Apparently Apple believes it’s okay to adhere to a lower standard of customer service in India as compared to the US and other countries, even though they charge the same prices for their products sold here.
As many of you may know by now, Apple has announced a free battery replacement program for select iPhone 5 units sold between September 2012 and January 2013, as some of the units sold in this period were shipped with defective batteries.
My iPhone 5 was purchased in November 2012, about a week after its launch here in India. As soon as I heard the news, I went to the Apple battery replacement program page and entered my iPhone’s serial number. And sure enough, the website said that I was eligible for a free battery replacement. Which is excellent, considering I was experiencing diminished battery performance for quite some time now and had mistakenly blamed it on a software bug in iOS 8 (because I first noticed the problem shortly after upgrading my phone to iOS 8).
The next step was to identify my nearest Apple Authorized Service Center, which I did using Apple’s buggy store locator tool. Apple messed up with the location of the nearest service center (Cubic Computing in Koramangala, Bangalore), giving me two drastically different locations on two maps, and so I had to settle for the next best option which was Imagine Store in Forum Mall in Koramangala.
I drove down to Imagine Store today evening and explained to the person at the counter that I was there to get the free battery replacement. The person checked my phone’s serial number to verify that my phone was eligible, which of course it was. Next, he ran a diagnostic utility on my phone to determine if my battery was degraded enough to qualify for the free replacement – please note, even if your phone serial number is eligible for the replacement, your battery still has to get a “Fail” or “Consumed” result on their diagnostic test for you to qualify for a free replacement battery. Luckily, the program concurred with my opinion and my battery failed – or should I say, passed! – the test.
But then came the real shocker. The person informed me that I would have to leave my phone there for 2-3 days, as they would order the new battery only once I deposited my phone with them and it would take that much time for the battery to arrive!
I asked him why they couldn’t stock batteries in advance, since it was to be expected that people would turn up to get replacement batteries once a replacement program was announced. He offered no reason and just reiterated that this was the process and that it was to be followed. I asked him what was the procedure in case I wanted to purchase a replacement battery. I was okay with purchasing a replacement battery (or ordering one by making an advance payment) and then claiming a refund, if that meant I wouldn’t have to deposit my phone with them. But he said that even in that case I would need to leave my phone there for 2-3 days.
Now, there are enough reports that people in the US and other countries are getting their batteries replaced on the spot, within a couple of hours at the most (read this article and read comments on this and this article). None of the people who got their batteries replaced report having to deposit their phone at the service center. So why this discriminatory rule only for India? When we’re paying the same price as buyers in western countries – a significantly higher price, in fact, considering the additional taxes here – why are we not accorded the same quality of customer service experience?
Last year there were reports of similar discrimination faced by Apple customers in China. The matter was played up heavily in the national media and the CEO Tim Cook actually had to apologize and promise to rectify the problems. I think it’s time we Apple customers started putting pressure on Apple to raise its customer service standards here in India as well.