Friday, 21 September 2007

Lots of iPhone posts recently, I am aware. I promise I will get other topics up here. But I need to tell you about my service experience with Apple this week, as it exemplifies why great service is so valuable - not just to the customer, but to the company as well.

As I described recently, I had a mishap with my iPhone where a new holster that was way too tight resulted in a flying iPhone that bounced off my hand, off my knee, to the floor and a subsequent small dent that prevented the power/lock button from working at all. In a nutshell, the phone got damaged after I dropped it (although I maintain it should be a bit more resilient and the holster I bought sucks design-wise).

So, as I said I would the other day, I took the phone and a small dose of hope with me to the Apple store here in the Portland area to show it to them and see what it would take to get it fixed (meaning how many dollars). As I also said that day, my expectations were low in terms of service coverage. Boy, was I ever surprised.

I took the phone to the store, signed up to speak with one of their experts on the in-store concierge system, walked around the mall for about 30 minutes, and then went back to the store. The techs looked at the iPhone, saw the problem, listened to me for about 15 seconds as I described what had happened, and immediately proceeded to arrange to have the situation rectified.

Wow. As I listened to the service tech telling me they didn't have a replacement phone available right then and there (they were out of stock) and that he expected more in the store the next day, I actually got a little confused. "So how will this work?" I asked. "Will I use the loaner and bring it back here when my phone is fixed?"

"Nope," he said. "We stopped the loaner program. We're just going to give you anew phone. I'm sorry I don't have any in stock right now, but we'll call you as soon as we get one in, probably tomorrow. Since your phone is basically working except for this button why don't you take it with you and you can bring it back when the new one comes in, and then we'll just swap out the SIM and everything right here when you come back."

I think I looked shocked. At least based on the look on his face. He smiled.

"Wow," I said. "Thanks!"

"Not a problem, not at all. You need a working iPhone." said the tech.

And less than 24 hours later I received the call, went to the store, and got the replacement in short order, no waiting. They even let me exchange the decidedly crappy holster case that was so problematic for a much better model, which you can see here.

Kudos to Apple for its quick, unflinching, natural and truly customer-centric reflexes. It felt 100% authentic and the focus was on whether I was happy as a customer and if the product was meeting my needs and working properly. I can tell you this: I have already started looking at other Apple products in the store and have visited the online store a few times since this experience, as well. I am much, much more likely to buy Apple sometime in the future as a result - and that means in my personal decisions as well as professional business ones.

There's something to be learned here, for sure.

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Mobile | Random Stuff | Tech
Friday, 21 September 2007 10:36:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, 21 September 2007 17:49:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
This has been my experience with the Apple stores as well. My mom has a Mac Mini that has been acting up - occasionally locking up, requiring reboots, etc. I started down the painful road of trying to re-aquire OSX for it (we had lost the DVDs, and we were out of Applecare), when someone suggested "Why not just take it ot the apple store? Just give it a try."

So I packed up the Mac Mini (in my backpack), signed up online for at timeslot (next morning at 10:30), and headed in. Got there at 10:10 or so, saw my name up on the big board saying I was on the queue for 10:30, and wandered around.

When my turn came up, I went expecting "Okay, bad hard drive. We can repair it, it'll cost $100, plus my time here, another $50. Oh, you don't have your DVDs? You need to buy a new copy...

None of this happened. First, he backed it up by starting it as a Firewire drive. Then, we booted it, he ran some siagnostics, founda b unch of permissions problems, fixed them, and bounced it again. It seemed fine.

"So, if we continue having problems, we'll do a reload, right?" "Yep, just bring it back, I'll reload it." "Um, and how much is that?" "Oh, everything's free. You don't need a copy of the software, it's obvious you have it, you already own the mac. We'll just use our DVDs."

It's stuff like this that will win the masses, and already is. Go apple.
Saturday, 22 September 2007 09:06:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Yay! I'm glad they're replacing your iPhone.

