There's been something of a rejuvenated discussion surrounding the importance of customer service today following a New York Times piece by Brian X. Chen. In it, he writes:
Product reviews are broken. They are great at telling you about the speed of a computer or the brightness of a screen. But there’s a big gaping hole in evaluations of most products, from phones to computers to televisions.
The product evaluations neglect to mention the quality of a company’s customer service, which becomes the most important factor of all when problems or questions related to the product come up.
I learned this lesson from a bizarre experience with a Samsung oven that I bought last year. This was no impulse purchase — I researched brands and appliances for days. But even that didn’t help.
In the article, he compares the customer service he received with that of Apple and Amazon — two companies known for their high-quality after sales support.
My experience dealing with Apple, less so Amazon, has also been nothing but exceptional. While here in the UK we're not quite as skilled in the art of customer service as our North American counterparts, I have found the Apple Store to be one place that excels.
Just this week, my MacBook needed a repair — the display hinge had become loose ever so slightly and it had been drving me insane. I took it into the store on Tuesday for my Genius Bar appointment and was told they'd be able to fix it in store and it would be covered by my AppleCare. Due to the way the new Retina MacBooks are built, I was informed that it would need an entirely new display unit, something that they'd have to order in as they did not have the neccessary part. They offered to take my Mac from me and get in touch when the part had arrived and my Mac had been fixed (with an estimated 2-3 day turnaround). For most people, that would be a suitable solution but I explained that I work from home and can't afford to be without my Mac for that long.
Going above and beyond, my assigned Genius arranged to call me when the part arrived so that I could then schedule in a second appointment for my MacBook to be repaired in-store with a 2-3 hour turnaround on that day. The part arrived Wednesday and I arranged to visit the store this morning, Thursday. My repair was done in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
While my story isn't a spectacular one, it is one of exceptional service. Firstly, the fact that Apple was willing to order in and use a full display part to repair my MacBook's wobbly hinge (the part alone was worth almost £250). Secondly, the fact that the staff were willing to accomodate my needs by working around my schedule. Thirdly, that Apple under-promised and over-delivered on every count.
You might say I'm just lucky that I live near an Apple Store and visiting twice in one week isn't a hassle. Granted, I work from home so can visit during the day when it is quieter, but the store is only here because Apple wanted this retail presence in order to provide this kind of service to customers (plus sales, obviously). You might also say that I only got the repair free of charge due to my AppleCare, which is probably true, but offering AppleCare and AppleCare+ is excellent for consumers' peace of mind.
It is experiences like these — where a problem is solved for you — that build up a positive reputation for a brand. It's why I can recommend an iPhone or iPad to a friend or family member because I know they'll benefit from Apple's customer service as part of the price they pay for the device. It's less tangible, and doesn't get talked about in reviews, but as Brian argues in his piece, it can be just as valuable.