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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.
Filed under Apple iPhone, CAFTA, Cell Phones, Communications, Costa Rica, Free Trade Agreement, ICE, Technical Stuff, TLC | Comments (6)