Quality products + service like this. THAT's how they turn normally rational people like me into raving, drooling Apple fanboys. :-)
Thursday, 20 December 2007 20:32:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Was this covered under insurance that you purchased, or was it under warranty. Bottom line, was insurance needed to receive a replacement or fix of some sort?
Thursday, 20 December 2007 21:31:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Patrick, there is no extra insurance available, so no. All I did was go to the Apple store, show them my iPhone, and they did the replacement without hassle. I know of others who have had similar - as well as very different - experiences.
Monday, 04 February 2008 12:41:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
No luck with Apple Store flunkie at the door (who assumed an aggressive stance blocking said door) so here's my letter to Apple (via's iPhone Feedback):

The phone is beautiful in its simplicity and is easy enough to use that even my octogenarian grandfather was able to navigate and use it with ease. With that in mind I have a few points:

1. No MMS? According to the rep I spoke with at the Apple Store in Jacksonville, FL for item #3 below, the iPhone is a SmartPhone-class device; however, every other smartphone on the market with a camera is MMS-capable. Surely Apple has the engineering know-how to write an effective MMS application that preserves bandwidth (think: auto-optimization of iPhone camera images when sending). Having to hop back and forth to see the username/password for MMS messages sent to my number in order to see what cute thing my new niece is up to when my sister sends me pictures is, quite frankly, an unnecessary pain in the butt.

2. Custom ringtones. I have CDs that I have legally purchased from non-RIAA and DiY labels and have created a few custom, 2 second MP3 ringtones that I am fairly attached to. I have actually spoken with bands on these labels and asked if they minded my ringtones (played back on my old Razr v3) and they were honored that I would create ringtones from their music for other people to hear. My wife carries a Sony/Ericsson W600i and can play my ringtones, my old Motorola Razr v3 played my ringtones; in fact, most every other phone on the market will play my custom MP3 ringtones (Motorola's mobile Phone Tools software even contains a ringtone editor). While having ringtones available via iTunes is nice and convenient, I will not buy iTunes ringtones because of this policy and am less likely to buy _any_ music from iTunes because of policies like this. Please value _your_ customers more than you value an industry that is looking for more ways to squeeze blood from turnips.

3. Durability. For Christmas this year, my 3-year-old daughter broke her arm. While she was proud of her pink, princess cast, this is an experience I would rather not relive. Her cast was removed two weeks ago and she is required to wear a brace and avoid falling. This past weekend, after getting out of the family car at my mother's house my daughter fell (as three-year-olds sometimes do) and, without a 2nd thought, I bent to pick her up and check out her arm. As I bent down, my iPhone fell from my shirt pocket onto the asphalt and hit right on the power button. This 2.5' - 3' fall bent the case enough to trap the power button in the depressed position and severely limit my use of the iPhone. I have discovered that with the phone plugged in to either the charger or a sync cable or with the iPod application playing, the phone will operate normally (with the exception of my being able to push the power button and put the phone to sleep). Otherwise, the phone shuts down and goes into a reboot loop, which to me seems quite natural given that the power button is always depressed.

I bought the phone with the knowledge that the application pool is not yet populated with the SDK having not even been released. I am willing to wait on the improvements on 1 and 2 that I expect will come with time. 3 is a big sticking issue with me. I acknowledged my desire to protect the beauty and integrity of my iPhone by spending an additional 10% of the iPhone purchase price on a protective case. This case, made by Contour; however, makes the phone quite bulky and I occasionally find need to carry my iPhone in its original, intended, elegant, unadulterated form-factor. When carrying the phone without bulky protection, I do expect it to be durable enough, like every other "smart phone" on the market to survive the occasional, non-abusive, non-negligent tumble.

Contrary to the assertions of the Apple Store employee who told me that all "smart phone class devices" are fragile and not built to survive occasional drops, every other smart phone on the market _is_ drop tested before release and free of engineering defects like the iPhone power button and too-fragile case that would render them useless unless their owners discovered that running the one application disabled the devices' sleep mode or keep them plugged in 100% of the time.

The Apple Store representative made it quite clear that, since issues like this aren't covered by my Apple Care plan and AT&T offers no equipment coverage on the iPhone, I was free to pony up $250 for a replacement phone and that this is my only option. This is not the service that Apple is known for. My simple, dinged case is not worth a $250 total-phone replacement. If I had abused the phone or rendered it a totally inoperable brick, $250 would be a more-than-reasonable, bargain-basement replacement price. $250 because of a dinged back case is unreasonably punitive and I am hoping that my appointment with one of the "experts" at my local Apple Store this evening will find a more consumer-friendly resolution.

Here's a potential solution: As a former Motorola PCS Engineering employee, I have the skills and tools necessary to perform case and component replacement on devices like the iPhone. There are people like me all over the country. If Apple offered an Apple-certified repair program with resources (people like me) near Apple Stores where we could take or send our devices for simple (non-circuit) repair then Apple could restore the type of service consumers have heard Apple gives. I know I would easily part with $40-or-so (discounted 20% thanks to the Apple Care plan I purchased) to replace my iPhone's back case and preserve my warranty. No, Apple wouldn't make much off of the repair program but service is an investment in the customer well worth making.

