Wednesday 15 April 2009

One bad Apple (track) can spoil the whole barrel

I was reminded recently of the power of good and bad customer service.

My wife who was a long time avid iTunes user is now using the Amazon MP3 store. Although this didn’t surprise me too much as being one of the first to have DRM free tracks in a open format and now £0.29p for most tracks I personally prefer it – however the reason for the change was surprising.

When I asked why she had switched she indicated that it was because of an issue she’d had late last year with a downloaded track. Apparently she’d downloaded a track (Bad Influence by Pink for those that are interested) which for some reason had a faulty intro. Assuming it to be a transmission issue she asked Apple for assistance, expecting them to provide a way to re-download the track and indicating that the “intro drum beat hasn't downloaded properly”.

The response from iTunes was however a little surprising:-

Your request for a refund for "Bad Influence" was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials. You can review the iTunes Store Terms of Sale for more information


My first issue with this response are the words “carefully considered”. Given that a refund hadn’t been requested I think a response saying “all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for a refund” is a little strange and doesn’t strike me as a carefully considered response. In fact it smacks of templated first response – a little like the insurance industry use – just deny the first request and see if they go away, if they persist then lets actually bother reading it.

The second issue is the statement that all purchases made on iTunes store are ineligible for a refund. This might be in the terms and conditions but frankly I don’t care. If you supply me with a faulty product I expect you to do your utmost to replace it at the very least or refund it.

In fact, looking around on the internet, this is not a strict policy as some people have got refunds - but it’s also not an uncommon issue. Apple should also be looking at complaints such as this as a positive act as Apple doesn’t actually upload the tracks themselves; they provide software to the labels to manage this. So if a track has been encoded wrongly you’d think they’d want to know about it to prevent others getting an equally bad purchase and would at least want to thank the complainant.

Thinking it a misunderstanding, my wife replied to the iTunes representative providing further clarification and looking for a resolution stating “I wasn’t actually asking for a refund, just an answer to the problem. If I download that particular song again will I be charged again, or am I able to download it free of charge once I have already brought it from you?”.

This email didn’t even garner a response from iTunes – so needless to say there were no further purchases.

Apple may be famous for great design and innovation, but as I pointed out in a previous blog they seem to have a constant focus on looking forward without always giving due regard to existing customers.

In a growing market where there is no shortage of customers Apple may not be feeling the pain but in the short term this creates opportunities for other brands – and companies like Amazon are more than happy to fill the gap. In the longer term however as markets mature and innovation is commoditised this customer churn will eventually outstrip customer acquisition.

Ultimately though, for the sake of 79p, Apple lost a customer who had previously purchased 2 iPods and numerous tracks – makes you wonder if “policies” should be bent from time to time in favour of customer satisfaction.

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