2008/04/21

iTunes customer service

One of the less tangible aspects of shopping online is the lack of any face-to-face contact in the inevitable case that something goes wrong. I haven’t had much experience with online shopping in general, but I have had a couple of things go wrong for me on iTunes. And I’m happy to report that, in Australia at least, their customer support is excellent.

My problems

The worst of my problems occurred quite some time ago when iTunes was periodically crashing on me. Not really sure how or why, and iTunes these days is fairly reliable, but back then it was rather a pain in the ass. Playing music over wireless was fraught with embarrassment (“aren’t Apple products supposed to just work?”), and buying music online a risky business. Once or twice, iTunes crashed midway through an iTunes download and a song or two from the purchased album was lost in the √¶ther. (Usually this problem can be fixed with the Store > Check for Purchases… menu item — but not in this particular case.)

Another time, I simply bought the wrong album, due to the ridiculous setup where iTunes will often sell both an AU$18 basic album as well as an AU$22-ish album with music videos or live or bonus tracks — generally I buy the more expensive version, but in this case the link from the iTunes main page was for the basic version and I bought it before checking for the other.

Finally, just the other day I bought the “iTunes Live” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds EP and found that the last track ended abruptly, mid-chorus, at 5:13. Clearly something had gone wrong with the encoding of this track, and the one review of that album mentioned the anomaly in rather negative terms.

Reporting those problems

In each case, the response from Apple was swift and appropriate. I had to look around for a little while before I worked out how to report a problem. Recently, Apple’s been sending email receipts on all purchases, and these emails make the “Report a Problem” links rather more prominent. Through iTunes, however, here’s how you do it. In your iTunes account, access your purchase history:

itunes-purchase-history.png

You can then select any of your purchases with the little circled arrows:

itunes-purchase-history-items.png

Thus, each item that passes through your iTunes account can be separately reported upon.

Apple’s response

As previously mentioned, I have been completely satisfied with Apple’s response for each of the small number of problems I’ve had over the last few years. After a very short interval and despite the very brief exchange of words on both sides, I’ve always received a full “refund” to fix the problem by re-downloading the content. (As you would expect considering the cost to them is negligible, and you get to keep what you originally purchased, so it’s more of a “credit” than a “refund”. Whatever.) Apple claims to reply within 24 hours, and I think that’s about right (the most recent one certainly was). It even only took them a couple of days to fix the clipped Nick Cave track, restoring the missing ninety-odd seconds.

To conclude, how they cope with failure is a pretty important measure of the customer service of a business. Any misstep could result in alienating their very customers, especially when the business is as faceless as the iTunes store. (I wonder if this sort of thing can be fixed in the bricks’n’mortar Apple Stores in the U.S.) Disregard for now the causes of the problems that I had, which could probably be blamed in various measures on iTunes itself — that’s a rant for another time. In my own experience, iTunes’ customer service is very satisfactory and reassures me against any further problems down the road.