A Tale of Two Companies: A Fable About Customer Service
Wow, this post should look pretty cool to y'all-- it certainly does to ME. And why, you may ask? Because I am typing it on my brand new shiny MacBook. I wish you could see how good this looks on THIS side of the screen.
Let me explain. I bought an iBook three years ago in July. It suffered intermittent motherboard and other sort of computer neurological disorders from time to time, but all in all I loved that little machine.
But my loyal readers may have noticed that last week's postings were mighty slim. This is because my poor little laptop was freaking out again. So I made an appointment at the nearest Apple store's genius bar, hoping to get the little thing fixed.
It was worse than I thought when I got there. The Genius who helped me, named Eric, told me that it appeared my hard drive was failing. I must have looked like I was about the wail like a banshee. He then took off the keyboard and saw all the stickers for previous work that had been done on the poor thing.
Eric paused. "How long have you had this computer?"
I told him, "I bought it at the end of July three summers ago."
"Looks like you've had a lot of work done on this. Frankly, if this is the problem, we'll probably just see about swapping out your CPU for a new one." He then got a firewire drive and started encouraging me to download my really important stuff onto it, waiving the fee that is usually charged for this process.
Due to technical difficulties, we could not do anything else with it that night, and so he said he would talk to the manager, and asked if I would bring it back the next day.
So I brought the computer back today, and, sure 'nuff my poor little laptop was terminal. I figured I was screwed. Then he did some checking of my history with the iBook on his computer, and said, "Well, it looks like we can set you up with a new MacBook."
Wha??? "How much will that cost me?" I asked with a lump in my throat. I figured I was going to get a refurbished iBook, maybe, or be told that I was on my own.
Then, the clouds parted. "It'll be free, because you have had to send this machine in more than three times and you haven't had it for three years yet."
I tried not to show how stunned I was. He went into the back to get one. He came back out in about ten minutes.
"I'm sorry, we don't have the model that would be equivalent to yours. You can wait until the weekend, when we should get in a new batch, or, if you want, you can use the credit for your old machine toward an upgrade to the next model."
"How much would THAT cost me?"
"Oh, maybe a couple hundred dollars."
I thought that seemed fair, so he went and got one of those. He then filled out a form for me to sign turning over my old laptop to Apple in exchange for the new computer. Then the manager came out to complete the transaction. Now I had decided to buy the Sweet Baboo an iPod for Father's Day, so I had them pick out one of those so I could just pay for everything at once. I handed him a paystub so I could get my educator's discount.
The manager paused in the middle of a bunch of typing and said, "Oh, you're a teacher? Hmmmm..." and then he says, "Good news! With your teacher's discount, the upgraded MacBook is free."
I restrained myself from a completely undignified happy dance atop the Geunius Bar and instead stuttered my complete and total appreciation. We completed the transaction, fired up the new machine, and transferred my old data from the firewire drive they had saved for me from the previous night. He talked to me about all the new bells and whistles on my new Snow White Beauty. I thanked Eric profusely, and walked out of there a very happy woman.
This is how customer service should be. They stood behind their product, even though there was only a month left on the warranty, and I now have a far, far nicer computer than I had previously.
Now I have a purpose in telling this story. Let me now regale you with a story about what a company should NOT do to its customers.
Two years ago I let the cable company talk me into allowing digital cable into my house. I wanted to be able to watch Six Feet Under, and they no longer allowed mere analog people to get the premium channels.
The damn thing never worked right. Time and time again, I would have to schedule a service call and then stay home at least half a day because the picture would freeze, turn green, do this thing called "tiling," lose the sound, and so on. It was maddening. It had a particular habit of freezing up when I was watching something like the Super Bowl or the World Series, where you can't catch a rerun. (You know, I really don't watch a lot of TV, except for CNN and the History Channel. But when I am paying for a service, I expect it to work.)
Every time I called, there was some stonewalling. The customer service rep would refuse to schedule an appointment for the technician until two weeks in the future, or would claim that I couldn't request a service call because my name wasn't on the account and would then demand that my husband had to call (Oooh, what was this? The middle ages?), or the technician wouldn't come out with the right tools and would have to come back later, or he'd change the cable from the house to the box and leave it lying on top of the ground so that I had to call again and again asking them to bury it. The customer service reps would refuse to give me their names or let me talk to their supervisors.
One particular smartass, when my husband asked to talk to his boss, claimed that his supervisor was named Paul Allen.
Paul Allen. As in the gazillionaire owner of the cable company who had helped found Microsoft with a guy named Bill Gates.
THAT Paul Allen. And he suggested that we had to talk to him if we wanted to complain.
I have to say that I thought The Sweet Baboo was going to rupture an artery over THAT one.
Maybe the thing would work for two days after a service call, and then-- BLOOIE-- right back to the same old problem.
I have lost my temper with these bozos only once-- the rest of the time I have been patient and calm-- obviously too patient, since this apparently gave them the idea that they could continue to treat us like crap.
The only time we ever got any satisfaction was when we filed a Better Business Bureau report. Because this company was reported on the TV news as having over ONE THOUSAND outstanding complaints at the BBB at the time, suddenly my phone was ringing off the hook from soothing voiced women in the corporate office who offered me ANYTHING to say that the comlaint with the BBB was resolved. They apologized. They suddenly found technicians who could come out the same day to spend hours following wires around our basement ceiling. They gave me their first and last names. They offered me a partial refund on my bill for that month.
But a week later, the problems would return, and the cycle of customer service ignorance started all over again. We are now on the cusp of getting a satellite dish, beause, even though we may lose reception in a pounding rainstorm, at least we can watch TV when it's sunny. And the last time I made an appointment for a service call, the guy never showed. I sat there all day with kids wanting to go swimming and getting antsy for nothing. When I called a customer service person to complain, she said that the tech had called our house and no one answered, so they didn't bother to come or notify me. She gave me a first name of Zoe and said she would get a tech supervisor to call me that afternoon and that I could call her back if there was any other delay. When I got no appointment, I called back and asked to speak to Zoe, the customer service person who answered said there was no Zoe there. And then she said that my name wasn't on the account again so I couldn't schedule a service call anyway.
So I put another complaint in at the BBB. Suddenly a technician showed up at my door yesterday. The company called me using an automated process SIX TIMES yesterday. And, sho nuff, I got a voice mail from another Professional Soother in corporate asking me to inform the BBB that I was now happy and that the problem was fixed.
See, this is a tale of two companies and how they treat their customers. This is the yin and yang of my life. These people at the cable company have NO IDEA what "customer service" means. And they have earned my lasting enmity for it. Meanwhile, I will sing the praises of Apple any day of the week.