Monday, January 03, 2005

Outsourcing and quality control: the Apple experience

MacInTouch Home Page

A particularly appalling story of Apple's repair program. For various reasons, I believe this story is true:
I have a customer who had a 12.1' iBook G3/600 which exhibited the classic logic board exchange out of warranty issue, which Apple has a special extension for. This means the unit displayed flake video and sometimes would black out entirely.

This customer is meticulous and his equipment shows it. The unit was immaculate when it got to me even though it had been purchased second-hand and was in use by a kid.

I spoke to Apple and they agreed that it was within the scope of the extended warranty repair program, even though the serial number wasn't within the range published.

We did the DHL ship to the repair depot, and a week later the machine was returned to me. It had a very noticeable scratch on the bezel surrounding the LCD, and the Airport didn't work. I called Apple again and we did ANOTHER round trip to the depot. They made a note about the scratch, but it wasn't so bad, so I figured we could live with it.

Upon the second return (13 days, but Christmas intervened, so understandable), the unit worked OK, but had a very noticeable misalignment of the case work and ANOTHER scratch in the front lower case (right where you would press the tabs to release the bottom case).

I contacted Apple again, and they offered to replace the plastics and repair the unit if I shipped it to them a third time. I told them it had taken too long already, and could they compensate me some other way and I would pay to have the case put together properly in town... The guy's name was Dean and was super nice and agreed to send me out a new battery, which this unit needs anyhow.

So, when I go to straighten out the case work, as soon as the bottom is removed, it becomes clear there are multiple screws and parts MISSING. The LED which signals sleep wasn't even reinstalled, and at lease one important screw is AWOL.

Whoever is doing the repairs for Apple on this program is doing a terrible, sloppy job and there is clearly NO quality control in place for this.

As an Apple stock holder this is really appalling, as it clearly is costing way more then a new iBook to get this squared away. Three round trips via DHL and two logic board exchanges, plus ...

I don't think this is purely an Apple issue. It's really an outsourcing story. Apple outsources their services. That means they lose control over quality. Episodes like this one, especially when broadcast on the very influential Macintouch site, cost them a fortune.

Outsourcing is very tricky.

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