Apple’s Battery Replacement Issues

As we have discussed for weeks now, Apple recently admitted to cutting their capacity after reducing performance in older phones. Although some users argue that the issue was created by Apple in order to force its users to purchase new phones, Apple argues that it “curtailed computing power of some models to prevent unexpected shutdowns”. The complications arise for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus users who were all encouraged to call Apple Support to reserve a battery replacement before visiting a nearby Apple Store. The replacement process seemed easy and quick from its simple instructions, but customers quickly discovered the constraints to repair as they suffered through the bottleneck problem.

When a customer comes across an issue with their Apple product, they are prompted to either call Apple Support, email in a request, or schedule an appointment at the Apple Store itself. Apple even has a live chat option available for immediate customer support at certain hours of the day. Personally, when I face an issue with my Apple products I can easily get into contact with support in some form; whether it be via email with a response in just a few hours or via phone with a 2-3-minute wait. However, customers in need of a battery replacement are waiting 7+ minutes on the phone just to get in contact with an Apple specialist. One customer exclaimed that he waited 10 minutes while listening to the music repeat until the phone call dropped before reaching Apple’s Genius Bar. If the phone call is successful, the customer then is able to schedule an in-store appointment, which may take days to weeks to schedule in itself. Users were once told that after scheduling the appointment, they would receive the battery upon arrival. Then depending on what type of phone they have determines the immediacy in which they would receive their battery. iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus users are not receiving batteries for weeks up to months. In January, Apple announced to the general public that batteries would not be available until April; leaving many people with a broken phone and even prompting some to transfer to Samsung phones. I have detailed the process in the visual diagram below, and I have estimated the times for each step. Where is the bottleneck? What is the throughput time?

Apple attributes its issues to the fact that they have stopped manufacturing the iPhone 6 series (6 Plus and 6s Plus), so therefore the battery supply is limited. It is important to note Apple’s time strategy here when it comes to production. Apple focuses on one to two generations at once. Once a new generation of a product is created it quickly ends operations with the past generation to reduce costs and focus productivity on the newer processes.

It is evident that Apple did not consider its bottleneck flows, as they are nowhere near equal to the market demand and are facing large backlash from its customers. Life-long users are criticizing the company for its mistakes, lies, and lack of prompt support. In an attempt to appease its customers, Apple offered a price cut in “out-of-warranty” battery replacements from $29 to $79, but what impact does the price have on anything if customers cannot receive the battery for months?

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/02/20/getting-a-new-iphone-battery-is-often-a-frustrating-weeks-long-process/?utm_term=.12f0f5c69f57

https://global.factiva.com/redir/default.aspx?P=sa&an=WP00000020180221ee2l0000s&cat=a&ep=ASE

https://global.factiva.com/redir/default.aspx?P=sa&an=J000000020171221edcl0002c&cat=a&ep=ASE

14 thoughts on “Apple’s Battery Replacement Issues

  • February 27, 2018 at 9:15 pm
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    Great point and diagram, Marshea. The bottleneck looks to be the Apple specialists not picking up the phone in a prompt manner. As an Apple customer myself, I have dealt with that very issue. I cracked my phone to the point of no revival, so I tried to get an appointment with an Apple Store here in Richmond. I can’t remember the exact time it took to reach an Apple consultant, but it seemed like forever. This is a pressing issue that is causing Apple to lose market share to competitors like Samsung, so what can Apple do as a company to fix it?

    As we discussed in class, constraints are what causes the process to slow down. The Theory of Constraints outlines seven principles or consequences of bottlenecks. One part of the theory stood out to me in Apple’s situation, “an hour lost at a bottleneck or constrained resource is an hour lost for the whole system.” While having issues with iPhones, such as a faulty battery, the customers are faced with a multiple channel, multiple phase line. The customer calls in his/her problem, then he/she is led to a specialist on the phone, then to the store, and the problem is finally (hopefully) fixed. As a multiple phase, multiple channel line and being a big company like Apple, I think the only way to fix the bottleneck is to hire more employees. Losing customers due to efficiency in production is crucial to Apple’s image and profits, so hiring employees lower end employees like store and phone clerks should be worth it moving forward.

