As you may have noticed, I didn’t put together a blog post over here in this blog yesterday, even though it was one of those days… I actually have a couple of draft entries I’m hoping to be sharing shortly, but the main reason why I didn’t blog was because I needed to apply one of my all-time blogging principles: don’t blog if you’re upset about something. Is not worth the trouble. So, instead, I decided to take it easy and unwind for the rest of the evening, pondering how I may be able to put together this article today. Things have been rather busy at work, and it is only now that I have a chance to share these few thoughts over here. And here I am.
The title of this blog post may sound a bit too harsh, but, to be honest, it eventually falls short. And by far! What I’m about to share over here in the next few paragraphs is a story. A story featuring yours truly. A story that shows how a true loyal customer, fully converted (Without becoming a fanboy yet though), has finally had enough with not being treated as such. A customer. I know that good (Forget about excellent) customer service is very rare nowadays, but what I experienced yesterday is way beyond any kind of the poorest service you can experience … Ever!
Thus, you may be wondering how can you kill the Apple brand with a single word, right? Well, it involves movistar: the Spanish mobile carrier that has got the exclusive to distribute the iPhone in Spain. To give you a little bit of background of where I come from, take a look into this very revealing article that my good friend Dennis Howlett put together over at Irregular Enterprise under the title "The Case of the Missing iPhone 3GS’s". Quite an interesting read, for sure!
From the article itself you can see that a whole bunch of us have been waiting, anxiously, to get our hands on the latest model from the iPhone: the 3GS one. Ever since it came out in July most of us have been patient enough to wait for it to become available in the movistar shops. It never happened. At least, to the levels of coping with the demand good enough. And that’s the beginning of my story. If you’re not interested in reading further about it you can stop at this point. However, I’m sure what I am about to share is not a unique experience, so, hopefully, it may prove useful to others, as, after you finish reading through it, it’ll help you save about one hour of your time, and your frustration, which is what I went through yesterday. For nothing.
It all started with a phone call from a local movistar shop, where I was told my already booked a couple of weeks ago iPhone 3GS 32 GB was ready to be picked up. This was the seventh shop that I have been to to place my reservation. And, finally it was there. So I went to the shop hoping that I will be able to exchange my current 3G iPhone for the 3GS one, in exchange of points and some cash, perhaps. The lady who attended me was very very helpful, so we started with the procedures. And after a few minutes she tells me that she cannot go forward, because I first needed to call the Customer Service Centre and request that my contract be "unlocked" and that way we could move on.
I called them and I spent a few minutes talking to a customer representative telling me I couldn’t get the new terminal, because my contract wasn’t expired yet. In fact, I could only ask for a new one three months before the contract expired. And to date, I would still need to wait for six months. Ouch! Of course, I was not ready to wait for another three months (After having waited already for three months for the new terminals to arrive). So I was ready to terminate the contract, right there, and pay the penalty. Then I could get the new terminal, with a new number. I would be okay. Or so I thought.
After talking to the customer representative, and one of his colleagues, I eventually found out that I could not terminate such contract and pay the penalty. I was not allowed. Apparently, we are no longer capable of terminating the contracts we sign with vendors freely by even paying the corresponding fines, if applicable. We’re just stuck with them for as long as the contract is there. And mine is still running for another six months. Not looking good so far…
Thus after an interesting conversation I had over the phone and, which I’m going to skip over here (You can imagine what it must have been like…), I ended up in exactly the same position as I started: a contract still running for another six months, not being able to terminate it, even though I was very willing to pay the fine for it. And the iPhone 3GS 32 GB mobile phone waiting for me on top of the desk… Frustrating…
Okay, I decided to be a bit more creative then, and since I just have six months to go I decided to purchase another mobile number, with a new terminal, the 3GS one; so I spent the following few minutes with the lady from the shop filling in all the paperwork, and after a little while she is ready to click on the final window on her computer and she gets a lovely message telling her that I am not capable of having a second line, i.e. a second mobile phone with movistar. WOW!! Really? I can not have two different terminals, two differing mobile numbers, from the same provider, even though I am willing to pay for it? How fascinating! NOT!!!
Obviously, she cannot go any further. If I want to have a new terminal from them I won’t be able to have one till that contract of six months left expires. Now, *that* is what I call customer service! Indeed! NOT!!! So you can imagine, how, by now, I am rather frustrated, not only because I want to be able to upgrade my iPhone 3G, but mainly because I’m no longer in control of the contract that I myself signed and very willing to pay for whatever the penalty. So what’s the point? Is that how you, as a vendor, want to treat your customers? I hope not! More than anything else because movistar is already doing it! And we would just need to have one seriously bad customer service experience in a lifetime!
So, there you have it. My story. The story of a loyal customer who is no longer planning on purchasing a new mobile terminal from a company like movistar. No matter which terminal. The story of a loyal customer who is even considering, very carefully, moving away from his current ADSL provider, because it is part of the same company. So my search has started. And probably there will not be a way back! At least, not until they change and start learning what decent and good customer service is all about.
You may be wondering by now how does it affect my relationship, as a converted and loyal customer, with Apple, right? Well, after four iPods, one 3G iPhone, two MacBook Pros, one Time Capsule, and a couple of other Apple gadgets, that relationship is now destroyed. Completely. It is probably going to be a long while before I purchase any Apple product. As clear and simple as that. By the time I am "eligible" again to purchase this 3GS I will probably have a new mobile provider, with a new terminal. Hopefully, with a vendor that understands what good customer service is like. One with which I would not have got a strong feeling that I have been ripped off all along. One that has managed to earn my trust and loyalty, versus destroying it all together in 1000 pieces in a split second, just because they decided to partner with the wrong vendor. Yes, dear Apple, that’s how you have managed to destroy your prestigious brand with yours truly with a simple word: movistar.
(Oh, don’t worry, I won’t expect an answer, nor will I want it either, from you, my no longer dear Apple, and certainly not from you, movistar. You have already done a fine job yesterday in turning me away for a long while from you both, to the point where I would also be sharing these very same experiences with those very same folks who are about to make the same mistake I made over nearly a year ago. Hopefully, they won’t go that far!
Thanks, but no thanks! Hope you will learn one day how to treat your customers properly, because right now there is plenty of room for improvement, starting with making much better decisions altogether about who your business partners should be. Perhaps movistar, in Spain, was not the best choice after all… So it’s time to put a stop to it. There’s a lesson learned there for all of us. Including you, my no longer beloved Apple, and me. I think it’s too late for movistar already…)
Tags: Apple, iPhone, 3G, 3GS, Terminals, Gadgets, Mobile Phones, Phones, Dennis Howlett, Irregular Enterprise, Customer Service, Excellence, Loyalty, Stories, Customer Experiences, Vendors, Movistar, Telefonica, Customer Service Center, Customer Representative, Sales, Contracts, Penalties, Brands, Branding, Corporate Brand, Lack of Customer Service, Constructive Feedback