A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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.

Fat Chance.

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.


At 6/15/06, 12:34 AM, Blogger 100 Farmers said...

Feel your pain. We lost cable every time that it rained. Just switched over to satellite and am now addicted to being able to record shows. Good luck. P.S.-just spent time on Tulsa. Great parks for the kiddos. :)

At 6/15/06, 7:42 AM, Blogger Amerloc said...

You have more restraint than I.

I'd have happy-danced.

And it takes pretty serious weather to mess up the satellite.

At 6/15/06, 9:34 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, I lose the picture when it's sunny.

And when it's warm.

And when it's cold.

And when it's dark.

And when it's light.

Aaaaaaaand, it just started doing it while I'm trying to watch my Wordl Cup. Grrrrrr.

And if I'd a known you were going to Mah Beloved Hometown, I coulda been jealous. No, seriously, I hope you went to Woodward Park. It's gorgeous. And next to it is Philbrook Art Museum, although Gilcrease Museum is also wonderful. I'm glad you liked it!

At 6/15/06, 3:09 PM, Blogger EHT said...

We have satellite and love it.

Regarding your computer I guess sometimes we do get a perk for being a teacher. I would have done the happy dance too.

At 6/15/06, 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who would have ever thought we'd have our own satellite dish?!?!

I still remember going out in the backyard and watching the very first satellite fly overhead.

At 6/16/06, 9:35 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Now THAT'S an interesting point. Who woulda thought that I could sit on my back deck and put my own words onto the internet while watching the koi in the pond?

Who woulda thought that I could carry around 5,000 songs as well as several tv episodes in a container roughly the size and weight of a poker hand?

Who woulda thought that my mom would have hearing aids that fit completely inside her ear?

Who woulda thought that you could access a satellite from your car so that you almost never can get lost again? Men have no excuse now....

At 6/16/06, 6:37 PM, Blogger dan said...

A free upgrade. Amazing. Apple is a good company for good people. Congratulations... too bad your school doesn't buy you one instead of having to put out your own money for a machine you probably do most of your work on!

At 6/16/06, 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to hear that a company with products I love sometimes has customer service to match. Maybe I can buy from them again after all. (My last experience was bad, but nowhere near the cable company.)

At 6/18/06, 8:37 AM, Blogger mr. e said...

I have a MacBook too and love it. This story is amazing. They basically did the same thing with my iPod. I sent my malfuncationing one to them, and they sent me a new one. It was that simple.

At 6/23/06, 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always tell everyone to spring for 3 years of AppleCare on their new macs. Too often those things don't go wrong until after the first year.

Good for you. I know someone who also had a severely screwed up iBook that was mailed in multiple times and kept dying--he ALSO got a new pbook in his third year of using it. (This pre-dates the macbook.)

And I have another cable horror story: I moved from one apt. to another in the same building, which my cable co. considers a transfer, not a disconnection. The cable service was simply supposed to move to another apt. But they cut it off. No big deal, except they also cut off all of our email addresses. By the time service could be reinstated, major damage was done--everyone I know had had messages bouncing back as undeliverable. I complained to them, to no avail. Wish I'd thought of complaining to the BBB as you did.

At 6/23/06, 9:48 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I know-- they replaced one of my iPods, too.

I am amazed to say that I did NOT purchase Apple Care on the previous machine, but they replaced it anyway, although it was already nearly 3 years old. Let me just say that I vertainly did purchase it for my new Snow White Beauty. Learned my lesson, I have.

I have come to LOATHE the cable company. Your story is yet another brick in the wall.

Hmmm. Earworm time. Pink Floyd, anyone?

"We don't need no lame excuses,
We don't need no techs from hell,
Continuous service interruptions
In sun, in rain, or times of hail--
Hey! Charter! Leave my set alone!"

At 1/28/07, 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate our cable company, although they have now changed from Adelphia to Comcast (and I can only imagine it will get worse). We have no choice on cable and I don't want satellite.

They have THE WORST customer service, second only to SonicWall (internet content filtering).

My husband called to complain about our internet connection. He talked to a tech for a while to no avail. He left his name and cell number. The problem resolved itself overnight and he called and left a message.

The next day I (not T) got a messge at home (not on his cell) from someone wanting to know what was wrong with our DVR (not internet; not cable service). I called back and told the person who answered what the problem had been and that it was fixed.

Two days later I got a message from the same person who left me the first message with a more threatening tone. I didn't bother to call back. I got a third call. Meanwhile, no call ever to my husband (who is also on the bill).

I called the customer service and got a really nice really apologetic lady who gave me a half a month rebate.

I still hate them, but like her.


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