A while ago, my brand new iPhone was stolen at the airport, having left it behind on a table for just a few minutes. Clever thief, stupid me! I had just acquired the phone with a data package from my carrier as a bundle. I called my carrier. Since I had a business account, I expected that a handset replacement would be easy to obtain. I did not expect it to be free. I was prepared to pay whatever was required. When I called them and explained the circumstances, they told me repeatedly that ‘it was not their policy’ to replace a phone, even if I paid. The phone came with a package and that was that. One contract, one phone. No provision to have a second one, even if I paid.
His level of sympathy was zero. The ‘It’s our policy not to do that’ was repeated several times by the ‘customer services representative’ at the beginning of each of his sentences, no matter what. When I challenged him that I needed help, not a lecture on their policies, he suggested that I try their competitor! Literally. Because ‘it was their policy not to replace a handset’, of course. Today, I am with another carrier.
But I didn’t go to their competitor at the time, because I decided to call Apple directly. A human being with a Californian accent (I was in the UK) was at the other end in less than a minute, compared with the close to five of my previous experience. I explained the incident in the airport, and how bad (stupid?) I felt. The voice at the other end started to engage with me in a conversation about how dreadful it was to have your phone stolen, how bad one feels, and how having a hard time on this is the last thing one wants on a busy day. And he went as far as saying, ‘I feel sorry for you’. I could not believe it. There was a human being with empathy for my little troubles at the other end of the line and he was truly sympathetic and kind. Had he tried to sell me a fridge I would have agreed. But I bought a new iPhone from him. Before he went off, we chatted about the weather in California and the UK.
In the last weeks, I have tried to book a hotel for a family weekend trip to Ireland. The hotel reservation person told me that, for that particular weekend, they had a policy of not accepting less than 2 nights. I only needed one. I expressed my surprise. I confess I have not encountered this before. ‘Sorry Sir, it is our policy that during these busy weekends, we don’t book for less than 2 days’. I protested, and they suggested that I should write to the manager. So I did. Guess what the manger’s email said? That ‘it’s our policy’ etc. I did email the general manager to test if he hired his staff from Robots Anonymous. His reply came with a familiar statement: ‘It’s our policy that’, etc.
These examples of self-centred-not-customer-services are not uncommon. People who are supposed to serve you, don’t listen to you and show zero interested in serving. None of these people at that hotel spontaneously suggested any alternatives to me. But I know a bit more about policies now. And I still think an Apple fridge is a good idea.
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