Home > Mobility > Google Should’ve Partnered with Zappos Instead of HTC on the Nexus One!

Google Should’ve Partnered with Zappos Instead of HTC on the Nexus One!

This is a story about customer service and the smartphone, about how Google not completely comprehending what they bargained for when they decided to get into the phone business. In spite of early issues, Google’s piece of the customer service equation likely works right (I truly was handled by a great rep), but that’s only part of their equation. They are not going at this alone. The other part is their unforgiving partner HTC (manufactures their devices and handles device fulfillment and customer service) who live on a separate island (and as a google phone customer you will likely feel this). And yes I made the choice to roll my own here by buying a device without a carrier, but I’d truly believe we deserve all better than this.

And let’s say that in spite of bad rap that the various carriers take (I’m with AT&T); they would have handled my situation so much better. And Zappo’s, in spite of the ordering confusion (on whomever’s side), I would have walked away from the transaction with a smile and confidence that would make me easily come back to them for lots more stuff. Now Zappos doesn’t sell the Google phone, but ah we should wish they did 🙂 And maybe if Google figured their way through their customer service weaknesses (in this and other areas), they would be able to sell a lot more Nexus Ones (which are apparently not selling as well as hoped for).

So What Happened Mr. Schiff?
I put the hammer down last Wednesday on the just released AT&T-ready Google Nexus One. I’m one of those folks who prefers to shop online (I put my Honda Accord from CarsDirect sight unseen). So I happily went to Google’s website and plunked down $1,058US for 2 devices purchased without a contract and no strings attached to my carrier (I covered my thinking on this previously here). The transaction part was easy… and the devices were on my doorstep within 36 hours.

I quickly take the old SIM card out of my Blackberry Curve, stick it into the Nexus One and I’m off and running. The device boots. Phone calls work. I can surf the web… All is seemingly good in smartphone land. Several days into my Android weekend fog (learning how to use the thing) running it on my home network, I realize that device is has not once managed to get on AT&T’s 3G network.

OK, I’m thinking, I live in a heavily wooded area, maybe they don’t have coverage here. So I check the “map” and find out that I truly live in a blue state and there is 3G in most places I’d likely stray in my day-to-day travels. I drive down from the woods, still no 3G. Drive up to Danbury, still stuck on the AT&T’s 2G Edge Network. Something is off here.

So where does one go for help on this? Hard to know where to start
I do what I know how to do and head online (imagine if my Mom or Mother-in-law had the same problem?) Someone in one of the quickly developing Android community forum sites suggested it might be my old Blackberry SIM. Made sense, so I headed to the AT&T store. Nice folks over there, but they’d never seen one of them Google phones (agent scratches his head), but they happily upgrade my SIM no questions asked. Still no 3G. We reboot the phone, downgrade my data plan now that I don’t have a Blackberry in the mix, but that didn’t do it either.

The AT&T guys bid me good luck and I’m home to figure this out on my own. Next step is to head to Google’s phone website, and alas there was a real phone # to call: 1-888-48-NEXUS (63987)–at least you can call them. I was very quickly on the line with a very knowledgeable agent. Within less than 5 minutes, we figured out that I somehow ended up with a T-Mobile version of the phone, which because it wasn’t provisioned with the right radio would never work on the AT&T’s 3G network. Bingo… this should be easy to correct. Hah!

The agent asked me at the end of the call, how I’d rate the service on the call on a 1-5 basis (5 being best)… I emphatically said, 5!  I asked if he would set up an RMA for me (I was clearly too fast in my rating of the transaction), and he said that HTC would handle, but that he would get me on the line with one of their folks. OK, no worries. I was quickly talking to an HTC agent.

