It’s interesting to watch great companies slip. As an Apple II and Mac developer I watched Apple implode the first time. It’s happening again.
MacBook power supplies are notoriously unreliable. I’ve had four go bad. Bad in general, worse when they’re $80. The saving grace was their customer service. Several years ago I walked in with two that were broken. One had frayed and literally started to burn. The first person I met when I walked in said “oh that’s terrible, took me to the back, and handed me two replacements to walk out with. In and out in two minutes. No transaction whatsoever.
I wrote up that transaction too. The beautiful thing was not just great service, but that a key corporate value had been embedded deeply all the way to this guy in the store. His #1 priority was to make my experience great. Everything else was secondary. And he was empowered to do anything within that general guideline.
Today is different. I’m here in the store now and have lots of time on my hands so I’m transcribing live…
Greeting person: Hi welcome to Apple!
Hi, my power supply is broken
Is it still under warranty?
I have no idea.
Ok, well come with me. Now wait here for the guy with red phone cover.
Wait as he talks to others. Frees up in a few minutes
Hi, I’m so and so, how can I help you?
Hi, I need a new power supply
Do you have an appointment?
Well, we are appointment driven, that’s our process.
I had the same problem two years ago and the process was that you walk over there and get me a new power supply.
Well, if I do that now I’d be in violation of our process. Come with me over to the genius bar.
… Wait a few minutes for genius to free up. I test a power cable there and it works, so I get on WiFi, check email, and start this. Originally it was just going to be a Facebook post but then it got way to long!
Hi, my name is Grace, how can I help you?
I just need a new power supply.
Do you have an appointment?
Ok then, please register here and select an appointment time. Hands me iPad
Fortunately one was available in 5 minutes…
5 minutes go by and she comes over.
Is it under warranty?
Ok, I’ll check the serial number, figures it out…
Great, you have 54 days of warranty remaining! Lets get you fixed up. Usually it’s just this part (the power brick)
Yep, cord’s don’t fail much
Detaches the cord from the brick
I’ll check stock… wait… wait….
Tracy yells across the store – “anyone else having trouble with mobile genius?”
I laugh a bit.
Tracy is not amused.
Another genius helps her figure it out.
Looks like I’m out of stock on that but I can order you one.
That doesn’t work, I need this for work. You have power supplies right over there. Could I get one of those?
Well, we have “full power supplies, with the cord that you can buy.
You can’t just give me one?
Let me check on this
Wanders off and talks to another customer. 7 minutes pass. The conversation is rich with the words “not under warranty” and “have to charge you”. Also, she explains many times to the table how she’s sorry you all have to wait, but she has to multitask with all the people at the table.
The table fills with three more customers. More time passes. Many more discussions of warranties and people leaving very unhappy.
Normally by this time I would have become rather grumpy and asked Tracy what was up, but I was entertained writing this up. I also walked over to the wall and got a replacement power supply.
Finally, Nate appears from the back room. Nate has a different tone and is clearly sent in to address the problem customers. He double checks my serial number and warranty, and tells me he can order one.
I ask one more time if I can just have this one here?
He says it’s impossible because it’s in inventory. The look in his eyes clearly indicates that he’s frustrated and sorry. Nate’s a good guy. His hands are tied by policy and rules.
I decide to just pay.
We fill out forms on his iPad to get me a replacement cable ordered. They won’t ship it to me, I have to pick it up. I enter my email address and phone number for notification.
Then when I pay for my charger ($84) I fill out my email address again, on his phone this time in some other system.
Then, one more signature on the iPad on another form to acknowledge the $100 of labor that they gifted me for the privilege of being shuffled around the store, and I’m done.
50 minutes, $84, and I have to go back next week to pick up my replacement power supply. Times have changed.
What’s amazing is how quickly a different corporate value has been pushed through the organization. Bureaucracy and cost cutting. Truly stunning reversal.