London, Macbook

Getting Customer Service at Apple’s Regent Street Store

In terms of my Mac ownership I have had a story of two Macs. The first, an early Macbook, has had a lot of problems and if I hadn’t been able to keep taking the thing back to the Apple Store then I would probably never had bought a Mac again. The other is a MacBook Pro that I bought after the change to Santa Rosa. This machine was specced at the very high end and even included a full compliment of expensive Apple RAM. I have had no problem with this machine at all. I suspect the lesson is not to buy first wave Apple products and not to buy anything from Apple where the engineering has been compromised by price. As you are paying a premium anyway you might as well go for the best you can.

So, the latest issue with the MacBook is the power supply. The collar of the power supply split and revealed some wiring which worried me. I could have just taped it up with insulating tape and lived with it but I had read some reports that the problem can cause arcing and be more serious.

So I took the power supply into the store and showed it to one of helpers and he agreed that it didn’t look right and that it should be replaced but that I would have to make a Genius Bar appointment to do so. Genius Bar appointments are not my favourite things but I did make one and went along with my power supply and when I was seen it was agreed that the split was not good news and that it could be replaced as it was a flaw with a certain model of MacBook. However the exchange could not be done there and then as I didn’t have my MacBook with me (it’s pretty heavy so you wouldn’t take it along unless you thought you needed it) and my AppleCare records were not up to date so only my ownership of the MacBook Pro was showing up in the system. So I made another appointment, this time taking my MacBook but I foolishly let things drag on at work and didn’t make my appointment on time. The Concierge told me to make another appointment and annoyingly refused to change my Apple Care details so I would have to bring in the laptop again. All this week I failed to find any Genius Bar appointments so yesterday I was finally lucky enough to bag an evening appointment and went once more unto the breach. I made it on time, checked in and then waited half an hour. During which I reflected that when I was late I was turned down flat but when Apple runs late you are expected to suck it down. Something which all the worse because there is no system in place to be able to call or tell the store that you are running late.

So when I do get seen the MacBook’s barcode is zapped, the “floating” account is re-registered to my details. However the MacBook is out of warranty and now I am told that I cannot get a replacement. Well that would have been fine three appointments ago but now it’s poor customer service so I demand an explanation as to why I have been told contradictory things and instead I get a discretionary replacement. So I leave relatively happy with a new model power adaptor.

Here’s some things that would have made my interaction with the Apple Store easier.

  • A clear explanation of what I would need to bring in for the appointment.
  • An accurate idea of how much it would cost to buy a replacement. I was told a replacement adaptor would have cost £70 so therefore I was given an incentive to seek an exchange. Checking in the store later I found the price was between £50 to £60 depending on the model you need. I might have decided to buy a replacement straight away and saved me the multiple wasted trips and appointments. Here you are really suffering from Apple’s refusal to use commodity parts. If I had been able to buy a cheap power adaptor I would probably have done so because that is what I do with my Windows/Linux PCs.
  • I should have been allowed to call the store to explain I was running late and cancel or reschedule the appointment. Alternatively I should have been allowed to make a future appointment at the Concierge’s desk when I did arrive.
  • The customer database simply needs to be better and you should be able to update it with the Concierge. It should take a technical support appointment to update your records.

Here are some things that I learnt about dealing with Apple Store that I hope make your life a lot easier than mine was.

  • When you arrive at the store make sure the Concierge (one of the helpers at the Genius Bar) correctly registers your arrival and your name and confirms that you are going to get seen. If this part goes wrong then you just get left on the bench and never get called.
  • The Apple staff have business cards, when one of them tells you something get a card from them and if there is a dispute as to the advice given later produce the card and ask the person to contact their colleague and check things.
  • Apple staff have a huge amount of discretionary power. Although they may want to stick to a particular policy they have the power to bend the rules, particularly in the end of customer satisfaction. Remember that despite how they may act at times they are a premium electronics retailer and therefore need to retain their customers. There is not necessarily another customer coming through the door in a minute who will accept poor service.
  • Stay polite but firm. Remember that there are often two things going on in the store that are to your advantage. Firstly it is often busy and there is going to be a point where the delay in dealing with you formally is going to outweigh resolving your issue and moving on to the next customer. Secondly it is a store and if people see other customers having an unhappy or unpleasant experience then they are going to be less likely to buy something.
  • Don’t be afraid to use NLP framing techniques. Try saying things like “Can you tell me why I was told this?”, “Can you see why I am frustrated with the service I am getting here?”, “Can you explain why this has happened?”. Get them to view the experience through your eyes and see that you are being served poorly.
  • It doesn’t happen a lot but if one of the staff wanders off into technical matters remind them that whatever the cause of the problem they still need to resolve the problem for you.
  • If booking a Genius Bar appointment then try the website at several points in the day. On Saturday there were no appointments at 7am, nor at 8am but at 10am I was able to book through Saturday afternoon to Monday.
  • If you are late for an appointment just give your name to the Concierge. They will not be able to find you and will ask you when the appointment is for. Say that it was roughly for whatever time you booked. They will then hiss and tell you you are late. Explain that you were unavoidably delayed (it is London after all) and that you are here now. They can and should put you back on the list. By default you will ironically be the first person to be seen.

I wish I had known that last one! Kudos to the guy ahead of me in the queue who pulled it off.

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7 thoughts on “Getting Customer Service at Apple’s Regent Street Store

  1. Troy Williams says:

    You sound like just the kind of a pain in the ass that makes working with the public such an undesirable task. Nobody in the Apple store did anything wrong, all the issues were your own fault. If I had been dealing with you, you would have paid for that power supply.

  2. The risk would have been that that was the last money you would have seen off me. Working in retail is probably the wrong thing to do if you think working with customers/people is undesirable.

  3. Lets face it from a business point of view dealing with the public can sometimes be tricky and awkward, likewise the public expect a service and when dealing with high end products their expectation is doubled.

    No system is ever perfect, in fact a lot of systems are probably perfect they are just let down by human intervention (from both sides). So we all have to live with it and work with it to make the best experience possible.

    Customers will often be over demanding to the point of extreme annoyance but as a business there is a time when you have to make a decision that is right for the business as well as the customer.

    Does trying to keep one customer happy outweigh making every appointment after it run late? My job as Accountability Manager for Customer Street sees me dealing with cases of customer dissatisfaction when they have been to everyone else in the company. I am the last point of contact they will have with Customer Street and I deal with a handful of new cases each week where we have failed to reach a resolve.

    Sometimes it is a cut and dried case, other times you need the Judgment of Solomon and the tact of a UN Peace Envoy. Customers and Businesses need to think outside the box and imagine it from the other side rather than use guerrilla tactics. Often the outcome will favor the customer but it doesn’t mean they are right, sometimes it is just right thing to do for the business.

    As long as there are customers life will never be dull, but like wise we wont be out of a job!

  4. Pingback: Two bites of the apple and two different stories « The Customer Street Blog

  5. me says:

    concierge does not, cannot, and will not be able to put you back on the schedule if you miss your appointment. not even if you explain your situation. since the appointments are stacked one on top of another in incriments of 15 minutes, if you are more than 5 minutes late, your appointment is automatically canceled. the best they can do is put you on stand by or make you another appointment.

    • In my view the inability or unwillingness to make changes in the face of circumstances is a failure of customer service. The software shouldn’t stand in the way.

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