  • February 28, 2018 at 12:18 am
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    Apple is a personal favorite of mine, but it is hard to deny the fact that these battery issues are something that has been going on for years. I remember some friends and I used to joke around about how Apple should just remotely disable phones that are more than a generation old (i.e having an iPhone 6s right now) because their functionality is almost nonexistent. Nonetheless, Apple may not be as guilty as the media portrays them to be. This battery issue is an actual technical issue. This is not simply something that is done to increase sales, it is the result of a defective manufacturing process somewhere in their assembly line. Like you mentioned, Apple is generally well equipped to handle service issues. But, the process of dealing with the battery replacement issues is a different task. First, wait times may be longer because Apple needs to put people on the phone with customer service representatives who actually can explain the technical malfunction going on. Apple did not need these people readily available before, so trying to implement them into their already established customer service process may be difficult. I believe the constraint is that Apple does not have enough customer service representatives working at this dire time. Hiring more people seems like the easiest fix to this solution, because time in making or buying the correct batteries seems like it will not be remedied anytime soon.

  • February 28, 2018 at 3:29 pm
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    I’ve experienced issues with my battery of my iPhone 6s, but have been discouraged by customer reviews of the terrible service and long waits. Apple should try a different line system to help with the bottleneck in this scenario. If they used a single line, or one phone number, with more than one Apple specialist answering the calls, they would have a single line with multiple channels and a single phase. I’m sure they already have more than one person to answer the phones, but since the wait time to even get an answer and the possibility of having the call dropped are prevalent issues, they should have more resources and workers to answer the numerous calls. In addition, to deal with some of that phone traffic, Apple could list a few different numbers for callers to try, leading them to use a multiple line, single channel system. With these adjustments I still am not sure if Apple can fully recover from this event. The broken trust could be the last straw in a laundry list of problems with this company, pushing those sitting on the fence to purchase a phone from one of Apple’s competitors.

  • February 28, 2018 at 4:38 pm
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    To me, Apple’s decision to slow down the iPhone’s battery life is a very poor one. It is apparent that the company did not thoroughly think through this plan, as they seem to be unaware of the consequences for their actions becoming known to the public. There seems to be a bottleneck in the company’s ability connect customers with the appropriate Apple customer services staff in a timely manner. The company has a disconnect in supplying enough representatives in order to properly handle this issue (the demand in this case). As a result, customers with these battery issues are waiting on the phone for too long. To help alleviate this issue, Apple should first try to increase the number of employees responsible for dealing with this issue. Increasing the number of employees allows for the wait time to decrease, as more calls are being able to be processed at once.

  • February 28, 2018 at 8:59 pm
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    It seems to me that Apple clearly miscalculated the number of requests for iPhone battery repairs. Apple does not have the capacity to replace batteries at the rate the customers demand replacement. Since it was the first time Apple was offering to do this for customers, we can give them the benefit of the doubt that they miscalculated capacity needs. However, now that Apple has monthly figures of battery replacement requests, it should use those to figure out how much it will need to increase its capacity to meet customer demands. Another thing that Apple could do is to outsource the battery replacement process and its call center requirements to another company (maybe a year or two long contractual agreement) so Apple can focus on the tasks that it is used to performing. This outsourcing will also make the process more efficient because the other company or segment of another company will be focusing only on the task of taking battery replacement requests and replacing battery for customers. I do not agree with the option of hiring more workers because it means Apple will have to go through a very expensive recruitment and training process before it can allow these workers to respond to customer requests. Once the battery requests slow down, these newly hired workers will not be needed any more and might have to be laid off. Therefore, I do not understand the need to spend so much of Apple’s budget on workers who might be with Apple for a limited period of time. The following article talks about a number of advantage of outsourcing a process:
    https://www.flatworldsolutions.com/articles/benefits-of-outsourcing.php

    • February 28, 2018 at 9:42 pm
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      I think you offer a great idea that Apple may have in the workings, since they area do much of their production abroad. Potentially, it could cut down on the bottleneck at one of the last steps of waiting 2-3 months to wait for a battery replacement in the mail. I was actually unaware that Apple was hiring at a larger volume in order to meet demand for these issues (it seems like there are so many people who work for Apple whenever I’m in the Apple store!), and it could very much take away time and further effort towards solving the issue of providing enough batteries to meet demand. I am hoping though, that Apple takes this period to reflect on the vast amount of wasted batteries and work towards creating products that are meant to last durably for years. Most people can’t afford to upgrade to the newest technologies, and honestly, the newest models often offer updates that many people don’t actually need or use in their daily life. Offering a value deal to replace battery to improve PR and image is only a temporary band-aid, and Apple should strive for longevity in their products to reflect longevity as a company.

