Apple authorizes hundreds of new Best Buy stores to repair Macs and iPhones
In a very un-Apple-like way, Apple announced with moderate fanfare that it’s authorized nearly 1,000 new Best Buy stores across the United States to serve as on-site service centers for its Mac personal computers and iPhones. The expansion gives small businesses and consumers an alternative to going to Apple stores.
The Lowdown: The reason the announcement is “un-Apple-like” is because Apple is often quiet about its repair and maintenance partnerships. And, of course, Apple and Best Buy have long partnered on product sales and service, which makes the elevated notice somewhat more suspect.
According to the Apple statement, the expanded arrangement means Best Buy’s Geek Squad has the ability to provide in-store support for maintenance issues ranging from software updates and screen replacements to hardware fixes. The intent, Apple says, is to shorten the repair times and improve user experiences.
The Details: Behind the service and repair program is Geek Squad, a longtime provider of Apple support and maintenance. Apple says Geek Squad has more than 7,600 trained and certified Apple technicians “ready to make same-day iPhone repairs or to service other Apple products.”
The subtle caveat – “or to service” – is a wrinkle in the details, as discovered by ZDNet. A writer from the online publication went to Best Buy to see how the program works, given that Apple made a big deal of the service relationship expansion. The Geek Squad rep said he could “likely” get same-day in-store iPhone repair service, but Macs are sent to a repair center in Kentucky. The turnaround time on devices sent to “Geek Squad City”: two to four weeks.
Conversely, Apple is stepping up repair service times at its retail stores. With the recent spate of Mac keyboard malfunctions, Apple promised to reduce repair times from five days to one by making in-store repairs possible.
The Impact: ZDNet speculates that Apple is trying to take the pressure off its oft-crowded retail stores, which serve as the primary source of authorized maintenance and repair services. In the Best Buy announcement, Apple made an unusual note of how it also has more than 1,800 third-party authorized repair partners across the United States. Apple said, “Eight out of ten Apple customers will be within 20 minutes of an authorized service provider.”
Of late, the shine has worn off the reputation of Apple’s product quality, as issues have cropped up with personal computers and smartphones. The expanded Best Buy relationship may signal Apple has maintenance capacity issues and needs to enlist more channel partners to handle the load.
Background: Again, the Best Buy expansion isn’t unusual, as the partnership between the two companies already existed. Apple has long leaned on third-party service providers to support its products used by consumers and businesses alike. Over the years, Apple has enlisted the support of service provider networks such as the former OnForce, as well as regional and local resellers and MSPs. Over the past two years, Apple has pressed into the B2B market with its “Apple at Work” program, which aims to sell products to businesses through direct and select indirect channel partners.
The Buzz: “At Apple, we’re dedicated to providing the best customer service in the world,” said Tara Bunch, Apple’s vice president of AppleCare. “If a customer ever needs to repair their products, we want them to feel confident those repairs are done safely and correctly. We’re always looking at how we can reliably expand our network of trained technicians, and we’re excited to partner with every Best Buy store so it’s even easier for our customers to find an authorized repair location near them.”
“We love being there for our customers no matter what their Apple need is, from helping them choose the right device to offering AppleCare protection and now helping fix their devices,” said Best Buy’s Trish Walker, president of Services. “We’ve always enjoyed a great partnership with Apple, and we’re thrilled that, together, we can better serve our customers.”
“Clearly, Apple wants to expand repair possibilities and make Apple stores feel slightly emptier. Best Buy, on the other hand, can often feel quite cavernous. So a few more people wandering in surely wouldn’t hurt,” wrote ZDNet writer Chris Matyszczyk. “Yet if you live near an Apple store, there’s still the reassurance that you might get your repairs done there more quickly than if your machine has to be sent to Kentucky.”