Friday, July 26, 2013

Diary of a Failed Customer Service Experience


Preface: This is a true story. All the emails below are real. Even though it is humorous, it makes two serious points: what not to do when you sell a broken product, and, perhaps more importantly, that sometimes great companies have broken processes. When we are out benchmarking, we do not want to hold up any single company as one to emulate. We want to hold up specific processes. Apple makes great products, but that’s not enough. In this market you need to couple great products with great support. Or you die. So, do not benchmark Apple’s customer support capabilities – at least in this case – unless you want a worst-in-class reminder of what not to do.

When my sister-in-law, Sandy, celebrated her birthday recently, my family and I decided to surprise her with a special gift, the brand new Macbook Air. We ordered it through the Apple Store, wrapped it, and gave it to her. She opened it up and it was what Apple calls, “DOA”.

A customer pays over $1,000 for a product purchased directly from you that does not work right from the start. What would you do? That’s easy: give them a new one with no bureaucratic hassle. Relieve the pain by making the process polite and simple. We just completed the second annual Call Center Benchmarking Focus Day and I can assure you that the auto companies get this. GM may be best-in-class here.

I was on a telephonic meeting with the board of directors when I received Sandy’s first email apologizing for troubling me – but the machine had crashed repeatedly and finally wouldn’t turn on at all. She had already contacted Apple, and then emailed me after receiving the following email from their technical support representative. All emails are in ascending chronological order.

 Dear Sandy

Thank you for contacting Apple.

This is a follow-up to our conversation earlier today; with your case number (471198415) and my contact information (see below).

You can contact me in regards to this case by replying to this email, or phoning using the number below.

Sincerely
C__ P__
Apple

P.S. If you need to contact me about your case, call me at 1-877-388-0879 extension #####. I am scheduled in the office today (Tuesday) 9:30 am - 6:00 pm ET, Wednesday July 24th 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm ET and Thursday July 25th 9:30 am - 6:00 pm ET. I will then be away from the office until Monday August 5th. If you reach my voicemail, please leave your name, phone number, case number, and the best time to reach you.

 … At this point I took over …

C__,

I bought the laptop for my sister-in-law for her birthday, and it does not work. You guys really took the thrill out of the gift and the occasion – really let me down. Attached is the invoice of the computer. Tell me what complex set of inconvenient things I need to do to get her a new computer to replace the one that never worked.

Best Regards,

David

Dear David and Sandy

I am very sorry that you did have to experience this with your brand new computer. We at Apple do stand by our products and want to do right by you.

Since speaking with Sandy, I have been doing further research into the issue you are experiencing. There are two ways we can resolve this for you:

1) I can set up an exchange / replacement for you via phone and Fedex. This will take an estimated 5 - 7 business days; but this way allows our engineers to take a look at the old computer and discover what the issue is to prevent it in future computers.

2) With the receipt / order number, this can be returned via our online sales support team (Either I can facilitate this, or they can be reached directly via 800-676-2775) This way allows a credit to be placed on your credit card; and you can decide to either repurchase through store or online.

Please let me know in what way I can assist with this, and if you wish me to contact via phone instead of email.

Sincerely

C__ P__
Apple

C__,

I choose the red (above). Please send me prepaid Fed-Ex label.

Dear David

I will need to call you to go over the process, verify your information and read a release statement. What would be a good time to call, and what number should I use? (my hours are below)

Sincerely

C__ P__
Apple

 … After trying repeatedly to reach this service representative directly, I gave up and called Apple’s support team…

C__,

I am speaking to Apple support right now and there is no case number, nor are there any notes associated with the original order number. I have tried to call you repeatedly and nobody answers. I suspect that you are at a call center in some country far far away and cannot really do anything to help customers.

Bye,
David

Dear David

Just to clarify; you are calling in to our online sales support team for a return / refund? Please let me know so I can close the case, or call you to continue the exchange.

Sincerely

C__ P___
Apple

C___,

The person I am on hold with right now does not think you exist, that there is no "case", and there are no notes taken by you. You, my dear, do not exist.

Dear David

Your case number is in the subject line - there are numerous notes in this case. As for my not being able to answer my line, it is going to voicemail because I am currently on another call. If you give me an approximate time, and a number to reach you, I would still be happy to facilitate the exchange. 

Sincerely

C__ P__
Apple

C___,

I think I should sell my Apple stock. The Apple support person I just talked to who gave me a pre-printed label to send the Mac-Air back (1) could not find you in her database, (2) brought in technical support to confirm that the case number you provided was bogus, and (3) confirmed that there were no notes associated with the original order number. She apologized that I would have to pay to send what you guys call a "DOA" machine back to you. She is giving me a free plastic case for the Mac Air to make me feel better – I will burn this case in effigy to memorialize this rock bottom horrible customer experience. I will, furthermore, use this as a vivid example to train my clients in how not to treat their customers who buy stuff that is, similarly, "DOA."

Best Regards,

David

Dear David

I must apologize that you feel you received poor customer service. I assure you that not only I, but your case number do exist. Your case number (471198415) is tied to the serial number of the MacBook Air within our system. Any technical advisor can pull up the case number and see the notes saved there. Also, I did speak with our sales support team. While they can pull up the order information and the exchange they are setting up, our Sales Support team does not use the same tools / programs as we do in technical support; so they would be unable to cross-reference case numbers and order numbers. This may be where the confusion comes from. One last thing I would like to clarify: There would have been no charge for the exchange I would have facilitated. Your brand new computer did not work at all, and this is not acceptable. We would have exchanged it at no charge with a completely equivalent computer. Once again, I am sorry that your experience with us was so unsatisfactory.

Sincerely

C__ P__
Apple

C___,

I understand your need to make excuses for Apple's mediocrity in customer service. I work with the auto industry and (many auto OEMs) had the same issues that you all are dealing with. It is not my fault, nor do I care why, that your support network is not well connected and does not share the same "tools." Apple changed the world with the iPhone, but, it did not change itself enough. I work in a shielded office where cell phones do not work, and I am on the phone 100% of the time. Therefore, I can't just wait for you to call ... because I am fairly unreachable. . Bottom line, the way you treat customers sells a lot of Windows/Google based products. Bill Gates thanks you from the bottom of his ... well, er, ah ... pocketbook.

David Carlisle

C__,

I thought I had plumbed the depths of Apple's incompetence in dealing with customers who receive "DOA" computers. But, I had not. Shortly after I sent this last email I received two more emails from Apple (PDFs of which are attached). The first one informed me that the "free case" for my broken Macbook Air was on the way. Yippee! The second one said that Apple was "having difficulty obtaining payment authorization" for my new free case to cover my broken Macbook Air. Yes, the old AMEX number no longer worked because of online fraud, and I had already updated my Apple account with the new card number. Thank the Lord that your computers systems do not talk with each other, otherwise, I'd have been charged for my free gift from you-all.

Best Regards,

David

Endnote: After all this, without any explanation, I received a computer-generated delivery notice that Apple was sending me a replacement MacBook Air sometime in the next week. Afterwards, I went to the post office and paid $3 and some change for a box to mail the DOA machine back to them. Hmmm maybe "C" really does exist?

No comments: