I’ve been witness to Apple’s amazing customer service today: My iPad had a minor screen problem, I bought it in a different country and didn’t have my receipt with me – and they’ve replaced it with a brand new one!
Cudos to all those involved and the mastermind behind creating a customer experience that’s second to none.
I bought so many iPads last year I’m losing count: two WiFi ones, followed by upgrading those to two 3G models, followed by one for my Mum, followed by yet another upgrade for Julia to a 64GB 3G version.
My own iPad worked great to begin with, and in fact only has a small screen problem at the bottom left hand side: two LED’s seem to have gone dark, creating two small oval dark spots. Nothing significant.
A month or so ago those LED’s came back to life – however not consistently. At first they just went on and off intermittently, but this soon changed to a flicker of about 20 times per second. The bottom left of my screen reminds me of a really old TV set.
I think I would have left it until we’re back in the UK, but since we were passing an Apple Store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Julia suggested to go in and ask what they could do – and if they could do anything.
The Genius Bar
We made an appointment at The Genius Bar for the next available slot – thanks to the Apple Store App this lands on my iPhone within seconds and can be transferred to the calendar too. Future World!
We check in at the allotted time and explain the problem to Victoria, our Genius Wrangler. I explained the problem and try to show it – but as demonstrations go the phenomenon didn’t even show up. So all I have at that point is my word, my iPad, no receipt and a non-local accent.
“No Problem”, says Victoria, “I’ll just check our serial number… Yep, it’s still under warranty. Let me check with my colleague what we can do”.
The colleague confirms that the symptoms point to a hardware fault and that the only way to rectify this is to replace the iPad. “We have enough in store, if you’ve made a backup we’ll just give you a new one”.
I was baffled:
- I had no receipt
- I was abroad
- the problem didn’t even show up
Just to clarify I explained the situation about those three points, but that doesn’t appear to be a problem at all – bought anywhere in the world, it’s still an Apple device under warranty which can’t be fixed so it gets replaced. Your word is good enough.
I explained that didn’t create a recent backup so I decided to go home and do that, and come back tomorrow for The Big Switcheroo.
The Big Switch
This Morning we made our way back to the store where a security guard was greeting us at the door. “Have you got an appointment?”
Thankfully we could answer with yes, turns out the shop wasn’t even open yet. It felt very “behind the scenes of a movie set” being in the store with employees but no customers.
To cut a long story short, my iPad was replaced in a heartbeat – even though the actual mistake hadn’t materialised. It’s a little bit like going to the dentist with tooth ache.
The new device looks brand new, but didn’t come in a full retail box: a special buff-coloured box was produced with no room for a charger, a slightly slimmer version of the US packaging (which is slimmer anyway because of the different prongs on the charger).
I wanted to know if this is actually a new device – I didn’t really want to take a chance on a refurbished unit. “There’s really no way of knowing for sure” said our Genius, but usually they are he admitted. I gave it a quick visual once over and it looked and felt brand new – it even came wrapped up in plastic.
We walked out and had a coffee.
A short while later I received an automated email detailing the problems, just as our Genius had written them up. The email also included an invoice which detailed that the unit replacement would cost $419 – which was of course not payable as this was a warranty claim. Bearing in mind that a new unit of this caliber (64GB 3G) sells for $829 plus tax (or £659 including VAT), Apple Retail put a 50% markup on their products, just like any other retailer would do.
So that’s the story of my brand new iPad.
We couldn’t quite believe how alien and fantastic this kind of customer service was. I kept thinking that perhaps in the UK – with another retailer – we wouldn’t have had it quite that easy: No receipt? Can’t even reproduce the fault? Bought overseas? One of those is enough to be laughed out the shop.
Not so with Apple. Yes, they’re expensive. Yes, it’s a bit scary how some people see them as a cult, and how members of the public camp outside new shops that are being opened. And yes, some Apple users are a bit weird.
This is what customer service should be like – no matter where we go. This example shows other retailers that it can be done. Like Guy Kawasaki says: Enchant your customers.
Thanks, Apple. It’s MUCH appreciated!