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ICE and Apple! Now THIS should be good!

April 8th, 2011

Many years ago in a universe far, far away, I was one of the very early Apple dealers in the US.  In fact, it was so many years ago that Apple did not even sell directly to its dealers.  It used distributors. Yeah, I am that old… ugh. I was also a dealer when Apple fired its distributors and took all dealer sales direct. Now the one thing that has not materially changed in all those many years is Apple’s position toward technical support and customer service. They do NOT screw around.  It is a huge priority at Apple and regardless of whether you by an iPad, Mac, an iPhone or any Apple branded product, you will get the best support and service available on earth.  Don’t believe me?  Try a web search for something like “Best & worst computer tech support” or “Best & worst (technical) customer service”.  You’ll see.

So you can imagine my surprise when I open Costa Rica’s major newspaper, LA NACIÓN, this morning to be greeted by a couple of articles telling me how Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), the state telephone and Internet monopoly, is telling everyone that ICE will soon be authorized to sell the iPhone 4 by Apple.

Interested in my two cents?  Read on!

Now this should be GOOD!  Here we have a potential relationship between arguably the most customer oriented corporation on the face of the planet and ICE, arguably one of the least customer oriented companies on earth whose customer service (or lack thereof) is well known to all who live here. Strange bedfellows indeed!

Jaime Palermo, manager of ICE customers, was quoted in La Nacion as stating that “Apple’s business rules are good for customers.”

Ya think Don Jaime?

He went on to say (translated, of course) that anyone who has a problem with his iPhone 4 and contacts ICE for service/support, will be immediately handed a new phone, which will run the warranty from scratch again.

Some comments here and of course we never know if  Palermo said it the way it was printed:

1. ICE has never operated in this manner that anyone can remember. This level of customer support may cause ICE to implode!

2. Apple normally does replace products in this manner. Replacements may not be new… in fact it is more likely that they will be re-conditioned units (which with Apple is a non-issue) and not factory fresh product. No big deal imho.

3. Apple normally does not provide a 100% new warranty for an exchange, though they may guarantee the replacement phone for a given time.


4. A different leopard? I have seen companies with truly crummy customer service and support change their spots and become excellent customer oriented organizations simply because they wanted (and in this case NEEDED) to sell Apple products.

So saying that, we may see some amazing changes at ICE if Apple actually awards them rights to sell iPhones. I say if as there will soon be competition in the cell phone market as a result of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFCA) that is breaking up the iron monopoly held by ICE for telecommunications. As Apple has not yet confirmed a done deal here, they could decide to give the rights to one of the newcomers. Seems doubtful that two companies would be awarded contracts, but who knows?

Further, it is commonplace in the US to sell an iPhone (or any cell phone really), for a very low price if the subscriber signs a multi year contract.  As contracts are unknown in Costa Rica, it will be interesting to see if ICE begins to offer contracts (I doubt this) or will charge the full retail value of the phone which can be substation.

Finally, anyone (well that really means everyone, doesn’t it?) who uses ICE knows that at any time the whole damned cellular system does not work. Could be texts, voicemail… whatever.  Apple will take a very dim view of service interruptions to one of their flagship products, so I betcha before ICE gets the nod, they are gonna have to get their act together and offer bulletproof (read that as near 100% uptime) cellular 3G service.

Oh and yeah… before anyone asks… I will  get one when they arrive so long as the price is less than my social security check.


6 Responses to “ICE and Apple! Now THIS should be good!”

  1. Sonrisa Gris on April 9, 2011 2:22 am

    First off i’d like to say i enjoy your blog!
    I appreciate your thoughts on various subjects such as this post.
    This will be viewed as a very pessimistic standpoint and people will complain about my views, but imho I really don’t think apple will hold ice up to such high standards. Apple standards in the US is one thing, but apple in central america is another. I really dont think they will care as much about the costa rican market as the US or european market, i mean who is a costa rican going to complain to? (they cant call apple up if they have no operational cell service). I dont think apple cares about people as much as you make it out, they are about the dollar as much as any other company. Costa rica is slightly smaller in size and population than south carolina, and with slightly over 4 million people in costa rica, (4million people * $200, $800million in sales),that is couch change to apple. Even if apple did hold ice to such high standards, since when has ice ever kept a promise… 🙂 Sounds like Apple is going to learn the hard way, jaja

  2. teri on April 9, 2011 6:49 am

    You are so dead on with what you say,,, it’s comical!

  3. TrueINK on April 9, 2011 8:48 am

    I’ve owned a medium sized business here in Costa Rica (Jaco) for 6 years now without having a cellphone that could /would add great flexibility to managing daily tasks of MY business….I’ve NOT owned one because of ICE’s customer service..the ABSOLUTE WORST!! My wife has her phone thru ICE.

    I’m on the edge of my seat with anticipation for the new cellular companies to begin service. I will purchase my 1st cell phone thru one of them on day ONE and cancel my wife’s service that very same day with ICE and purchase her a new account also! I hope to sit back and watch ICE’s cell phone division crumble to the floor. I think your a day late and a dollar short on trying to claim your changing customer service policies for the better all of a sudden.

  4. Mario on April 9, 2011 1:07 pm

    ICE is no longer a monopoly, BTW. It’s now a single operator in an open market, but all that’s about to change shortly.

    AMNET and CT already went independent with their internet service, American Data is starting operations, and there should be 2 more cell phone operators soon.

  5. Tim on April 9, 2011 1:57 pm

    Well I think you my be surprised. Apple has built their rep on incredible customer service and I doubt they will allow much leeway in CR. It will not be about the incremental $$$ here… it is their way of doing business and it the the same standard world wide. We shall see!

  6. Tim on April 9, 2011 2:00 pm

    MARIO!!!! Que pasa mae?

    Technically you are 100% correct of course… In reality, I consider that they are a monopoly until one can buy full service from a competitor.

    Just MHO.

    Hurry Carlos… HURRY!