Friday, October 9, 2015

Apple and the Art of Business Communication

I bought my fancy new MacBook Air a while back, and a great big new Thunderbolt display screen to go with it. The little computer is perfect for travelling, and the big screen is perfect for when I'm at home.

I had some trouble with the display, though, pretty soon after buying it. I took the computer in while it was under warranty, and the Genius at the Apple Store diddled with the port on the side where the display plugs in. He said he would order the part anyway, in case his diddling didn't fix the problem; that way they'd have the part in stock if I had to bring it back.

The diddle did work, for a while at least. I thought the problem was solved. I got an email from the guy a couple of days after the service visit, with a subject line like "your recent visit"; the first paragraph of the message was along the lines of "So glad to be able to work with you recently." The second paragraph started out in the same vein, so after a sentence and a half of such sincere gratefulness, I hit the delete button and went on with my life.

Then, last month, the Thunderbolt display started blacking out. I went back to Apple (after a very frustrating attempt to schedule an appointment, during which Apple's online misdirect system seemed determined to avoid any customer's presence at their store, prompting me to give up on the web site and just call the store -- also not an easy thing to do) to get a fix.

I found out then that (a) the port is attached to something called a Main Logic Board, and that the entire board has to be replaced, which costs nearly $500; and (b) the unctuous email from the service Genius last year contained, at its end, the information that the part was in stock and I could bring my computer in to have it replaced under warranty.

Needless to say, it is no longer under warranty. And a $500 repair to a computer worth only about that much is a silly waste of money, leaving me with a useless Thunderbolt display: a very expensive, though stylish, piece of junk.

So, a note to Apple: when writing a business email, the important information you wish to convey is appropriately in the subject line, and a single expression of gratitude (or similar emotive expression) is all that is needed by way of introductory smalltalk before you get to the point of the communication. Your customers, appreciative though they may be of your sentiments, have better things to do that read through repetitive utterances of that sort. If they are busy or, like me, impatient, they will conclude on the evidence you provide that the entire message is just so much PR, and never get to the meat of it.

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