Saturday, May 30, 2020

How to Lose a Customer in Only One Day

I have an Apple iPhone.  And for full disclosure, I am not an Apple aficionado.  The only other Apple products I own are two iPods.  I own an iPhone because I started work at a company where I was going to be customer facing, and was working on my presence, and picked the same phone as the president of the company.  And I will never own another Apple product ever again.

This isn't really about Apple products, but about customer service.  And how your service department can do irreparable damage to your company's image.  

First a bit about me.  I started my career as an electronics technician, installing and maintaining high end medical X-Ray equipment.  Over the years I have attended a number of classes on customer relations and from the beginning have taken them to heart.  Most of my colleagues thought this was new age Bulls##t, but I saw the immediate value at what was being taught.  

There are two steps to customer relations:
     1) Fix the customer
     2) Fix the problem
In that order.  

Picture this.  You customer's GenerateCashOTron 2000 has been down all morning.  (when in truth it is 10 am so an hour and a half) You walk in and flip a switch, and everything turns on.  And then you walk out.  You have fixed the problem but not the customer.  He is still seething over the fact that his money maker was out of action at all, and he is going to let someone know about it!  You have to engage the customer and fix them as well.

A great video was created by John Cleese on field service as part of his business videos collection.  But he wants $1,000/ copy for it so only poor copies exist on YouTube as an example.

So my iPhone was broken.  I cracked the screen.  This is in the days where we were quarantined by the Covid-19 pandemic, so I couldn't just take it to the nearby Apple store for repair.  But Apple was up to the task.  One day later, I had a shipping box in my hand and a small manual with step by step instructions.  Well done so far!

One side issue is the size of this manual, the pages are 4 inches square.  One step to a page, and in 3 languages.  See below.
Pretty close to actual size.

There is a lot of white space here, so there is no reason that the print is 4 point font.  Making this more annoying to read is the choice of light grey lettering on a white glossy background.  Excellent production values, but a total failure in readability.

But read it I did, each step was understood completely as written.  But I could not execute step five, see above. I tried several times with tools at my disposal, but I could not get the SIM card drawer out.  So rather than risk further damaging the phone, I let it ride and decided to ship the card with the phone.  I am not a duffer here, I have repaired high end electronic equipment for decades.  I have tools that a Swiss watchmaker would be proud of, but none that could liberate that drawer.  

A week later the phone was returned, the screen shiny and new.  But on bootup, the phone went into first time startup mode and a message that the SIM card is missing.

Unknown to me then, Apple has a policy against shipping SIM cards with their products.  So someone actively removed my SIM card and disposed of it at the repair facility.  

I contacted Apple and told the fist tier responder that while my phone's original problem was fixed, it still does not work.

A bit of back and forth and she declared it was my fault because I didn't follow the instructions, see step 5, above.  

Nowhere in step five does it explain that if I do not follow this step that Apple will proactively render my phone totally unusable for the foreseeable future.

In the customer relations world, this is known as "Blaming the Customer".  Don't do this.  Ever.

I went up to the next level.  She asked me if I used the tool sent with the box to open the SIM card drawer.  There was no tool provided, and the example, refer to the image above, shows a paper clip to use for the task.  Which I also tried, but failed with.  And she also declared this was my fault that the Apple technician removed and disposed of my SIM card and there was nothing she could do about it.

So far Apple has not done either of the following:
     1) Fix the customer
     2) Fix the problem
In that order.  

And then Apple made the problem worse by blaming the customer.  Several times, by not following explicit instructions, and by not using tools that were not provided.

Even though it took a conscious effort by Apple to cause this problem in the first place.

Then I was pushed to the actual customer relations department.  He was compassionate, and he agreed this problem shouldn't had happened.  He called the repair department to see if the SIM card could be located.  He agreed it was not my fault. He agreed to go to the billing department to see if the cost of a replacement card could be removed from the bill.  I don't think that will happen but at least I was heard and acknowledged that this problem should not have occurred.

He went a long way to fixing the customer.  But not totally.  And he still did not fix the problem.  That was placed solidly back on the customer.  But he was good about it. 

In the end, Apple took a phone with a cracked screen, but still worked, and returned a phone with a repaired screen, BUT DID NOT WORK.  And cost shifted the repair to the customer, who paid to have it fixed in the first place.

I will never buy another Apple product ever again.

Update.  It is a week later, and the phone is still not working.  It is not strictly Apples fault, but the SIM card is being shipped by slow boat from Idaho.   But if they had not caused the problem, I would be a happier customer. 

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