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.