  • February 28, 2018 at 10:02 pm
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    This is an interesting case of bottleneck issues because the bottleneck does not occur in production but rather in the repair services that Apple offers for its products. The demand for the new Apple IPhone X is lower than expected and consumers are turning their backs to the newest phone options that run in the $1000 price range. “Smartphones now resemble the car industry very closely,” said Sean Cleland, director of mobile at B-Stock Solutions Inc., the world’s largest platform for trade-in and overstock phones, based in Redwood City, Calif. “I still want to drive a Mercedes, but I’ll wait a couple of years to buy the older model. Same mentality” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/your-love-of-your-old-smartphone-is-a-problem-for-apple-and-samsung-1519822801). The low demand for new the IPhone and better quality of former IPhone generations makes the customer want to hold onto the device he/she already appreciates and just replace the battery rather than buy a new phone. Demand for refurbished phones is soaring and Apple is not prepared to meet the demand of repair services, hence the waiting lines at the Genius Bar. During an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Chief Executive Tim Cook said last year’s update was designed to prevent users from having their phone power off during a call or while taking a photograph. He said Apple made the change to improve customers’ experience and that Apple disclosed the feature at the time, though, he said people may not have been paying attention. The company later apologized for the issue and slashed the price of an iPhone battery replacement to $29 from $79, hoping to win back customer goodwill (https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-facestwo-federal-probesover-iphone-battery-issue-1517348203).

  • February 28, 2018 at 10:12 pm
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    Great article, I really love talking about Apple because it is so prevalent in today’s world that it almost has an affect on every single human being. You assessed the customer service side of Apple’s business but I want to take a closer look at their internal production and how they are experiencing constraints in that area as well. Two of Apple’s major suppliers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co posted weak sales at the end of 2017 which sparked suspicion of Apple’s supply chain. https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-10-23/apple-losing-its-supply-chain-mojo-is-a-major-threat. Multiple component bottleneck were at fault for their delayed production. One in particular was the OLED feature on this year’s iPhone. Originally, Apple actually caught their miscalculation of production time which is why we were given both the iPhone 8 and iPhone x. The iPhone 8 is the iPhone x just without the OLED screen. This split alleviated the pressure and gave Apple a bit more time to catch up. To improve performance, Apple needs to continue buying more equipment at a faster pace to deploy in factories which will boost throughput. With customer’s already upset over their service quality they need to be actively assessing management to improve constraints in all areas.https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2017-10-23/apple-losing-its-supply-chain-mojo-is-a-major-threat

  • February 28, 2018 at 10:13 pm
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    As a loyal Apple customer myself, I am fairly pleased with how my service has been the past few years. The majority of my technology products are made by Apple and I have shared a significant amount of time with their customer representatives. I currently use all previous generation products and have had to recently make visits to the Genius Bar to fix the conflicts I was experiencing. Most relevantly, with my 2010 MacBook Pro, the cord connecting my laptop screen with my keyboard was not functioning properly. The wait for a service professional was seamless, but when he finally diagnosed my problem, he explained that it could take over a week to produce a new working part. I figured that because I had such an old computer that the parts would of course be difficult to come by. However, after pressuring the employee and explaining my dire need to have my product fixed, he went to the back and returned 25 minutes later with the new part and no questions asked. This may have been a special case, but it makes me wonder if Apple actually holds a private inventory of older parts. Yes, Apple caps production of outdated parts, but do they maintain a certain level of inventory for crisis scenarios? I think this is a very interesting question to ask management and see how their supply chain operations for older, outdated products actually is processed.

  • February 28, 2018 at 10:38 pm
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    Interestingly enough, I actually had the battery problem (and many other things) effect my phone, so I recently (in the past 2 weeks or so) decided to go to the Apple store to get it replaced. When I initially made the appointment, I was prompted to call in to order a new battery, but after waiting on hold for 10+ minutes and getting hung up on 3 times, I decided to head to the store to sort out my problems.
    Albeit, I think the diagram is very good (and I heavily agree with the phone call being a bottleneck), I would say another bottleneck actually occurs during the time in the store.
    While I was there, there was a 15 minute line just to check in to an appointments, then from there, I had to wait again at the help table area until someone could come and help me out (another 20+ minutes). Finally, I was sent to a second table in order to get everything sorted out, where I waited again for another 30+ minutes for a technician to come talk to me. Albeit in the end, I was lucky and I got a new phone for free, which only required another 30 mins of set up time, but other customers around me who were getting batteries replaced were told to come back as much as 4 hrs from the current time to pick up their phones.
    From this information, I would say the true bottleneck was the actual phone repair part of the process. Everything else was fairly evenly distributed, taking between 15 and 30 minutes from step to step, while the phone repair was incredibly long. This seemed to annoy a lot of people, and in the future, Apple needs to be very careful not to purposely hurt such a loyal customer base in order to keep them. All in all, the process was a long mess, but it is truly their fault in the first place, and hey, I got a free new phone.

