Nokia could teach Apple a thing or two about customer service

It’s the biggest product launch of the year so far for Windows Phone and Nokia. The Lumia 900 went on sale April 8th and early reports suggest that sales are better than expected. They're nothing stellar but nevertheless some good news for a platform struggling to gain market share.

Earlier this week, I convinced my mother to purchase her first Windows Phone, the Cyan Lumia 900. Later that afternoon, I learned of a serious software bug causing devices to literally lose their data connections --an essential feature for any smartphone. So admittedly, I was pretty concerned. It turns out, I didn’t need to be.

Nokia quickly responded by apologizing and offering a $100 credit for the troubles caused to Lumia users. One of the most anticipated smartphones of the year suffers a major software glitch at product launch. As bad as that is, Nokia did the right thing. So why is the Apple-loving press saying otherwise?

It’s simple. They’re jealous. When an Apple product suffers a software glitch Apple doesn’t usually respond as if they follow a “customer first” policy. I find that unacceptable for a company that prides itself on producing high-end luxury consumer products. We expect more from the BMW and Porche brands of the world when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Living in Denial

While I’m certainly not an Apple fan, I have given them lots of my hard-earned cash over the past few years and many of you have as well. But am I the only one who finds their passive aggressive behavior in responding to product glitches utterly pathetic? I sure hope not.

How did Apple respond when iPhone 4 had antenna issues? CEO Steve Jobs rebuffed one customer: "Just avoid holding it that way", referring to the typical way most people might grip a phone. Only after weeks of criticism, did Apple respond, by staging an elaborate event to show that they’re not the only ones with the problem and to offer a cheap plastic band-aid covering up the problem. As customers who pay premium pricing for a product made out of glass (think about that), did they really think that’s what we wanted?

Remember, Apple ignored the problem for weeks. Nokia responded immediately -- within hours. Buyers get $100 back, or a replacement phone if they want. A software update to fix the bug is expected in a few days. How did Nokia position its response: "Putting people first".

Remember the malware outbreak last year that infected many Macs? Apple largely ignored their users and initially did nothing to help those who called customer support. The situation with the current Flashback botnet has a lot of similarities. Once again, Apple's silence is deafening.

When you charge high prices for well-made products, it is simply inexcusable for you to ignore customers and act like nothing has happened. Although Apple is addressing the issue, they’re not communicating that to customers. The only possible explanation for this is that they want to save themselves from embarrassment because they spent the last 8 years telling everyone Macs don’t have security problems.

Apple-loving Press Bias

Back to the Lumia. Reading articles from the Apple press about the Lumia glitch, and the various Lumia reviews infuriated me because of the amazing amount of inconsistency. One writer suggested that Microsoft should give up and exit the smartphone race and Nokia should switch to Android. Another suggested that since Windows Phone was on version two, there is no excuse for it lacking certain features Android and iPhone have. This writer gave the Lumia a low review rating.

Apple releases a premium product in the iPad to the masses and suddenly reports appear of heating issues and connectivity problems. What is Apple’s response to the heating problem? “It’s by design”. WOW. The connectivity problem is particularly interesting because it also existed when the iPad 2 was released. Apple had a year to fix this -- and they still cannot seem to get it right? Yet, they charge premium prices for these devices. When customers report problems, if Apple doesn’t ignore them, their responses are usually just as worthless. For a company that prides itself on customer support, I find this utterly sickening.

If Microsoft does not get a pass on Windows Phone, or Nokia on Lumia 900, then neither should a company that sells premium products. Apple should be held to a much higher standard. Unfortunately we cannot expect a press that is largely in Apple’s hip pocket to be this responsible.

The bottom line is, Microsoft and Nokia have shown how important Windows Phone users are to their success as a company and they responded in kind. The criticism of their efforts this week is ridiculous. The only logical explanation for it is pure jealousy: “I wish Apple would treat us like that!” Apple fans, spin it however you want to, but remember this: $100 is a way better response than “You’re holding it wrong”.

Photo Credit: Nokia

Robert Johnson is a user interface developer specializing in the user experience (UX) of .NET-based web applications. He has been working in some form of web development and graphic design for 14 years. He loves technology in general, particularly that of Apple, Google and Microsoft. He is a Betanews reader.

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