Best regards,
Derek W. Hudson
Sunday, 17 February 2008 22:20:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
i had same problem. dropped phone-power button stuck-went to two apple stores (first atlantic city then marlton n.j.) long story short-they will not even entertain replacing it. i have to pay 250.00 to get it replaced. thinking of cancelling my contract with at+t. people will not budge-they WILL NOT REPLACE PHONE!!! and i own 500 shares of apple stock-wtf!!!! HELP
william fortner
Wednesday, 27 February 2008 13:19:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I just had this happen to me. Dropped the phone and the power button got stuck in the downward position. I took it to the apple store and they gave me a new phone. There was a slight (very minor) dent by the power button that the apple guy noticed and asked about. He said that if it was any more severe they would not have replaced it. I said that the minor dent was probably caused by me trying to unstick the button.
Friday, 21 March 2008 23:19:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
when your power button got stuck,
did your iphone continually turn on and off? making it unable to use.
my power button got stuck, but you could see the dent in which i dropped it.
all of a sudden it said i needed to restore my iphone.. and as i tried to do so..
it wouldnt restore because my power button kept turning on and off..
so i cannot get into my phone whatsoever.
i dont really know what to do except that ill be heading to the apple store tomorrow.
with hope something good happens!
Thursday, 03 April 2008 07:13:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Here's an entry for a crappy iPhone/Apple Store experience...
Same thing happened to me: iPhone fell out of my pocket, fell to the ground and the power button was stuck. This happened even though I had an inTech case on it. My wife made an appointment at the Tyson's Corner, VA Apple store to get an evaluation from one of Apple's "geniuses". The genius, named Margo, would not even look at the phone, claiming any problems were due to physical damage from the phone falling out of my pocket. Basically there is no warranty on the phone when this happens. Margo then told my wife I could either get the phone repaired or buy a new phone (she seemed to be a snot about the whole thing as well...). I sure am glad my wife made the 50 mile round trip for the "genius" experience.

I've dropped a lot of phones in my day and NEVER had an issue. I'm tempted to pop the case off to see if I can fix the button issue myself. The Apple tech at 1800myiPhone stated that this would have no impact on the $250 repair option.
unsatisfied iPhone owner
Saturday, 06 September 2008 09:35:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I had a similar problem last night. I dropped my phone and the power button got stuck (even though it was in the case)! It kept turning off and on so I took it the Apple Store in Tampa this morning. The "genius" told me that the warranty did not cover accidental damage; he then said not to worry about it, over-rode the warranty and gave me a brand new iphone and added a 90 day warranty onto that one!! This is exactly why I own everything Apple!! Great Costumer Service Always!!!! :)
Stacey Cornett
Monday, 08 September 2008 12:22:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Dear Mr. Hughes,
I am having the exact same problem, crappy leather case, slipped out, now power button is actually crushed into the casing and the nice metal sheathing is all messed up. I read your bit from last september and was inspired to go to the apple store (apple care told me the repair cost would be $199....absurd, as that's the cost of a 3g.)
Now I have an appointment for this coming wednesday and I've never dealt with the apple retail locations before. Can you give me some advice on how to attempt to get a replacement phone?
Thanks in advance,
Matt Taylor, NY,NY
Matt Taylor
Monday, 08 September 2008 14:55:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

Not really sure what the best approach is and one would hope Apple would see the relatively common issue and take care of it. Over the past year (since I originally authored this post) it's become pretty clear that the dent-and-stick experience is common. Even just looking at the comments here on this post, one can tell the metal is prone to bending and when it does it jams the plastic button.

You might consider printing out the post, taking a yellow highlighter to the phrases like "same thing happened to me," and show it to the Genius. Of course, that could also backfire. :)

Good luck!
Wednesday, 10 September 2008 15:16:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Dear Mr. Hughes:
Success! The apple store was more than happy to replace my beloved iPhone, and the brand new one is restoring as we speak. I simply made the Genius Bar appointment, went in with my damaged phone, and the associate, Hassan, reached below the counter and produced a brand new 2g ( hey, beggars can't be choosers ) which he promptly set up with my sim card.
My thanks to you for your insight, without which this experience could not and probably would not have been possible. Again, thank you.
- Matt Taylor
New York, New York
Matt Taylor
Tuesday, 16 December 2008 19:15:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Just had the same thing happen to me, and this post really helped. Thanks, everyone.

For the record, I made an appointment with my local Genius Bar and they are replacing the phone for free. I had one of the first-gen 4 GB models so they have to special order it, but it'll be arriving at the store soon for pickup. I was a few months past the warranty but they said they try to be lenient. Hope this helps someone else out there like me.
positive outcome
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