Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

an apple service experience

A few weeks ago I had to replace my iphone due to a hardware fault, and it gave me the opportunity to experience customer service from Apple.

The back-story to this post is the iphone camera unit’s shutter would not open anymore. When the camera app started the shutter would normally start closed, and then open the software iris to let the user know the camera is ready to be used. On my phone it just stayed closed. Searching the web for similar issues indicated that it is a known hardware fault with the iphones, and it is usually replaced.

My steps to get this resolved were:

  1. Check apple website, search for service/warranty area, and then use the online form to find a service centre near work.
  2. Ring the service centre to make sure they were open and available.
  3. Go to the service centre to check in the iphone.
  4. At service centre I was told that they can’t help as only a few stores in Melbourne are authorised to take iphones, but they do most other apple gear. They said the next step was to ring the Chadstone (a large shopping centre) store and book in.
  5. Rang the Chadstone store and was told that I book in via their apple specific web mini-site.
  6. Go to the mini-site and book a time a week or so away.
  7. Visit the store, get the phone looked at, and replaced on the spot.

This was frustrating. The basic apple site did not direct me to the service centre book in for Chadstone. Instead I went through calls, store visits, and store clerks to find that the service was online and could have been easy, but instead was a long process. A 7 step process should have actually been reduced to 2 steps: book in via web and then visit store to get replacement. Blaarg.

Replacing the iphone (or any item that is within warranty) should be easy and the experience should be tailored for the customer. What is odd is that Apple actually had the systems in place, but the staff had no idea what to recommend. They fell back on the “call them and ask, sorry I don’t know” as the default answer. This is the level of service I expect from a fast food vendor earning minimum wage, not a huge multi-national. I’m now better informed about the initial service process for iPhones in Melbourne than the kid working in a city Apple store.

Now I realise that this type of activity is significantly better than some other companies will offer, and it is a negligible problem in the grand scheme of things. A little angst in customer service is standard now, and I think a typical consumer expects to be disappointed by warranty and service.

The last gripe I have with the overall experience is that the “hardware warranty” is basically bullshit as it is offered. The unit had a flaw with the camera equipment which required the unit to be replaced. However instead of the new hardware getting a new warranty period starting from the date it was replaced, the original warranty time still applies.

This basically means that if the same issue occurs again (and it is the same hardware) when the original warranty time expires I will not be able to get the unit replaced. Instead Apple will probably just offer to sell me a new unit. So a known fault just gets flipped for the life of the warranty until you’re screwed. Terrific. I didn’t feel I could argue as the store clerk insisted that it was either this option, or they would not help me.

So what would I expect instead?

The hardware warranty should start again from the date the replacement handset is issued. That unit is meant to be “new” and as such should be fit for purpose. I would also expect that even if the store clerk did not know what the process was, he should have found out on the spot and told me. Or at worse found out and rang me to let me know. This would mean that I would have had a better experience overall, and also that clerk would know for next time.

All we have now is a status quo of poor service based around it being easier to just say sorry and defer the problem. Consider this and think why the support phone lines are so blocked…

So good outcome Apple, but no cigar.

At least the bloody camera works, for the next 210 days more at a maximum when I get to pay for a new one. Guess at that time I’ll be looking seriously at the extended warranty, and what it includes on all sorts of phones.

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