Apple Support prepares to leave X: End of the omni-channel?

Reports claim Apple is about to cease offering human tech support via X, the service formerly known as Twitter, its own online forum, and YouTube beginning Oct. 1. Users will still be able to access automated systems, but those replies will send you elsewhere to access human support.

Apple support staff who have been providing human assistance via those two channels will be transitioned to phone-based support roles, the reports claim.

Was this an ill-fated love affair?

On the surface, this is a weird decision given Apple’s visible commitment to omnichannel customer services.  The company has offered customer support via X/Twitter since 2016, when most customer-facing entities began doing so. At that time, customer service teams everywhere flocked to the platform to open up direct and immediate communications with customers.

Customers became engaged and these days around 79% of people posting a query on social media expect a response within 24 hours. At least one survey showed 75% of consumers have already used Twitter/X to interact with a brand.

The social media service even had an @TwitterBusiness channel through which it evangelized such use and explained why it had become an essential part of the omnichannel marketing mix. That channel’s Twitter handle no longer exists, which is unlikely to reassure brands using the service.

Chaos isn’t good for business

There has been no end to controversy since Elon Musk, the new owner of X, took over the company last year. Decision-making has at times seemed erratic or unfair, and the commitment to securing the platform and protecting people from various forms of online harm appears weak.

These and other changes at the company mean many major enterprises have changed their mind concerning customer engagement via the service. Big names such as NPR have stopped using the service at all in protest over decisions made by the service.

Many industry observers now question the transparency and trust commitment X shows, causing them to revaluate customer support through that channel.

No fly zone

In May, Air France and KLM stopped handling customer service requests there, pointing to recent changes that meant requests made via the service were no longer accessible via their own internal customer care systems.  That was probably as a result of the decision to cut off API access, which broke a multitude of third-party apps.

While the focus was on apps such as Tweetbot, those apps also extended to internal enterprise social media tools, such as customer care. It’s plausible to imagine Apple’s own systems were similarly affected.

If that is the case, it’s clear why Apple is abandoning the platform. This doesn’t explain the decision to quit YouTube or its own support forums, but perhaps the demand doesn’t exist once Twitter contacts are removed.

Ultimately, however, decisions made by the big social networks have seemed controversial in recent years. From the furor around misuse of data on Facebook to influencing democratic votes to the constant friction emanating from Twitter/X, it’s arguable these powerful networks failed to build an atmosphere of trust.

Manufacturing consent

That lack of trust is visible each time a ‘troll’ account makes an ad hominem attack. This environmental toxicity is not the kind of space within which companies can easily do business, and it is doubly hard to secure customer-facing communications when little is done to police against unauthorized use of brand identity.

We’re all aware by now of the many different approaches used to defraud people online, and the use of a fake brand support page seems a viable way to extract payment information from people in crisis who may not be thinking straight.

It is perhaps with these constraints in mind Apple has chosen to abandon customer service contact via Twitter; if that is indeed the case, it’s a shame.

The end of the omnichannel?

It means social media has failed in its purpose to become a talking shop for the world and has instead become a place more reflective of the destructive side of the human planet.

Who wants to do business there? Not Apple, by the looks of it.

Will its decision to end such support spark an avalanche of social media customer support quitters? Given the status of the company as a corporate thought leader, it might. And no, it won’t end the use of the omnichannel, just erode one or two of the channels that once formed part of it.

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Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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