Part II: The Ugly
Tuesday, in Part I we discussed The Good side of Customer Care, using Godaddy as an example of the Good, and a couple of Canadian wireless carriers exemplifying the Bad. Today we talk UGLY.
The Ugly category is characterized by Apple and the folks at the Apple Store in suburban Toronto. I have to give the prize to Apple for taking bad customer care to new heights (or depths), it seems propelled by what appears to be their arrogance towards their customers. I may understand that stance if my experience with their products lived up to the hype and their attitude, but it has not. My whole adventure and experience with Apple is a result of a continuously malfunctioning iPod Touch. For me Apple has taken a generally ugly trend in customer support to new levels. I’ll first describe the trend, and then tell you why Apple gets the Ugly prize.
The trends is this, as customers call in to the support centre or visit an outlet, they are put off, shuffled around, made to jump through hoops as the provider avoids dealing with the issue. They slowly wear down their customers to where they either give (because their lunch hour was spent on hold); or they get so wound up by the lack of care, that they blow their cool (this is the camp I am in), and from that point on the focus of the exchange becomes the demeanour of the customer, rather than the product issue or problem that caused them to lose their cool. Ever have to speak to Emily and her gang?
This past January my 11 year old daughter bought an iPod Touch at an Apple store in Toronto, using her own money having saved up birthday, holiday and other ill-gotten cash with great anticipation. The first time the iPod broke down was a month later. Diligently we drove back to the store (snow in both directions), lined up, and eventually were attended to. They could not make the thing come back to life, so they gave her a new one. A couple of months later, we went back again (rain no snow), this time they disappeared with the unit to the back of the store, and came back having “restored” it and off we went.
The unit broke down again in September, but this time we discovered that we now needed “an appointment” to have a unit under warranty looked at. The online “appointment setter” told us we could not have an appointment for a number of days, just like going to the doctor, take time off work, take my daughter out of school and go to the Apple store. But when we got to the store, the “nurse” lectured us a bit about a lack of an appointment, but was able to squeeze us in that day.
Appointments, hmm, got me thinking, is the Apple product line so bad, that they are overcome with disgruntled customers, and the only way to prevent the disaffected from congregating at the store and forming a mob, is to have them make appointments?
Well last week the fPod, as we now affectionately call it, broke again, oh joy, we get to go to the Apple store “one-mo-again”, (sunshine all the way), and that was our Saturday morning adventure.
Now you have to understand that having not drank the “Kool-Aid”, I don’t feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven when I go to the Apple store. In fact quite the opposite; it’s like stepping into some modern day mall version of The Stepford Wives, or the Landru episode of Star Trek, “all is good in Landru”.
We got there early (10:00 am), not many people in the store, no one at the service counter but a few Apple employees, all with different coloured t-shirts, must be some secret rank that I was not tuned into. Cindy, in turquoise was the first to greet us, my daughter brought her up to speed, and the first question of course was “do you have an appointment?” no, “I’ll get someone to look at this”. In comes the Orange shirt, thoroughly trained in aggravating customers. My 11 year old daughter, puppy dog eyes and all, begins to tell Orange the story, but Orange just wants to know one thing, “do you have an appointment”, no my daughter informs him. Well he begins to tell her with great efficiency and in corporate speak, remember she is 11, spent lots of cash on something that in her eyes never worked quite the way it looked in the adds, “I understand, but you have to understand that you need an appointment, I can check and see what we have available”. He looks up from his screen and says he can fit us in at 12:10. “But there is no one here” I chimed in.
Orange: “Yes but we have appointments booked”
Me: “But they are not here, we are, so they missed their appointment”
Orange: “Yes but you don’t have an appointment”
Back and forth a few times, both of us deaf to the other, he didn’t seem to care much that we were the customers, because we had no appointment and those that did were not there. But hey, why cloud the issue with facts? We continued:
Me: “Well you know we didn’t need an appointment to buy the thing; the unit didn’t make an appointment to break down this or the other three times, so why are we wasting time going back and forth, let deal with fixing the unit.”
Orange: “Well we can give you an appointment for 12:10, and see if we can fit you in earlier”
Me: “What am I supposed to do for two hours?”
Orange: “You can look around, have a coffee, go and come back, we can call you”
This is when I dropped the f-bomb
Me: “What about my f-ing time, who is going to cover that?”
And that’s when everything changed. Out of nowhere, the store Manager pops out, lecturing me on how I need to have respect for her team, and watch my language. Hey I am considerate:
Me: “You are right, I should have used a less graphic word to describe what you are doing to us, but that does not change the fact or the act that I should have used a different word to describe”
Manager: “Well you need to have respect for my team”
Me: doing my best Ali G impression I reached out my fist gently “Respect. Now let’s deal with the real issue, fixing the unit”
And they did, not sure if it was my Ali G, or acknowledging that no matter what words you use it can’t disguise the act, or did it finally dawn on them that given the opportunity, it is much better to help a customer than to robotically repeat a silly rule. The time it took them to tell me about how I needed an appointment, all while someone who ostensibly had one was not there to use theirs, they could have fixed the unit.
At the end Orange reminded my 11 year old that she only had 99 days left on her warranty, so I figure at the rate the fPod is breaking down that’s another 2 or 3 visits to the Apple store, joy. Orange started to remind me that we would need an appointment, but I suggested he leave it alone, “really not worth revisiting”