So I know that I might be blowing this out of proportion, but I value good customer service. As a guest services senior supervisor at a major Mid-Atlantic Amusement park for 6 years, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about customer service.
I’ve been a Mac user since I was 7. I’ve always kept a special place in my heart for Apple computers even when I chose to buy a Dell for my college years. I know that computer maintenance is a fickle mistress and a cruel bitch, so when I made the plunge in 2006 and bought a Macbook, I made sure to get the AppleCare 3 year protection plan. And this week was the first time I’ve ever had to use it.
Wednesday – March 18, 2009 – 9:30 AM
I sit down at my desk as I always do and set my laptop to the side. A few minutes later, I open it up. I browse the internet as usual. At some point several minutes later I place my hands on the palm rests and feel a sharp pinch in my right wrist. I look at the computer and notice a crack on the palm rest where it meets the outer case of the laptop. The crack is actually more like a splinter as you can see below, but this splinter opens up to expose the insides of the computer…not good. So I have a brief moment of panic. I panic because I’m a student, a technophile, and a prisoner of the internet. I use this laptop to get probably 95% of the information that I take in on a day to day basis. To not have my laptop for me would be like a lumberjack without his ax. He’s not useless, but he feels useless.
So after a quick polling of opinions on twitter and of my co-workers I decide just to call the Apple store at my local mall and just see what the procedure would be and how long it would take. I explain my problem to an Apple store employee named Zeb. I explain to Zeb what has happened and that I’m a student and that I NEED my laptop. I ask how long a procedure like this would take. Zeb says 4 hours. “4 hour!?!? Really?!” I exclaimed over the phone. Zeb says “Yeah, well it would depend on how many repairs are in front of you but it would definitely be done today.” At that point I was sold. I hopped on apple.com and reserved the next possible Genius Bar appointment that I could and told my boss I’d be back as I drove to the mall.
Wednesday – March 18, 2009 – 11:00AM
I get to the Apple store in the mall and it’s busy as always. I’ve seen it busier so I’m not worried. My appointment is for 11AM and I have everything ready so I can get in and out. I stand around waiting. I see my name on the list of people to be served. I watch the minutes fly by. My name probably isn’t called until about 11:25AM which is understandable. I know that these Geniuses are busy, overworked, and probably sick of dealing with other people’s stupid computer problems. So I walk to the bar, where a customers boyfriend is hogging up a lot of space, and I talk to the guy who called my name. I explain the problem to him and he says “Oh you’re the guy I talked to this morning. Let me take care of this for you.” I found Zeb, awesome. Zeb takes my computer and starts entering my information and filling out paper work. I feel guilt and anxiety just looking at my poor laptop sitting on the back counter with all of the other broken laptops like a piece of meat. Zeb returns and has me sign some papers, he emphasizes that the service will be free because I have Apple Care and indicates what parts are being replaced. The keyboard/inside bezel and the display bezel. At this point I say “Hey I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but are you sure that this is only going to take a few hours?” Zeb can see that I’m nervous and tells me to wait a minute while he goes back to make sure. He disappears into the back room and appears a few minutes later. I sheepishly look at my shoes, for fear that the expression on his face will be too apologetic for me to bear. As he stops in front of me I look up and he says “Yeah, it shouldn’t be too long. 4 hours or so, but you should have it back by the end of the day. There are a bunch of repairs ahead of yours but yeah it shouldn’t be more than 4 hours.”
Notice, how many times that this employee has reassured me how long my repair will take. It helps to relieve my anxiety as Zeb shakes my hand and I turn around to walk out of the store. I feel naked without my window to the world in my briefcase.
Wednesday – March 18, 2009 – 4:30PM
At this point I haven’t heard back from Apple yet and have noticed that the receipt of repair that Zeb gave me has a lot of old contact information for me on it from when I lived with my parents a few years back. I think to myself “Ah, they’ve probably just called the wrong number and my mom is probably so confused.” So I call the Apple store to claim my computer and apologize for my mistake. When I finally sift through the automated phone tree for the second time today I get an employee named George on the phone. I explain what has happened to him and that I’m ready to come pick up my computer since it’s been 5 hours. Confused, George confirms my name and asks me to hold for a few minutes. When someone finally gets to me this is what I hear:
“Yeah, hi that’s me!”
“This is Kristin from the Apple Store.”
“Hi sorry about the confusion with the numbers and stuff I know its probably been done for a while” I say excitedly.
“Well it’s not ready yet. We had to order a part for it and it didn’t get here today. It will probably be on the order for tomorrow or the next day okay?” Says Kristin.
“Uhhh, actually I was told several times that it would be done in 4 hours” I say almost stunned.
“Well we had to order the part so we’ll call you when it’s ready.”
At this point I’m blind and deaf with anger but I’m trying not to be “that guy.” You know the one in the electronics or department store customer service counter. Flipping out, face beet red, pacing wildly, hands gesturing, family and friends scattering further away as the anger turns into rage. I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that and it’s not fun. So I keep my cool and update my contact information. I probably sound like I was going to cry. I felt like it. I hang up the phone and flip out. I know I probably over reacted, but when you tell a customer something so many times, you even shake their hand on it, the customer is going to expect what you’ve told them. And thats what I did.
They knew, Zeb KNEW, that I was a student, that I was pressed for time, that I needed to have that laptop back by the end of the day. They knew it when I called the first time. They knew it when I dropped it off and Zeb reassured me. And they knew it when they ordered the part. I would’ve gladly come back at a later time to get the problem fixed if they would’ve called and told me the situation but they didn’t.
So I waited…
Thursday – March 19, 2009 – 4:00PM
I have yet to hear from Apple. I decide that if they don’t call by 4:30 I’m going to call and flip out like I tried not to the day before. I’m coming up with my script and my list of demands. It’s going to be EPIC.
Thursday – March 19, 2009 – 4:24PM
The phone rings…
“Hi, this is Brock from the Apple store”
“I just wanted to let you know that your repair is ready and you can pick it up whenever you want”
My elation suddenly erases my rage and I plan on how I will be reunited with my Macbook. It would’ve been an hour and a half ride from where I was in rush hour traffic. Luckily, my wonderful girlfriend was in the neighborhood and was able to rescue it.
But like I said before, yes, I probably over reacted in getting as upset as I did about the situation and maybe there were elements to the story that I don’t know about. But it’s common courtesy. If you tell a customer something, you really should try to stick to it, and you need to keep the customer in the loop. A measley little three section status update on your corporate website doesn’t suffice. I know that the Apple store gets probably hundreds of repairs in every week and you can’t treat everyone special. But I know for a fact that they hire enough people that notes can be taken on an individuals situation and people can make some phone calls.