Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Even the finest companies can make a mess of it

I am an Apple user and a huge fan of the company. Anyone who has worked with me will have suffered through my teasing of PC users who were struggling to boot up or get on-line.I still think that they are a wonderful company, but my enthusiasm for them has been dented over the last week - not by their technical staff or by the quality of their computers, but by the quality of their communication with me the customer. I'm particularly surprised since this was one of the areas in which I expect them to shine.

At the end of the Christmas holiday, my two year old MacBook Pro failed with what looked like a disk problem. Since I was on holiday and in rural France, I was content to live without my laptop until I could get it back to the Apple Store in London. Everything started well - I booked a slot with the Apple Genius Bar on-line and was seen at the appointed time. A "dodgy" disk was detected and I asked them to have a look at my CD/DVD drive which had been playing up. "No problem", I was told, "everything's on warranty and so we'll simply replace the disk and multi-drive. No charge". How wonderful.

One of the last things I was told as I handed over my laptop was "I'm not sure we'll be able to get it back to you today - but it's listed as an urgent repair" (I had told Apple that I needed my laptop for work). Now I wasn't told that I could have my laptop back within 24hours - but that was the implication (and to be fair, the last time I had a problem, they turned the repair around in less that that time). Off home I went, content in the knowledge that Apple were once again proving their place at the top of the customer-care list.

At the end of the next day, I had still heard nothing and so called the store. After a 12 minute wait, I was told that the parts were there and assigned to my laptop. "So I can have it tomorrow?", I asked. "Yup - seems like it" was the reply. I was busy the next day, but the day after I phoned again. This time I was put through to someone who appeared to be in charge and who (apologetically and very nicely) told me that there was a huge backlog of repairs and they were going for a 7 - 10 day turnaround. Today - 7 days after the laptop went in for repair - I called (10 minute wait this time) to be told that it was ready (the store had apparently left a message on my home phone rather than calling my mobile as requested or sending me an email). I picked it up to find that, for whatever reason, the new disk did not have the latest version of the operating system (why would they do that?) - which meant that I could not start restoring my Time-Machine until I spent an hour or so updating the new OS.

Now let me just make clear that Apple have, without question or prevarication, replaced two pieces of hardware in my laptop at no cost to me and have, in the end, turned a warranty repair around in less than a week. Were this almost any other company I would be delighted - and if, when I took my laptop in for repair, I had been told that repairs were running at 7 - 10 days, I would be pleased to find my machine back so soon. I have, in the past, suffered though warranty repairs with Dell, Toshiba, and Microsoft and if the problem had been fixed in on 7 days I'd have been jumping with joy.

The mess that Apple made was in the communication. They must have known there was a backlog when I was first at the Genius Bar - and if they did not, they should have done. Why was I not told then? Why was I not told about the delay the first time I called? Why on earth was my machine returned to me without the latest version of the OS - that's just odd?

So there you have it. In the end, not too much of a problem. As I used to say sometimes to my daughter - I'm not angry, I'm disappointed. I expected much better from one of my favourite companies.The lesson is clear - any company can "drop the ball" when it comes to customer service. I am a long time Apple fan and so I know that this is not typical Apple behaviour. What would happen, however, if I had been a new Apple convert? Perhaps I'd be converting back again to PC-land. Come on Apple - get it together!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear of your experience Peter, especially as, like you, I am a huge Apple advocate.

    Mind you I learnt long ago that in Apple problem solving, 'community' and not 'corporate' is where it is at.

    I love the Apple product and top marks for them in how they have designed solutions but I wouldn't go to them for advice. There are plenty of other better people to do that.

    ps if you need any Apple help or guidance just let me know.