What we can learn from Apple customer service

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I have been a fan of Apple’s products and it’s customer service for years now. My friends who are new to Apple world have also commented on the great service levels and friendliness of the staff even at the Apple Reseller Outlets in India. Over the past two days I have been both frustrated and delighted at Apple Care’s approach to its consumers.

My Macbook is out of warranty (bought in July 06) and clearly not eligible for any free repairs or replacement of parts. Last Friday, I discovered a yellow tint across the display screen and left for machine for diagnosis at the Apple Customer Service centre at the Forum Mall, Bangalore. Yesterday, I was told that the LCD panel has to be replaced and it will cost me a whopping Rs.26,000 (approx US$ 520). I was bugged about paying the extra money and the attitude of the Store. I was loath to paying also because I have already spent a fortune on the machine upgrade –from extra RAM, capacity, new battery and charger.

It was difficult to get through to the Service personnel, calls were not returned – that variety. I approached their HQ at RT Nagar and I was told that since the machine is out of warranty, nothing can be done. They asked me to call the Apple Care number. I did. I whined about being a loyal Apple fan for 10years+ now and being a owner of several Macs & iPods over the years. I was asked to call up Customer Relations today. I did. I was initially shooed off. I persisted with another call and I was then put on to a person in Apple Care, Sydney. After hearing me out, she said that ‘she will see what can be done’ and promised to speak to the Service Centre and call me back. I was angling for a one-time exception – clearly not something that I am entitled to. In the past, they have made an exception on the same machine.

I don’t know yet if Apple will make an exception and replace the LCD screen. On hard facts, I am not entitled to – I neither have extended warranty nor AppleCare Protection Plan. But simply entertaining a call of this nature speaks volumes about their attitude to customer care. I doubt if other brands in the same category will even bother. I may end up living with a faulty display screen but my image of Apple’s service has not been dented severely.

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  1. 🙂 u sure are an ardent Apple fan. Or else you would have been cursing them by now and vowed not buy any Apple product in the future!

  2. Prajakta and Ashwin,

    C’mon, what do you want a company to do, provide free repairs forever for out-of-warranty products?? I just found this post by searching for customer service (on Google Blogsearch), and I think this story is a great example of two things: how we customers can be responsible partners in a business relationship, and how a vendor can listen even when policy says no.

    I think it’s perfect that Bhatnaturally posted this before the outcome is known, because the point of this post isn’t the outcome, it’s how the relationship is being handled.

    I’m posting about it – I’ll be back with a link.

  3. Thanks, Dave. I think most PC users see this affinity towards Apple products as ‘obsession with mere looks’ i.e. unwarranted love for something that lacks substance. They can’t fathom this loyalty. The earlier comments weren’t meant to disparage Apple (I think) but most people carry the ‘what’s-so-great-about-Apple?’ feeling. Even with the case of the top case being chipped, I found it fascinating that a Customer Support executive answering a call is empowered to take the decision to make a one-time exception.

  4. Hi Bhat

    Good Blog. Stumbled on it yesterday. What is important for companies when it comes to customer service is the ability to listen and unfortunately many companies show total indifference when a customer goes in with a complaint and thats what makes the customer boil. IF companies realise this simple solution then am sure the bonding between the brand and the customer only strenghtens further…. I remember writing a post on Vodafone. Vodafone ran some brilliant advertising on “Happy to Help” but unfortunately at the last mile where the customer interacted with vodafone either in their own shops or franchised outlets the case was totally different.
    And I don’t beleive that running a campaign on how a company is good at customer service will elevate the brand ,good customer service is an entry point for large brands. Its taken for granted. That is why in the first place am coming to you….. wonder if intel will run a campaign that says “we make quality micrprocessors” . …

    • Anbu, thanks for the kind words on my blog. True about merely claiming ‘great service’ in advertising will not help.

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