The Dreaded Restocking Fee
The new agent was very quick to advise me that if I’d used my phone, it would be subject to a $45US restocking fee. Thanks Mr. Agent, but I’m not one of those folks who kicked the tires and decided that perhaps an iPhone would be better for me. And yes, I just paid full boat for two devices! I quickly explained to the agent my tale of mistaken phone identity. Surely he would understand that there’s no way I would have ordered a T-Mobile phone, especially since I ordered two, and the other one we received was an AT&T one. And taking that one step further, the T-Mobile option was 2nd on the list of two that one could select on Google’s site, and it just didn’t make sense that I would be confused by that usability wise. I would have had to deliberately moused down to get to the T-Mobile one. I suggested to the agent that this was a supply chain error, and there’s was no way I was paying them $45 for their error.

I was getting nowhere fast with this guy, so asked that he escalate this to his supervisor. The supervisor gave me no satisfaction either.

In fairly routine fashion in spite of whatever angle I approached him from, he read me back the terms of service regarding open packages. He was careful to not give me an inch or set any expectation that I would end up doing anything else but paying them $45 for what was obviously my error. Surely I suggested that he must have some discretionary ability in these cases to make it right for the customer. “Sorry Mr. Schiff, but our system says you bought a T-Mobile device, which we delivered per the terms of service.”

And even if he felt compelled by my story, he reiterated that “his systems were not capable of accommodating any kind of reversal for this type of issue.” He wasn’t budging. OK, I asked if I could talk to his supervisor. “Sorry, it’s after 6 PM and there’s no one around who would be any higher up than I am.” I asked if I had any recourse, and he indicated that he can place a request within the system and that someone would get back to me in 24-48 hours, but I that he would do nothing to encourage me to believe that there would be a different outcome. OK, so I have a case #… Good luck!

The HTC  agents were professional and polite throughout, but I never had the sense that they cared a rat’s a*s about making it right for me, or anyone else. And in spite for the fact that I bought the phone from Google, they were gone from the transaction. The Google guy was great technically, but he had no capability of closing the loop on this own, and no ownership over what happened. By the book, he did his job, but clearly there was something missing. Once I was shoveled off to HTC,  the message was pretty consistent throughout. Per them, there’s no way that I as a customer could be right. No benefit of the doubt in their world.

High Volume Online Transactions and Quality Customer Service are Not Mutually Exclusive
In the end I am likely to eat the $45 here, and in the big scope of things, this is really a small story not worth crying too much about. Still, high volume online transactions and customer service can be delivered much better than this. Zappos, LL Bean, and Amazon come to mind. These are folks that know how to do this right. I’ve bought and returned tons of electronics items from the likes of NewEgg.com and Buy.com without friction… and I’ve gone back to those sellers time and again because of the trust that they will do what’s necessary to make it right. I go to buy something from them, I know I won’t get the third degree if something needs to be returned.

The Google/HTC thing is still very young. As they move out of the pure world of bit and bytes, one hopes they get better touch with their customers as human beings rather than just transactions.

Update 1: It appears that others have experienced the same problem with getting shipped the wrong N1. So if you’re buying a Nexus One from Google be careful during the checkout process, but also when you receive the device. Here’s some info to help you clearly see what you’ve purchased…

If it’s AT&T, your invoice will say:
Nexus One phone (GSM 3G 850/1900/2100MHz)

If it’s T-Mobile, your invoice will say:
Nexus One phone (GSM 3G 900/AWS/2100MHz)

Careful, during the checkout process this is far from from obvious. And once you receive the device, there’s nothing on the actual device or box that clearly identifies a device as T-Mobile or AT&T.

The only way to know for sure is to look inside behind the battery, or on the white box that the device is packed in (next to the bar codes).

The T-Mobile device will read: PB99100
The AT&T device will read: PB99110

Update 2: It appears that my “case” didn’t get far on its own within the walls of HTC. I decided to give them a follow up call with my case # in hand. This time around I was not stonewalled and a supervisor was quickly brought in a waived the restocking fee. So if you get stonewalled, make sure to keep pushing, get a case # and make sure to follow up. HTC can be reached directly @ 888.216.4736

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