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Customer service done right

We all know that products fail, they have their defects and things start to wear out. However, what I don't expect is for the charger on a £1000 laptop to start to fail.

The problem:
About six months ago the charger on my Macbook Air started to fray, or split, at the end nearest to the charging port. I love my Macbook Air - I've had it for just under two years and it's running as it did on day one, it's light and it's a work of art. The problem I've always had with Apple is their charging cables - they are known for splitting through normal everyday wear and this problem ranges from their iPhones and iPads right through to their Macbook Air chargers it seems. This is not ideal for anyone concerned, but as long as it is dealt with correctly I have no issues with it.

About six months ago I noticed the cable fraying and I put a special cable-holding putty on it (given to me by a housemate but apparently not on the market yet). This worked fine for a while, but then it started to keep fraying. Before I knew it, the outside plastic insulation had completely gone from about 10cm (4 inches) of the cable, on the side nearest to the Mac. The connection also began to be intermittent and sometimes it the Mac simply wouldn't charge. Then, about a month ago to lessen the damage I bought some white electrical insulation tape to hold it altogether.

What are my rights to getting products fixed?
Earlier this week I had somewhat of a brainwave while looking at the cable and thought "surely this must be covered under some kind of protection". For those who want to go down the legal route products must be "fit for purpose, as described and last a reasonable length of time" under the Sales of Goods Act 1979. I do strongly recommend that you don't go down this legal route first though. Always approach the company concerned - if you have bought the item from a retailer and not the manufacturer directly, approach them and not the manufacturer.

Either way, the manufacturer and retailer were the same for me - Apple. I checked and I was covered under AppleCare. I'd forgotten but as a student I was automatically given 3-years free AppleCare (1 year phone support and 3 years of repair support) and I had extended the phone support for the full period for £40 extra (in hindsight this wasn't necessary). I am mentioning this because I can't guarantee that the results of my customer service experience would have been the same had I not been covered under AppleCare - in fact I suspect they wouldn't be.

How was it resolved?
So, I gave AppleCare a call and explaining my problem. I was connected through to their call centre which was in Portugal which was unexpected. The lady who dealt with my request, Maria, had very good English. It came up in conversation that I had a Portuguese surname and she told me she was based in Portugal. Now that I've looked into this, she may have been an Apple At-Home Advisor (that's a good link for job seekers). Back to the topic...on the call I explained my problem and she said she understood the problem (no indication of whether this was common but she didn't sound surprised). She gave me two options: either they can post a charger out to me and I return the old one (but there's a charge on my card for the price of the replacement until they receive my old one) and there's a chance they will say it was accidental damage; or book a genius appointment at an Apple Store and explain it in person which she said usually works better as its more personal.

I took the second option and she booked an appointment that worked for me, and I had an email confirmation within minutes. Today, I went to the appointment and turned up about 5 minutes late - to be honest I was fully prepared to fight my corner. I checked in with a team member who made me aware I was late....twice. I felt that was unnecessary. After waiting about 5 minutes on the Genius table, my Genius appeared. I explained the issue and he said he should be able to swap it out. He went into the back and brought me a new one. I signed for the replacement and was away with no charge. Within about 15 minutes of walking into the store I had a replacement - no questions asked.

Apple has quite a lot of data on me, as through my phone number they were able to identify the laptop I had bought and my AppleCare protection, etc. This made the process a lot smoother on the phone and in store as well, where I only had to give my name. There wasn't any need to provide my email or anything for my receipt. It could be seen as disconcerting that they have all this data on me, which I did briefly think about, but it made the whole experience much more pleasant and I trust that they are keeping that data safe. At least they have the data and are using it to make life easier for both their employees and customers!

As a side note I was very impressed at how well integrated everything in the store was on their iPads and iPhones - how they could access customer records, make bookings, check people in and make purchases too.

Why have I written this blog post?
It's rare that someone will post online when something goes right in customer service, and hence why reviews on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can be very negative and one sided. That's why I have written this post up. It is the third in a list of positive customer experiences including Lexmark in 2008 and Amazon in 2009. I have no qualms with giving companies free PR if they've earned it, equally I have no qualms sharing negative experiences if brands have failed their customers - ah, the digital age.

Image: Apple.com

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Update: This blog post was originally written in April 2014. It is now December 2015 and the charger is once again in a terrible state. It started fraying again about 4 months ago, so these chargers are lasting a year for me at the moment which isn't great. Apple Support says they can't get me a new one now as I've had the Mac for quite a while. The replacement cost is £65.

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