Posts Tagged ‘Bad Customer Service’

Apple’s Unusual PR

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Yesterday we discussed some of the problems people are having with the new iPhone 4. There are a few major issues that have been making headlines, and naturally some customers are looking for answers. In the past, emailing Steve Jobs directly has been useful in solving a conflict with Apple. Jobs sometimes chooses to act on the behalf of the customer. Other times, and I suspect it is most of the time, Jobs blows people off. He knows he can afford to, because no matter how bad he treats a customer, people will be beating down doors to buy his product. It’s good to be the king, at least in this case.

A customer reportedly emailed Jobs about the antenna issue. There are a couple of versions of the response going around. One has Jobs saying, “Just avoid holding it in that way” (Engadget). Another has Jobs saying prefixing the above statement with “Non issue.” Here is a follow-up from Apple, reportedly toting Jobs’ company line.

“Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”
Apple (via Engadget)

Basically, if your phone doesn’t work, you’re holding it wrong. Oh and did we mention you could buy our $30 case to fix the issue? But then again, every phone has this issue so get over it. Pretty poor customer service, but if you can treat customers like dirt without any dent in your bottom line, why not? Sarcasm and cynicism aside, this is not the way to run a business, no matter how big it is. There are some real people laying down quite a bit of money for a brand famous for its “just work” modus operandi. Apple has some explaining to do.

On another note, it looks like there were 50 or so replacements for the cracked cases. It looked like Apple’s service was improving, but that too has been nipped. People’s nearly indestructible iPhones apparently are quite easy to destroy.

The quality controls on the new iPhone, and even the iOS 4 are not quite up to par for Apple. Apple has thrived on the reliability people have come to expect from it. These issues are out of character for Apple, a chink in the proverbial armor. One would think that Apple would bend over backward to maintain its image. It isn’t, and evidently it doesn’t need to. People are still buying the phone in droves.

I would hope that Apple tries to do right by its customers. So far it hasn’t. One can always hope though.

4 Out of 6 AT&T Employees Haven’t Heard of the Aria

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

AT&T logo

I took my wife to the local AT&T store to check out the new HTC Aria. She really wants to replace the iPhone 3G that has always given us trouble, but in keeping with the saying, “once bitten twice shy” a hands-on demo is required before purchasing any phone. Imagine our surprise when we searched the entire store and couldn’t find the Aria. The HTC Aria was released on June 20, and a few stores even reportedly got it a little early. We asked a clerk if they had an Aria, and he said “The what? What’s the Aria?”

It took a brief moment to soak in what he just said. I informed him that the HTC Aria is the second Android phone available on AT&T. He said, “Well it must not have been released yet.” I then informed him that the launch date was June 20. He then went on to explain that “Maybe it is only available online. They do that al ot. Especially since the first one was a flop.” The first one referred to is the Motorola Backflip, which many people agree was a lackluster effort. I couldn’t disagree with him there. Slightly frustrated at this point, I asked if I was in a corporate or franchise store. It was a corporate store. I couldn’t believe that a corporate store had not heard of something that had made such a commotion over the last week. I asked where the nearest alternative store was located and was on my way.

As we drove to the next store, my wife and I independently called AT&T. She received a 4-minute wait list notification, yet I reached the rep first. I had called them after she did, which didn’t ease the situation. Further compounding the issue, neither customer service rep had heard of the Aria. Her rep was the least helpful. He said, “Well, we’ve been really busy with the iPhone this week.” Not a good move. He then informed her that it was impossible for them to know what any given store was carrying, in response to a request that he help us find a store with the Aria in stock. He was not very helpful, and was particularly rude. After going in circles with him for a few minutes, she asked to speak to a manager. His response? “If you want to talk to a manager it will take 48 hours for one to get back to you.” Exasperated, she told him to forget it and they ended the call.

My rep was notably better. She was apologetic about the need to travel to a different store. She asked me how to spell Aria, and promptly found it online. I asked her if she could help me find a store in my area that had an Aria in stock. She not only found a store, she called them for me to confirm the phone was in stock. I needed to confirm if the store was inside my local mall like I expected based on the address she gave me, and she forgot to ask. She offered to give me their number, but upon learning that I was driving and couldn’t write it down called them again for me, and confirmed my suspicion. It was indeed the mall store. She apologized again for my inconvenience and we were about to end the call when I decided her customer service was exceptional and wanted to do something about it. I asked for her manager, telling her I wanted to commend her customer service to her supervisor. She was grateful for this, and promptly connected me with her manager. I explained the events of the evening to the supervisor and explained what a great job the lady did in helping me find a store to go to. She was thankful for the commendation and apologized for the hassle. Incidentally, she hadn’t heard of the Aria either.

I got to the mall and quickly found the AT&T store. I asked if they have the Aria. He said he thinks they do, and went into the back to check. Sure enough he came back with one in hand. However, there was no demo unit available. He apologized, saying that since the phone was so new, the demo wasn’t currently available and might not become available until next week. This was disappointing, but understandable. Another rep stepped into the conversation and agreed that it was strange that the other employees hadn’t heard of it. They were both very friendly, which was really helpful at this point. They explained that since their store was physically smaller than most stores, the demo floor was limited. We noticed some Pantech and Palm devices that had demos out though, which makes me wonder why the Aria was relegated to the back-burner. We thanked them for their time and prepared to leave. I noticed a MicroCell behind her and confirmed they had units for sale. She told me that they had been selling them for a month and a half or so. I hadn’t realized that they were available, considering stores in San Francisco had reportedly not been stocking it. I assumed that San Francisco was far more valuable to AT&T than Ventura, but evidently I was wrong. Incidentally, the unit is reportedly now available in all locations.

All in all, our search was more frustrating than anything. We couldn’t believe that employees had to be informed by a customer about a new phone they were supposedly carrying. Fortunately for AT&T, 4 of the 6 people were very friendly and service-oriented. This outweighed the two that weren’t so friendly. Otherwise the evening would have been that much more frustrating. So, we’ll wait until next week to try again, hopefully after the iPhone 4 mania has a chance to calm down a bit, however incrementally. Overall, this has been a bad week to be an AT&T customer. The iPhone caused multiple site crashes and maintenance downtime, online ordering went haywire, and of course there were all those lovely security problems. As often as I defend AT&T, and as bad an experience I have had with other providers, this week was an unacceptably bad week for AT&T. I really hope they get their act together. Hopefully everyone else shopping for the Aria had better luck than I did. If not, feel free to vent here. I’ll lend a listening ear.