  • March 1, 2018 at 12:04 am
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    In my experience with repairing apple products, the largest bottleneck is always with the laps time between scheduling an appointment and when that appointment is. The apple website is one of the more confusing websites on the internet because of all the various products and services it covers. Plainly searching for the link where you can make an appointment is tough to find, and then when you do, genius bar help is never in a convenient time. This bottleneck in service however does not affect Apple in a large way, because most apple customers will stick to apple products Apple has done a fantastic job since exploding in popularity with differentiating their products with other companies. Due to specific features such as facetime, I-message, and cyber security, most Apple product users will never stop being an Apple customer. In a WIRED article written by Jordan McMahon, Jordan explains that even with the scandal about I-phone batteries becoming more and more public, it is unlikely that Apple will change the way they function. The obvious change to apples services would to supple batter replacement kits for a discount, but Jordan explains that for years apple has lobbied against the “right-to-repair legislation, which allows third-party repair shops and typical customers to fix their broken products. This is important because without allowing third-party repair shops that products and techniques to fix apple products, It wont matter how bad the bottleneck in service is, because that’s the only place they can fix their product. This brings me to my other grievance about Apple, lack of supply. It has been very rare in my own experience that I go to an apple store and they have the product that I need. The majority of the time I get the response, “we will order it for you” or “we are getting a new shipment of that product soon”, with little to no precision of when I will get my product. It is clear that the consistent popularity of Apple products has changed the landscape of service in the companies favor, and minimized the impact of consumers opinion.
    https://support.apple.com
    https://www.wired.com/story/apple-iphone-battery-slow-down/

  • March 1, 2018 at 8:20 am
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    For as long as I can remember, I have been an Apple user. For the most part, I love the products, and I have no complaints; I truly feel that Apple products have altered my life positively to some extent. All that said, I am extremely disappointed with the company in this most recent issue. In an online note to the public and all of its customers after the issue was detected, Apple explained that their “customers’ trust means everything to” them (Here is a link to the entire online note: https://www.apple.com/iphone-battery-and-performance/). As a loyal customer, these comments truly feel like “slap in the face.” I feel like I have been cheated and taken advantage of by Apple; it is clear that they were more concerned about new sales and earnings rather than customer happiness with their products.

    I find this post extremely interesting, because I did not know that getting a battery replacement was such a hassle. In fact, I figured that it would be quite easy, despite the fact that the action should never have been warranted. It is crazy to me that such an established and prominent company like Apple would do this to their customer base that they rely so heavily on. Apple should have and must now make sure that getting a battery replacement is easy and trouble-less. By no means should this process be the potential for a bottleneck. While I have not mustered up the courage to switch my Apple product for another supplier, I hope that others have. I feel that it is important that Apple financially feels the effects of taking advantage of their customer base. I have certainly lost a little faith in Apple and their products.

  • March 1, 2018 at 9:56 am
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    I really like Marshea’s point and diagram, however I think that there are some aspects missing. Aside from calling Apple support, you can also make an appointment online without having to speak to anyone. The problem that Apple created with their batteries, in my opinion, goes far beyond customer dissatisfaction. Because of this giant announcement, Apple has effectively created a giant bottleneck in their customer service chain. No one in my family suffered from this battery incident directly, however, we all faced indirect consequences as a result. Because everyone is flooding to the Apple store to get new batteries, there is not enough supply of customer service appointments for other problems. This causes extremely long lines for walk in appointments, and sometimes 3 week waiting periods for appointments overall. This problem has additionally been made worse by the technical difficulties they also had with their iPhone X’s. When I went into the Apple Store to get my computer fixed, I was surrounded by probably 10 different customers that were having problems with their new iPhone X. My sister had problems with her old phone that were unrelated to battery issues and was unable to find an appointment at 6 different Apple stores near her for anytime under 2 weeks. When Apple announced this defect, they failed to recognize the repercussions on their supply chain capabilities.

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