< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Customer Service at Apple

Monday, January 23, 2006

Customer Service at Apple

I am a big believer in Apple the company right now. My own personal investment portfolio is probably way overweighted in Apple stock, and has been since last year. But at the same time, they deliver an excellent product at reasonable prices, so in many ways they are the best pick out there. The iBook G4, for example, is every bit the computer the Powerbook is (or any laptop for that matter). Unless you do a lot of video editing or hard core design and publishing, you really don't need the extra speed and memory the Powerbook offers. Plus the iBook, unlike its flashier cousin, is much more durable. For any true road warrior, the iBook is an exceptional choice. You can even pick one up for $999. That is chicken feed in the world of laptops. And with the help of Macs many "open source" oriented hackers, you can download a hack for free which allows you to span monitors with the iBook (one of the selling points of a powerbook). So I recommend it.

Now comes the but. I recently purchased a Mac Mini, impressed with its design and performance, and sure that it would provide my kids with the same reliability that my iBook and my G5 desktop have provided me. I still can't judge because I don't have all the parts I ordered! It has been over a month since I placed my order through the Apple Store and I'm still missing one of the essential pieces (a keyboard) needed to drive the damn thing!

The frustration is acute because the Apple Customer Service department is lousy. First, after placing my order I realized the wrong shipping address had been included. I called Apple, which informed me that they could not change the address because it is FedEx's hands now. I called FedEx, (by the way, FedEx has a first class customer service department, they should be commended, I've called them numerous times over the years and they are ALWAYS willing to find solutions, even those not immediately apparent, bravo!!) and they informed me that due to a contract with Apple they are not allowed to reroute shipments in progress. If I were Apple, I would seriously re-examine that policy. It only increases the overhead for free shipping offers as the package must go all the way to the destination, and then go all the way back to Apple, and then Apple must resend to the correct address. Frustrating (and expensive for them!).

But the Mac Mini, as you will note, comes in several component parts. You order the mouse separately, the keyboard, and if necessary (which it wasn't in my case) you order the monitors separtely as well. No problem, I thought, since only the mouse has shipped at this point, they'll go ahead and send me the Mac Mini and the keyboard. WRONG!!!!!!!

Apple sent out each piece, over a series of days, to the wrong address EVEN THOUGH they already knew that at least two of those pieces were going to the wrong address. That is poor management of a supply chain which ultimately wastes Apple's resources and frustrates customers.

More frustration. FedEx sent me the tracking number of the returned items. Excellent! I could watch these babies go to the east coast and then turn around and go all the way back to CA. So I know how long these parts have been back at Apple. And guess what? They sat there for a good long while. Indeed. I had to call Apple Customer Service to get them shipped here. What were they going to do, just hold onto them indefinitely?

The next frustration though was the end of the line for me. Not only did I have to call back. I had to call back three separate times to have all three pieces resent individually. Each time I called, sure enough, I would get an email saying the package was on its way. And it would eventually show up. But it would only be ONE of THREE pieces. I would then have to turn around and call back and say something like: "okay, one out of three (ain't bad?), now where are the other two?"

My last conversation really sunk Apple in my eyes. The customer service rep lied to me on the phone. He told me the package just got back to Apple's Warehouse a few days ago. "Really? I have a FedEx tracking number which says it got back to your warehouse almost three weeks ago." His reply: "Please hold. ... ... I'll have to transfer you to the solutions department."

OH! This problem needs a solution. Better get that extension right. As for me, I've recently sold almost all of my Apple stock. I'll keep buying the goods (though I'll do so in person at the Apple store) but I'm not too keen on owning a company that has separate customer service departments, only one of which is in charge of solutions.