Lessons From Blackberry – How To Lose A LOYAL Customer In Two Days

I have been a loyal customer and supporter of Blackberry for several years now. Yes, I plead guilty of using a service that everyone else seems to be moving away from globally, because honestly, I have found the BB platform excellent as a business user, and have absolutely loved the effortless mail service and the BBM service that Blackberry provides. It is for this reason alone that I opted to upgrade from my old Blackberry Curve to the Blackberry Q5, and I bought the new handset on 12 August 2014. A very careful gadget user, I have taken utmost care to handle all my phones very carefully, and have never till date had issues with any of my handsets. Except this time.

I have taken great care to keep my handset updated with the latest software and few days ago, when Blackberry released its software update for the BB10 version, I absolutely loved the introduction of the Blackberry Blend capability – a feature that even iOS cannot boast of. However, my joy was short-lived, when a few days ago, the Q5 just went mute on me. I could hear the callers but they could not hear me. I tried everything that I could think of – rebooting, resetting etc, but nothing seemed to work, and so I looked up the Blackberry site to find a suitable service center for the phone. To my surprise, I found that they had very few service centers even in a city the size of Delhi. All these years that I have been using a Blackberry, I never realized that they were so stretched out in terms of after-sales-support, because frankly, the occasion had never arisen earlier where I had to seek service support.

Bearing in mind the convenience of travelling, I chose the BB Expert Center located at Janakpuri in West Delhi, and finally went there on 14 April. Admittedly, I reached there just before they were about to close for lunch, with two minutes to spare, so yes, I was able to enter the premises. The guard at the door made me fill out a form with all my details before pointing me towards the reception counter located a few feet away, which was manned by a young lady. Before even acknowledging my presence, she looked towards the guard and instructed him not to allow any more people inside as it was lunch time. What a welcome ! I got the message loud and clear – I was intruding upon her time. Eventually, she turned to me and mechanically went about asking me what the problem was, and punched the details into her computer. Thereafter, she took out a couple of printouts, explained to me mechanically the terms and conditions of undertaking warranty repairs, and asked me to put my signature on the forms at four different places, which I did. She told me to expect a call back in 48 hours, and handed over my copy of the complaint registration form, and I left. The time on the form was 13.38 – I had intruded upon her lunch time by 8 minutes. My apologies, lady !

The promised 48 hours went by without any word from them. Although I did receive an SMS message after leaving their premises, confirming that my complaint was registered, along with the relevant reference number, but nope… no call in the promised 48 hours. And so, in about 50 hours, I eventually called them on the number given. The call was answered by a lady, who took down my complaint reference number, and then told me in a mechanical tone that their systems were down, and that she was unable to apprise me of the status of my handset, and that I should await an SMS confirmation. What choice did I have in the matter anyway ? The SMS eventually came later in the evening, confirming that my handset was ready for delivery, by which time it was too late for me to go and pick it up.

Yesterday, at the end of my working day, I rushed half-way across the city to the service center, because as per the timings mentioned in the SMS, the store was open till 1830. Reaching there at about 1810, I went up to the reception, which was manned by another young lady, who was a little more welcoming than the other lady I had encountered on my previous visit, in the sense that she actually had a smile on her face, though she too seemed to be in a rush. Having asked me to take a seat, she called out through a connecting window to the service center inside and asked them for my phone. The phone was passed to her through the window, and she called me over and asked me to sign for it. However, I insisted on inspecting the phone first and refused to sign till I had made sure that the problem was solved. She once again insisted that I should sign the papers while she charged the handset sufficiently to switch it on. I once again refused. Upon asking her as to what was the problem with the phone and what had been done to rectify it, she informed me that the software had been reloaded and the back cover of the phone had been changed, along with another part, the name of which escapes me. Back cover changed ? What was wrong with the previous one, I asked, to which she answered that there was a connector in the back cover to the speaker which had malfunctioned. Okay, so far so good… I took her word for it.

The handset, meanwhile, being totally drained, was on charge and there was no way I could use it to make a test call – the charger cable being too short to reach me across the counter. After waiting for a few minutes I suggested to the young lady that she should call me on my other phone while the phone was still on charge – at least the cable was long enough for her to do so. The young lady obliged and picked up the phone. I stepped outside the store and placed the call using my other phone. It rang inside the store, and guess what ? I could not hear her !! I stepped back in, and she told me that the mute button was pressed, and that I should try again. I did. And no prizes for guessing that her voice would not come through….

So we seemed to be back to square one. The Blackberry Experts – as they call themselves – had replaced the back cover of my phone and reloaded the software, and presumed that it would solve the problem without so much as bothering to test it !! Unbelievable !! Even a local repair guy would run a test to make sure that the problem was resolved before calling the customer over to pick it up, and here was the authorized service partner of Blackberry telling me to come and pick it up without even bothering to carry out a test.

I cannot even begin to describe the sense of frustration I felt at that moment, having rushed there to make it in time to collect the handset before they closed for the day, only to find that the “Blackberry Expert Center” had not even bothered to check if the problem was actually rectified. I raised this question with the young lady without being given an answer and all she would say was that they would have it checked again. Admittedly, she was apologetic, but no, not apologetic enough to be empathetic about it. After all, I was just another walk-in customer to them – a complaint reference number if you like. And no, it did not end there. She handed back my paper to me, saying that I would be informed of the progress, and feeling absolutely cheesed off, I left the store.

And this is where it got even more interesting. Shortly after I left, I got an SMS from them confirming that my file had been closed !! That was like adding insult to injury. One can forgive an oversight error, but one cannot forgive incompetence and indifference, and this is exactly what I experienced with Blackberry, or at least, with their service center. It was at that moment that I decided that this would be absolutely the last time that I would use a Blackberry. And I thank Blackberry for this lesson, because if I had not had a technical issue with an in-warranty phone, I may perhaps never have experienced this incompetent, inefficient and indifferent service, which has put me off BB for life. I may buy an ordinary feature phone in the future, but never a Blackberry, because any company that provides such kind of service back-up deserves to lose customers, no matter how loyal they may have been in the past.

I was actually reminded of an incident several years ago, when my daughter had an issue with her Nokia and I had accompanied her to the neighborhood Nokia service center – yes, they had service centers all over town. After the initial look at the phone, they had told her that they would be able to rectify the issue if we cared to wait for about one hour, which we did. During that one hour, we also observed that there was a customer whose phone had a major fault, and could not be repaired immediately. While they took in the phone, they also gave him a loaner handset which he could continue using while the phone was in for repairs. And within 45 minutes of having stepped into the service center, we left with the problem in our phone rectified. I cannot but help recalling the stark difference not only in attitude, but in terms of service. A concept that Blackberry would do well to understand, if they are planning to make a comeback to the market.

Anyway, coming back to the issue at hand, I called up the service center once again this morning, and the call was answered by a young lady called Ms Kumud, and I gave her my reference number and asked her why I received an SMS telling me that my file was closed. Again in the mechanical tone I was informed that a new file reference had been opened this morning for my phone, and that I would get an SMS confirming that shortly. She was unwilling to give me any further information beyond that and simply said that I would hear from them within 48 hours. When I asked her for the email ID of Blackberry she said I would find it behind my report document. However, when I checked it had the email id of HCL, their service center. I told her that I needed the email ID of Blackberry India, but she declined and said that this was the only mail id for BB Service. Service…(?) . Never mind… I will somehow ensure that this gets across to the Blackberry India team.

So presumably, this story is not over yet…. do stay tuned in. At this point I am not really sure how the story will turn out eventually. The only thing that I AM sure about is this – this is absolutely the last Blackberry that I will be using.

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