Apple and Joint Venture

Scott Francis
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Most people reading the title probably think Apple already has good customer service.  But I’ll let you in on a secret (sarcasm alert):  those Apple Stores are packed with people and the customer service operation needs some help to scale to the new market position finds itself in.  And as Apple’s market share and unit volume in its business grows, the rough edges of customer service will become more apparent without some retooling. Reports are that Apple will launch “Joint Venture” – Apple just launched “Joint Venture“- a new service targeted at small businesses that leverage Apple products.  There are already service options that are well-publicised: One-to-one and Applecare; and there are service options available to business partners that are not well publicized (or perhaps they consisted of piloting certain business services over the last year before rolling them out nationwide). The last time I went into an Apple store to return a laptop (we had misordered, it wasn’t Apple’s fault), they offered to sign us up for a business account – and since then they’ve offered somewhat better service around both ordering hardware and picking up orders at the store or getting help at the store.  But there hasn’t been a fee for this service, that I’m aware of. From Apple Insider:
Joint Venture will also provide customers with personal setup data transfer, limited group training sessions (up to 3 sessions per year, for up to 8 people at a time) and access to a website to schedule phone support appointments with Apple Genius technicians, according to one person familiar with the matter. Apple will reportedly continue to offer its AppleCare and One to One plans alongside Joint Venture.
This is good: helping customers transition to Macs, and training users who aren’t comfortable.  In our business we’re about 50% Mac and 50% Windows-based.  The Windows users primarily just want to stick to what they’re comfortable with when they sign up for a new job.  I can relate to that – don’t let a switch in Operating Systems impact your productivity.  A better set of transitioning services would be A Good Thing for such users – allowing us to push a few more in that direction. Further details:
Customers enrolled in the plan will receive priority service at the Genius Bar and gain access to an exclusive Apple Genius-manned technical support number at the corporate office. Similar to Apple’s ProCare service plan, customers will be first in line for repairs.During repairs that take longer than 24 hours to complete, customers may be eligible to borrow 15-inch MacBook Pros with iWork and Microsoft Office preinstalled.
I like the phone-support option – faster than driving to the nearest Apple Store.  I think the thing that Dell provides that really one-ups Apple is the on-site technical assistance – literally sending someone to your office to fix your laptop while you wait.  And it is actually affordable for a distributed business like bp3. But the most critical service Apple needs to provide is one that I’ve been asking for, for more than two years:  loaner machines.  I have always thought that if they rolled out a loaner program, they’d get businesses (and consumers!) wanting to sign up for this left-and-right.  At least, they will once they need a loaner machine (I picture a lot of “wait til I really need it” sign-ups for consumers, but businesses will think ahead).  I found a local authorized Mac repair shop (Austin MacWorks) that rented a nearly identical machine to me for a week – all I had to do was swap the hard drive from one machine to the other, and I was ready to go.  They then sent my machine off for an 11-day video card repair.  It worked great – but it was expensive.  I think the repair shop was missing an opportunity to build a loaner business that complements its repair business.  Certainly Apple was missing a real opportunity.  I’m happy to say that now they are offering a real loaner program with Joint Venture.  This is “A Good Thing”. After all – when you take your BMW in for service, do they tell you to call a cab, or do they give you a loaner car?  You bet they do. (And this is a service that virtually all luxury brands offer, and most non-luxury dealerships now offer some form of loaner program in the United States at least).