Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Apple Service Experience

Sometime last year, I purchased an iPad. And that was purchased outside the country. All went well until one fine day the little one somehow managed to get gravitys attention to it from the sofa. Gravity, promptly pulled it towards the center of the earth. Luckily, the fall was broken by our floor. And coincidentally, post that the 'home' button stopped working. And for good measure, the iPad refused to recognize electricity as well - it stopped getting charged.

Our iPad was bricked more or less.

Taking it to the US was out of question and we thought of exploring some local service options. After all, a company like Apple would have some service center somewhere in Bangalore. Turns out they do.

Now, one does not expect an Apple product to fail. And in any case, most companies do not have anything called an international warranty. With the foresight that comes with experience, I had destroyed any proof of me having purchased the iPad. The chances that I will find the receipt when required tends towards zero in any case, so I dont bother keeping receipts.

So, we landed up there half expecting that nothing will work. But it turns out, Apple does have an international warranty. They took a look at our product and confirmed that a problem did exist and they will come back to us. Sure enough, they called - they had figured out that it was still a few days before a year ran out - and the warranty expired - and as per the warranty terms, hardware issues mean that the product will be replaced.

And here is the point. They could have easily sent me away since I did not have a receipt. Or if I did, they could have sent me away saying that since I purchased it in US, I would have to go back to US and get it serviced, at my own expense. And, it was after all damaged by us or so we thought - and that was reason enough for it to be turned back.

But they did not. And obviously for me that was a great service experience.

This is not a unique case. Please.

I had an HTC phone. Purchased in the US. The chap in India refused to open the phone (some lengthy debate about how they could not or were not allowed to ensued  - with the same result). I sent it to Singapore - same result there as well. And I have that Google phone lying on my desk as a paperweight - a great way for geeks to showcase their sunk cost.

Another friend had some e-reader device. That got replaced after she managed to nearly break into two - but it had to be returned to the country of purchase.

Even in India, for simple purchase returns they look at the preserved receipt and then look at you as if you made the receipt in your house and are trying to swindle money out of them.

Ultimately, you either have a great customer experience or you dont. Apple does. The rest, have, excuses.

Update: I visited a Canon service center in Bangalore and while I waited I heard the person there give some huge excuse to someone on how there is no international warranty and excuses like that. If you are Canon (and really, Canon is a big name in cameras), this is your time to get your service levels to that of Apple!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where do you want to be?

Last week, I discussing with a friend on career moves. 

And my career has been anything but linear. And when I say that I don’t mean stratospheric growth, it means that over time I have moved my career in many a direction before finding my feet. I have worked in many a function, technical, operations, support before settling down on what I think is what I want to do. 

That decision has not been easy. You see, my qualifications are different – as per my qualifications I should be doing something else. As per my experience, I should be doing something else. If one combines qualification and experience it is something else (whatever that is). 

There are no established rules for success - your qualifications need not hold you back at all. And the real world is all about such people. I am sure you have met such people. As much as it is great to have your interest building up your qualifications leading to your experience, it is also equally great to build your career with the bricks you find on your way.
 These are some examples I have encountered in my life. Think about it. A medical doctor friend of mine started working in a brokerage. No apparent connection. But he used his medical knowedge with his financial interest to focus analyzing pharma companies. A finance friend of mine went into medical sales and then onto travel. Again, he used his knowledge of finance with an interest in marketing to succeed. And you will find such entrants in many industries - changing the way the game is played - simply because they dont have "dogmas" that often come with qualifications and experience. On the contrary - their cross industry experience, often makes it easier for them to challenge status quo by asking, "if we could do it there, why can it be done here?"

But the key is to love what one is doing. Putting interest in the mix did not ring bells, until one fine day it happened (or so I felt). The trick for the interest question is perhaps (again, my experience), “Do I like doing this on a consistent basis.” YMMV, of course. Ask this question day in and day out as you reach your desk each Monday. Ask the question do you dread your week days or do you look forward to them? Do you feel stressed doing what you are doing or are you able to do it effortlessly (does not mean lazily). Does work feel like work or play? Do you wake up in the middle of the night with a Eureka idea or would you rather not wake up at all?

Point being, as we move roles, there is a good chance that it appears that the qualifications or experience are not adding up. So, if I am a technologist who is trying to get into something else, it is not about what you left behind, it is about what you are going toward. And in that journey, what you left behind is a sunk cost. It will help you, by and large, but don’t let it hold you back from trying out something new.Also, it appears that it wont add up, but you can make add up if you want it to. Making it all add up will add more juice, if you will, to your career.

Therefore, in your career, always think about this – It is not where you were, It is where you want to be.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

When problem strikes

Ever so often, be it in our work lives or in our personal lives, there are problems that need resolution. Sometimes something happens, something breaks and each time a problem strikes we are dumbstruck or blindsided and worse clueless how to go about in future.

Typically, a problem breaks an 'established' routine which leaves us feeling lost as well. At this point, we typically have two choices: Fix the problem or Do something different.

Most often, we go for the former (and many a time that is the right thing to do) - and try and see if there is a way that we can fix the problem. By and large that works, but sometimes, a fixed problem reappears in a different avatar. That is when most of us realize that the problem was only partially solved - or fixed.

However, if one takes a different approach - take a look at every problem as an opportunity to redefine a process, there is a great chance that the problem will be resolved for good and be used as a chance to make things better.

A lot of times, problems crop up because a process that was conceptualised has run well past its sell-by date. And if such a process breaks, it is a great time to say, hey, this has finally broken, what can we do to make this situation better?

Treating the problem as a re-imagination opportunity will help us get there. Yes, the demons of 'this is how it is always done' or 'why are you tampering with an existing process' have to be slayed, but this is a good opportunity to make an attempt to do so...