Saturday, 1 October 2011

Can Apple Inc. grow and maintain good customer service?

Apple's customer service. A recent poor experience.
by Tom Thorne
I have been an Apple customer since 1976. So I am what you call a hard core (no pun intended) Apple user. I have purchased almost all major models of Apple computers over the years and especially and fondly remember the first Macintosh in 1984. In addition, I own an iMac and I am a recent purchaser of an iPad2 that I am using to write this article.
I have not really had a real negative experience with Apple until my daughter, a recent graduate of teacher's college, decided to buy a MacBook Pro replacing her old Mac laptop that had soldiered with her through five years of university.
She went on line to the Apple store to order her new MacBook Pro flush with the promise from new teaching job she had just landed. She made her order and then the rot began to set in.
Apple's meaningless emails
She received an email from Apple telling her that her on-line purchase could not be completed because her credit card was limited and could not cover the full amount. This of course is a common problem for young people who are establishing good credit records.
So she went back to the Apple on-line store with her mother whose credit card can complete the transaction with credit room to spare, or that's what we thought would happen. Instead the Apple on-line store began a round of incredible silliness since they could not use another credit card. They had to call the 1-800 number.
Apple decided to split the order onto my daughter's and my wife's credit cards. This of course created confusion and at Apple's bank there was a snag and delay as the credit of one or both cards were checked. The outcome of this debacle was the order sat in limbo and was not processed for four days.
More silly Apple emails came to my daughter but none of them reported the actual problem and so when my wife checked to see if the amount for the computer had been charged to her card ( which would mean it was shipped) she found nothing had been done.
Too many calls needed.
After about five calls to Apple we finally got through to a supervisor who finally got the order rolling. It was torture and very time consuming because it required calls to and from Apple to get it straightened out and much waiting listening to the best and worst of iTunes songs over the phone.
Finally the computer was sent a week later than planned and it arrived on a day they said it would not arrive, and so no one was at home to receive UPS and sign for it.  It finally came on the last pass before it would have been sent back to Apple. 
The story doesn't end with the delivery. My daughter and my wife went to the bank to exchange money to pay for the computer. It was at this moment that my wife found amounts charged by Apple to her credit card that were double the amounts for the computer. 
Naturally we called the Apple 1-800 line again and they explained that the two amounts were a "pending" amount and the "actual amount of the final purchase" which of course would void the pending amount. The pending amount was there to ensure that our triple A credit card could pay them. It all defies analysis and logic. We had the computer and yet the "pending amount" was still on my wife's credit card. That somehow doesn't tally.
It was again stupidity because if someone had a lower credit amount for their card that would be the only reason why shipment would be tied up.  Something needs repair at Apple credit assessment.
Lame excuses for good credit not good enough.
Come on Apple. That is pretty lame and makes one really think about what is happening at Apple these days as they grow and seemingly bureaucratize their sales and credit granting systems. They need a simple way for two cards to pay or for another credit card to replace the one that has not enough credit room to purchase. Credit 101 I would think.
It's been annoying and irritating and for our trouble my daughter was offered a consolation prize. She got a $45 VGA mini connector which she needed to use the Smart Board in her classroom. If she hadn't asked they would have offered nothing.
However, Apple really needs to watch how they deal with hard core customers like us. We are committed to Apple. They need to commit much more strongly to us. For example these new computers do not ship with restore disks for software and the OS. It's hard to reboot a computer with problems by contacting the iCloud or the App store. It means a physical trip to a dealer with repair capabilities. Better make certain you purchase Apple Care and back up your entire system on a large volume external hard drive.
Getting back to the sale, maybe we should have used my credit card which would have shown the extent of my Apple purchase history over the years since Steve Jobs and first partner Steve Wozinak emerged from Job's parents garage with the Apple I and then a short time later with the radical  much more commercial Apple II.
Good on you Apple but watch your customer relationships it's getting a bit too ragged for this old hard core user. Try this Google search: Apple customer complaints.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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