Service Smackdown 5: Apple and the road to power

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This is not so much a straight fight but more a series of skirmishes along the road to power – the power in this case being the power supply enabling my wife’s new iPhone to function effectively.  It’s a story of persistence in the face of supply chain problems and one customer service rep’s action turning a mediocre and frustrating experience into superior service…

As the last outpost of PC-ness in my family (iFamily?) I might be expected to take a dim view of the latest iPhone instalment, but as a happy user of an iPhone 4S for a few months I can understand anyone wanting to get something even better.

My wife ordered her iPhone 5 via the O2 website a couple of weeks ago and it arrived slightly ahead of schedule last week. Unfortunately there seemed to be no way of getting the phone to charge up and we concluded the cable was at fault. A call to O2 resulted in the suggestion that we take it to Carphone Warehouse who are acting as their distribution channel so we tried an outlet in Wimbledon. Their last iPhone had just been sold so we went to another one – no spare cables and no similar models to exchange. The best suggestion at this stage was to go to an Apple Store or wait 2 weeks to exchange via Carphone Warehouse.

Neither of these suggestions really offered a solution until we realised we would could fit in a visit to Kingston’s Apple Store on the following day.

Despite having the feeling I have entered the headquarters of some new age cult when I go to an Apple Store I was optimistic that something would be sorted: my experience has usually been a good one and I was optimistic that something would be sorted out. This expectation proved unfounded when one of the two assistants serving  came back empty-handed, initially with a promise to ‘ask her manager’ then with a variant on the ‘wait two weeks’ approach offered by Carphone Warehouse. This was beginning to turn into a negative experience but, as we were getting the final ‘I’ll talk to the manager’, assistant no 2 turned up holding a replacement cable. The following enigmatic dialogue ensued:

Assistant no 1: ‘Where did you get that from?’

Assistant no 2: ‘I’m not going to tell you. It’s a secret.’

The idea that assistant no 2 might be withholding secrets from his colleague runs counter to my cult-like view of Apple (in my mind they can all access each other’s thoughts via iCloud) and my suspicion is that there is an iPhone demo station in the Kingston store that is mysteriously without power. Whatever the means, the end result is that Apple have one more happy customer and the initially lengthy and Kafka-esque journey to get a replacement cable came to a close.

The lesson from this is that in the world of Service Smackdown, the rules (if there are any) are there to be broken…