, he says the job can be difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the biggest pressure Geniuses feel is not wanting to make a mistake or misdiagnose a repair. It not only means the problem will take longer to fix, but it also drains the resources of the team.
Secondly, keeping calm can be a challenge. “While everyone thinks of Geniuses as tech people—and they are—it’s also a super-social job,” he says. Few customers realize that Geniuses have asked “Hi, how are you? Are you having a good day?” maybe a hundred times on any given day. To decompress after his shift was over, Epperson would go home, go to his room and not talk to anyone. “You’re paid to be the face of Apple, a happy person who’s there to help people solve their problems, and that’s fun, but it’s also draining.”
6. Try these quick fixes first
Before making an appointment, first try these easy possible solutions:
Unresponsive iPhone or iPad: Hold down both the sleep/wake and menu buttons simultaneously. This will perform a “force” restart of your device. Note: It might take as long as two minutes to work.
What to do after a “thermal event”: Overheating phones are common in summertime. Once the iPhone has cooled off, use it less often for about a day. Also, shut it down for at least 30 seconds and restart it to get its processor back and working properly.
Problematic apps: Double-tap the home button and swipe the app up to quit it. If the program continues to act up, delete and reload it. (If the app or game has data, make sure to back it up using iCloud or Game Center).
Glitchy computer: Shut the system down and then hold down the “D” key while starting it up. This will launch Diagnostics mode, which can tell you a great deal about what’s going on inside your computer.
Battery issue: “Batteries are designed to be discharged and recharged,” says Epperson. He recommends you run your battery down to at least 20% each week, then fully recharging it.
7. Take your anger elsewhere
Tech can be very frustrating, but taking that out on Apple Geniuses isn’t going to help you at all. In Epperson’s experience, a lot of his fellow Geniuses truly just wanted to help solve customers’ problems. “No one was ever out for the customer,” he says. “So directing anger at the employee isn’t going to get you very far.” In fact, though he admits it sounds sappy, he’s had several experiences as a Genius that were very touching. For instance, he once helped a 74-year-old woman with her computer, and that device was the only way she could stay in touch with her children and grandchildren in the U.K.