customer serviceI often hear news about Kobo or Google or whomever launching a ‘killer’ new device to try and steal market share from Apple, and this weekend, I had an object lesson in why that never seems to work out for them: customer service. I don’t personally know anyone who has tried to reach Google tech support, but a quick search at MobileRead turned up numerous complaint threads about Kobo.

Contrast that to my recent Apple experience. They recently made their iWork suite available for free to new device owners. I assumed I didn’t qualify since my devices were purchased long before the offer, but when I saw Pages and Numbers turn up on the free app chart, I figured maybe I had it wrong, and I downloaded away. Then I got charged for for both apps, to the tune of ten bucks apiece!

I emailed the App Store tech support people on Thursday just to clarify what the deal was. I got a response back within hours from a woman named Colleen, who, amidst much exclamation points and enthusiastic entreaties to help her help me, asked me to get back to her with a list of the serial numbers and purchase dates of any devices I had.

I left the email for a few hours because I was at work and didn’t have all my devices there with me. I figured I’d be okay to look them up at home and get back to Coleen the next day. But when she hadn’t heard back from me by 5 pm, she wrote again to ask if everything was all right with me. When I told her I wasn’t home yet and didn’t have the serial numbers handy, but that I had two iPads and an iPhone 5 I was trying to work with in anticipation of a new Macbook purchase, she said not to worry and she would look into it for me.

By the time I got home an hour later, there was a new message for me from a guy named Jayson. Colleen had gone home for the weekend, he said, but she wanted to make sure I was looked after. He was pretty sure (as was I, admittedly) that my devices did not qualify for the free offer, but given that they were appearing in the free app list when I purchased them, and given my long and glorious history with the fine folks at Apple, he was going to refund my purchase and issue me a coupon code so I could legitimately download the apps for free. He hoped this resolved my issue and invited me to email him back if I had any questions.

So yay, what a nice resolution! I thought I was done, but it got better. When I didn’t reply within a day or so (I assumed a reply wasn’t needed) Jayson emailed me again just to make sure I hadn’t had any problems and had gotten the apps installed correctly. He told me he was very eager to make sure I was 100% happy with the experience so he could report back to Colleen that the problem was solved. I wrote back that everything was fine, and sincerely thanked him for his help.

This morning, I got one last email, from Colleen, this time. She wanted to tell me that Jayson had reported back to her that all was well, and she was glad the two of them were able to make things work for me. She added a gentle plug at the end about how when I do get my new computer, she hopes I will continue to be happy with the Apple family.

And…I will be. This is how it’s done. I can’t think of a single other company I have dealt with, tech or otherwise, that would go this far. Not only did they assign a weekend guy to take over when their main rep went home for the weekend, but they actually had him communicate back to the person who made that initial contact with me. They went out of their way to make sure I was happy and taken care of, and this was for a promotion that I probably wasn’t even technically eligible for in the first place (although they did err by listing the apps as free when, for some people, they wouldn’t be). In the end, they ate the cost of $20 worth of app store purchases. But when I go back there soon to spend $1000 on a new computer (and perhaps an iPad upgrade too…) they will more than make that back.

Well played, Apple.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Apple customer service has always been excellent. I’ve never had a problem with them in over twenty years. As a novelist, I was the first power-user of the original Appleworks so I found lots of bugs, and the service people practically danced with excitement every time I contacted them and helped when they could.

    A few years ago, I did something remarkably stupid with my permissions, and the local Apple store staff spent hours fixing it for free although my iMac was out of warranty and no longer under a service contract.

    Apples may be pricey, but the long-lasting hardware and the customer service are more than worth the extra money.

  2. I’m no longer an Apple fan boi. I have an iPod Classic and a Macbook Pro Dual Core, but no iPhone, etc. I used to have a couple of iMac’s but now prefer open source software and I have built my own machine. However in terms of Apple’s support I accept it is very good. It costs, through the high hardware costs but I have always had high praise for Apple’s customer support, both in store and online. I have never encountered obstructive individuals trying to find reasons not to fix, swap or support you as a customer. I’ve had iPhones swapped 2 months after a new model was released because the new one was released and wasn’t available, had computers, batteries and components swapped without a quibble, hard drives exchanged 4 years after purchase (chalk this up to excellent EU legislation) and people not correcting you or pushing you into sales in the shops.

    Recent problems with Sony, Samsung, and a few others have not encouraged me that these companies are willing to emulate Apple’s high customer support ethos.

    I’m sure there are others who have had bad relations with Apple, but I know of few myself.

  3. Yeah, Apple “gets” this. They go the extra mile. We’ve all heard awesome stories when people get their iPhones with cracked screens replaced at the Apple store free of charge etc. Amazon “gets” customer support as well – even Jeff Bezos (the founder/CEO) spends a couple of days now and then simply answering customer emails – just to get the idea of what people want/think/feel about his company.

    Unfortunately Google is not among the companies that “get” it. Reaching their customer support is next to impossible… 🙁

  4. Send you iPad in for service while it’s under warranty and you’ll get a taste of what their customer service is really about. They’ll claim it has water damage and deny the repair under warranty. They will, however, be happy to fix the problem if you pay for it.

    I speak from personal experience with two Apple products and I will never own anything they make again.