Having anything you own break is not something you expect to happen often, but when it does, it can be a headache. Whether it's a car, a washing machine or a computer.
In the olden days, companies distinguished themselves and earned the trust of consumers by making things that lasted. Foreign companies like Toyota made their name by making a car that could endure a lot and still run. Meanwhile, other manufacturer's cars were falling apart and are faded memories today.
Apple did the same thing with the original Macbook. Macbooks I owned lasted an average of four years, while other laptops I purchased had an average shelf life of about a year and a half.
I never had to go in for a consultation until about three and a half years into ownership of a Macbook. When you break down the cost per months of ownership, the product becomes a value buy.
But Apple isn't seen as a value purchase in the eyes of a consumer. Instead, they are seen as a highline product. With a highline product, you expect to get exceptional service along with it.
The Luxury Repair Process
Think about the last time you or a friend had their luxurious Lexus, Jaguar, or Mercedes break down or had to take it in for routine maintenance.
Here's how it works: you schedule an appointment to go into the shop. You are greeted by an attendant who confirms why you have arrived. The dealership tells you that they will run tests and give you a loaner vehicle while they figure out what is wrong. Then you get a phone call where they tell you whether your repair is covered by a warranty and how much it will cost.
It seems Apple has tried to duplicate this model into their Genius Bar model.
When you have a problem, you set an appointment for the Genius Bar. Once you go in, you are met by the scheduler. The scheduler sits you down with a technician who walks you through the tests that they will perform.
In most cases, your software will be reset and within 30 minutes to two hours, you will be back on your way to living your life.
The Extreme Case
But what if something catastrophic happens to your computer like a hardware issue?
Over the Fourth of July weekend, this is exactly what happened to me. For the past three months, I've had an issue where my Macbook would have difficulty booting. When I would turn on my Macbook, it would take me 15 minutes to type my password in, because the keys weren't responsive. So I mostly kept my computer on sleep so I didn't have to go through the rebooting process.
I didn't have any free time until our weekend of independence to look into the problem further.
When I entered the store, I guess I had a farfetched expectation because I thought that since my computer was under warranty, they were going to do a few tests and swap out my computer with another one. My technician, who was absolutely great, helped me overcome that expectation by stating that they don't completely replace computers unless they are less than 14 days old.
Makes sense. You don't get a new car when your car breaks (unless it's over three times within warranty under the Lemon Law, but I'd much rather get a legal payout than a new car). I probably shouldn't have expected to get a new computer either with my first repair attempt too.
Where Luxury Companies Fall Short
But what I didn't expect was to be out of a computer for three to five days. Coincidentally, as I write this, it's day six and I'm still without my Macbook.
So what could have been done better?
I'm ashamed to say that over the course of my life, I have acquired around six to seven years of automotive experience. The industry is completely broken with one department having no idea what the other is doing.
But there's one thing that sticks out -- the way luxury brands handle repairs for its customers.
The dealership doesn't want you to feel the pain of being without a car. So what they do is they give you a loaner for your time. This is where Apple missing the mark.
When your computer breaks, you're left with nothing. Not a replacement. Not a loaner. Nothing. Just an ambiguous date in the future where you're left wondering what to do in the meantime.
And what happens when you have all this idle free time? You think, you wonder and if you're like me, you start researching computer lemon laws (2 repair attempts within 2 years). Then you start to gather ideas.
The True Problem
Sure. I don't have a real complaint. I don't have any reason to talk poorly about Apple on Yelp. I was treated well and with respect. I own, have owned and will continue to purchase Apple products. But I have been inconvenienced. I am behind on my writing quotas and I missed some priorities, like answering interview questions for some features I've secured for other publications.
And even though it's not a real problem, I'm still thinking about it, talking to the people around me about it and making suggestions on what Apple can do better.
The Simple Solution To The Broken Process
Implement a loaner program for computers within warranty. Maybe another manufacturer like Dell or Microsoft will see this and consider implementing it as a Unique Selling Proposition above Apple.
But why does it work and why should Apple do it?
It not only increases customer satisfaction, it also avoids the customer from experiencing the inconvenience and multiple pain points of what life is like without their product. But most importantly, it prevents something like this from having to be written in the first place. In addition, the value add it makes to getting a higher NPS (Net Promoter Score) is in itself a measurable key performance indicator that can be tracked by implementing a program of this nature.
In fairness when you are in a company with so many moving parts, it's hard to see what part of the process is broken until you get an outside perspective. So hopefully Apple will reconsider how their process works for the next time around. Because if independently owned dealerships can loan out cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars and not take a loss, the cost to Apple can't be that exorbitant.
It's day six of my "3-5 day repair time" quote and the Apple store is already open for business. I hope that phone call from Apple comes today...