Apple customer service complaints!!

My previous post was about the horrible customer experience at the Apple store. I find out that I am not alone – there are more and more stories on the internet how their customer service is bad. Here is a recent post on San Jose Mercury News – very much along the lines of my experience.

Apple’s So-Called Geniuses Can Do Better: In order to fix my daughter’s iPod, a staffer at an Apple store wanted me to request an appointment with one of their ‘geniuses’ — their word, not mine – San Jose Mercury News 10/15/07

Apple is all about sales – customer service sucks

Yesterday, my Mighty Mouse, only 10 months old and the one I purchased with my iMac, stopped working – all I could do was scroll down and not scroll up. I decided to take it to the nearest Apple store in Natick – about 25 miles away. I also had a $600+ gift card from Apple and I intended to spend it. I am a great fan of Apple products (see my previous post where I have raved about Apple products). I walked in like a kid in a candy store confident that I will get a new mouse and then get some more of new toys with my gift card.

I talk to one of the reps at the store only to be asked if I have an appointment to replace my mouse. Excuse me, now I wondered if I have hearing problems. Yes, he was serious – he said I needed an appointment to talk to someone about getting a new mouse. He refers me to the manager who says the same thing – I needed an appointment with the Genius Bar and if I want, I could wait around 2 hours to see if they could squeeze me in – hallo, first of all, I don’t need a Genius to replace my mouse and two, I was not looking for a doctor’s appointment. I could see that there were at least 10 sales reps in the store, some selling new stuff, others just standing around waiting for customers to whom they could sell stuff. Now here I am, a very loyal customer being told to leave, drive back 50 miles, set up an appointment and then drive back another 50 miles the next day all for replacing a mouse.

None of this reasoning would go anywhere with the store Manager. He told me that they had a system in place and we had to follow the system (hallo, I am the customer) and it was put in place to be respectful of other customers – never mind, this customer being insulted. Only when I told him that I was intending to spend $700 in the store did something dawn on the manager. Not immediately, but after about 10 minutes when he saw me looking at the new iPod. He knew that I was serious about spending the money. He came by after 10 minutes and he said he will do me a favor (sure I am the customer and you are doing me a favor) and exchange the mouse. So why all the hoopla, if you could do this – it took him a mere 5 minutes. Amazing !!

Apple got away lucky – I had an Apple gift card and hence I was a captive customer. I could not exchange the card for money to spend it elsewhere – who knows even if I could do, I am sure that would need another Genius Bar appointment. I ended up spending all the money getting my new iPod, iPod shuffle and the Bose sound dock.

While I am happy with my new toys, I can tell you that I am still shocked at the horrible experience. Does this mean that as long as you churn out great products and the world is beating a path to your door, you can get away with horrible customer service? Maybe Apple will – but I don’t think this is a model anyone else would want to follow. After all, history is loaded with examples where companies once market darlings found themselves out of reckoning (Just ask Dell), when they forgot what got them there – the customer !! If my experience is what loyal customers get from Apple, maybe Apple deserves no better. Apple, you have got arrogant.