I had an interesting (ok, that may not be the right word) opportunity to compare Apple and Dell support handling recently. The results may surprise you (I know I was surprised). My Dell Lattitude D600 notebook (about 2.5 years old at the time) had a sudden hard drive failure about 2 months ago. Last night, my 8 month old MacBook hard drive died just as suddenly. But, let’s see what happened after that.
Phone call delay: Both Apple and Dell kept me on hold for between 5 to 10 minutes. Not too bad.
Tech Rep: Both tech reps were male and based in the US. Ok, still similar.
Tech Rep Cordialness: Have any of you run into reps that are reading from some bad decision tree script? Fortunately, neither the Apple nor the Dell reps were among this group. Both let me tell them what diagnostics I had already performed and skipped the useless questions in the decision tree.
This is where the similarity ends.
Dell: The tech rep agreed with my assessment that the drive was dead and I had a new hard drive in 48 hours. They provided a label and box for me to ship my dead drive back in. I was up and running before heading home on Friday.
Apple: The Apple tech rep said the drive was probably dead but would not ship a drive to me. Instead, he insisted I go to the Genius Bar at a local Apple Store. Oh boy, I get to fight the crowds just a few days after Christmas. Just what I wanted to do after work (actually I had to leave the office early). He set up an appointment for me at 4:40pm.
Apple Store: The shopping center was packed. Fortunately, I found parking at the top level of the parking structure. The Apple Store was even more packed with a line to the cashier about 12 deep. The Genius Bar had just one iPod Genius and one Mac Genius. The appointment list displayed above them was packed. The harried Mac Genius had three dead or dying Mac notebooks of various types in front of him with a couple of small Firewire external drives. One guy came in after his appointed time and pushed the already delayed Genius’ schedule back even further. This fellow had a dying hard drive in his 5 year old PowerBook and a flight to Australia 6am Saturday morning. He ended up pairing up with a sales person and buying a new MacBook (good decision IMHO). The Mac Genius agreed that my hard drive was dead. Unfortunately, the Apple Store didn’t have any spare drives. So, I’m faced with a 7 to 10 day wait now.
I asked the Mac Genius if he could have Apple just ship me a drive directly and let me replace the drive (as I did with the Dell notebook). Unfortunately, there is a complete disconnect between the Apple Store Genius Bar and Apple Care. So, no, he could not help with do that.
I must commend Mac Genius Jason at the Ala Moana Apple Store, btw. He was a picture of patience and diagnostic efficiency in the face (literally) of a bunch of annoyed/depressed/anxious customers with Macs in various states of distress. The iPod Genius to my right was a similar picture with the distressed iPod owners he faced. Kudos to those Geniuses for really keeping their cool in a noisy environment with clearly distressed customers in front of them.
I left my MacBook at the Apple Store but am calling Apple Care when they re-open Friday morning to see if they can’t speed up this repair process. Surely, Apple’s fabled customer service should at least be able to match Dell’s? And, no I don’t have Pro Care, just the 3 year Apple Care extension. But, I don’t have a special Dell support contract either, just their 3 year extension.
One more thing (to borrow Steve J.’s line): The Dell Latitude only requires a single screw to be removed to remove the hard drive. The MacBook requires removing the battery, unscrewing three screws, and removing a metal strip before you can remove the hard drive.
UPDATE Dec. 29: I called Apple Care again this morning (Friday). I asked them if the MacBook hard drive was categorized as an end-user replaceable part. The tech rep had to put me on hold for a couple of minutes to go check. But, when she came back she said that it was an end-user replaceable part. I asked her why the rep I spoke with yesterday forced me to take my MacBook to the local Apple store instead of shipping me a new drive given the information available during the initial call. She hemmed and hawed a bit but basically didn’t know. As some have mentioned in the comments, yesterday’s response was probably a mistake on the Apple Care rep’s part. I asked if the hard drive shipment to the local Apple Store for my MacBook could be stopped and have a drive sent directly to me instead. She said that was not possible even though the drive has not yet been shipped to the local Apple Store.
Comments on Comments:
Clarifications for various comments: I did call Apple Care first. And, it was the Apple Care rep who set up the appointment for me at the local Apple Store.
I hadn’t thought to call an authorized dealer (vs. Apple Care) first. Although the MacBook is my third Mac (Mac mini and iBook preceded it), this is the first time I have had to contact Apple Care with a Mac issue.
The number of screws and relative ease/speed of replacing a hard drive may not matter much when only a single device is installed. But, things like screw counts and part removal matter a lot in an enterprise setting. If you have a tech team who supports 1000 or more computers, they very much care of these issues. And, even Apple should care about these issues because their Apple Care factory techs and Apple Store Geniuses need to deal with hundreds or thousands of Macs per year. The speed at which they can quickly deal with problems is partially related to physical manipulation issues like pulling a drive out and putting a new one in.
That said, it would be fairer to compare the Dell Inspiron consumer model to the MacBook instead of the enterprise Latitude series of notebooks.
Re: GRC’s SpinRite. Yes, it is a great product. But, my MacBook is under warranty and I’d rather have Apple take care of it as such.
Re: Offer to recover my hard drive data. Not necessary. I have pretty good recent backups. I work on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. So, I have my backups to be recoverable across platforms for the most part.
Re: Dell Latitude D600’s speed. Actually for a nearly 3-year old machine, it is running acceptably fast for me (even I’m surprised to be honest). And, I’m running Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate Edition on it (no Aero Glass or other fancy features since it only has 32MB graphics RAM).
UPDATE Jan. 3 Just got a call from the local Apple Store to let me know that my MacBook is ready for pickup. So, I’ll head there after work tomorrow to pick it up. As others have said in their comments, Apple underpromised and overdelivered getting the new hard drive installed within 3 working days after I dropped it off.