Apple Service Process in Need of a Tune-up?

Scott Francis
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As readers of this blog have no-doubt noticed, I’m a fan of Apple products and their approach to the markets they compete in.  In late 2007 I switched to a MacBook Pro fulltime.  In the early 90’s I used NeXT machines, and loved them.  I also had an Apple back then, which was fun. But in the intervening years my life has been mostly on Windows with the occasional Unix/Linux thrown in for good measure (but only for development, not for my daily machine). My first product glitch was when my daughter “helped me” by pulling a few keys off my keyboard!  I took it to the Apple store, and they fixed it for me (new keyboard) even though it was obviously *not* a warranty issue.  They also said this kind of thing would be covered by Apple care.  I thought about that, and then bought the warranty package.  Good service, rewarded by a customer pulling the trigger on a purchase… This time, my nvidia video card kicked the bucket.  I went to the Applestore and they wanted to schedule me for a “Genius Bar” appointment.  I came back that night for my appointment, to be told that they have a 40-machine backlog, and that they’d have to ship the machine off to Apple, a 7-10 day delay.  Maybe some people can do without their hardware for a week or two, but I’m not one of them.  I don’t know anyone in business who would put up with that kind of delay.  I asked, but Apple Stores don’t do loaners, nor rentals, nor hard-drive swaps so that, at least, I could hang onto my hard drive and not have a risk of losing my data (the Genius Bar rep was careful to warn me that they don’t guarantee the data… ). I went home a bit steamed.  But I kept my laptop.  I couldn’t help but think if the normal backload is 10 repair jobs, and they currently have 40 – does that mean that Apple sold a lot more machines, or that they have a quality problem, or that they’re under-staffed?  Or all of the above? If under-staffed, memo to Apple:  there are a LOT of people looking for work right now.  You could do a little Apple stimulus plan and improve customer service at the same time… Steve once compared Apple to BMW or Mercedes.  But when you take your BMW (or luxury car of choice) into the shop, they give you a loaner vehicle for your trouble so you can be on your way.  I felt a bit embarrassed for the Genius at the Genius Bar that he couldn’t offer this kind of real service.  There is nothing worse than having to tell a customer that they are SOL. But, I didn’t give up.  I knew at least one storefront in Austin that sounded promising – “Austin Mac Works” and figured there might be other options as well.  Turns out the store is certified to do warranty repairs and ship back to Apple for warranty repairs that they can’t handle.  I dropped off my MacBook Pro at lunch, and on my way home from work picked up a loaner machine – into which they had swapped my hard drive – so I am now back up and running “good-as-new” while I wait for my repairs.  My warranty repair is still “on the house” but my rental laptop is going to cost me a few dollars over the next week. Apple:  you’re leaving a huge opportunity (in my opinion) on the table to provide better service and even further differentiate your brand.  I’d pay $100 for a loaner.  Or put down a sizable refundable deposit.  At least refer people to third party shops that may have less backlog.  Asking people to part with their computer, is like asking them to turn off their TV.  And as a recent Hulu ad posited: what are you going to do, turn off your tv AND your computer at the SAME TIME?!   Who are we kidding. Apple execs – take your car to a Penske-owned BMW dealership, and then think again about your equipment-servicing approach.  There’s a queuing problem, a triage problem, a critical failure (no laptop for a week?), etc.  A good analysis of these issues could yield some great results. PS: Hulu ad included for amusement- just go to about :38 into it and you’ll see the line I’m referring to.  Followed by maniacal laughter…