After Sales Service by Camera Manufacturers

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Previously there were a few posts from fellow photographers complaining on the lack of after sales service and support from camera manufacturers. Well, it’s just another day with another story unfold. Today you heard people complaining about Sony, the next day will be Leica, and maybe Olympus, Fujifilm, or even Canon and Nikon as well.

Personally, I do not have much experience with service centre and after sales support (thank God) for all the years I have been using my cameras. I got zero experience with Canon when I was using their cameras, but I do heard a lot of good stories about their service level, and of course a couple of bad one as well that happened around me. When using Fujifilm, I went down to their service centre in Singapore (which is very inconveniently located) only twice for some checking and warranty related matters. Their reception staffs are not “photographically knowledgeable”, but the process still went on smoothly for me. I do heard quite a number of stories about their service which is a mix of good and bad, but I guess that’s pretty normal nowadays.

With my Leica, I went down to their service centre a couple of times. First is for sensor replacement for the M9-P, followed by sensor cleaning for my M-P. The experience overall wasn’t very pleasing to be honest. I wasn’t really updated on the status of my repair, I was given a time frame which the sensor replacement might complete, but after the time frame there was no words from the service centre at all and so on. Having paid so much for the camera, I’m certainly expecting a better level of service from them, but apparently it’s not the case. This photographer needs to send his camera back to the service centre a few times just to get the same problem fixed, and a friend of mine got his camera top plate scratched while sending his Leica M in for servicing. And for Leica, some of the repair work can only be done in Germany, that means kissing your camera goodbye for a few months to come.

So it makes me wonder why is it so hard to actually provide a good after sales service. Is “good enough” the current standard in the industry? Or since everyone else is providing an ordinary service level anyway, so it’s okay for you to just follow the crowd? I worked in after sales service line for awhile (not for camera but other products) before jumping into sales job. Customer complaint and expectation are no stranger to me. And throughout my job I learnt quite a bit with regards to customers’ expectation. To put it simple, you just need to put yourself into their shoes and think with open mind and common sense. It may sounds easy but it’s not. Everyone has different level of expectation, it’s all about meeting their expectation at a bare minimum, and exceeding them whenever possible. Then, you will be able to capture the heart of your customer. So, to simplify things, what am I expecting camera manufacturer to do when I send in my camera?

  1. Collect my personal information and input them into their database. If I’m coming back again, they should be able to pull a record on what’s been done for the gear I owned and the past history of me as their customer. Also this will save me hassle to fill up the lengthy form of personal information every time I drop by to the service centre.
  2. It’s best that receptionist has some level of knowledge on the product. If that’s not possible, at least he/she needs to be helpful and be able to understand what’s my problem.
  3. Someone needs to take down details on the equipment to avoid any dispute, namely camera exterior conditions, basic functionality and so on. The worst thing to happen is for the manufacturer came back damaging my camera and accusing me for damaging it in the very first place.
  4. Provide acknowledgement on received of equipment either by official receipt, email or sms confirmation. Also, provide an estimated time frame on when they will be able to get back to me on what’s wrong with my equipment.
  5. Provide timely update on the equipment status by email, sms or phone calls. Any work done under warranty should first be communicated to me before proceed with the work. For chargeable repair, let me know what’s the problem, what repair work will be done, what parts will be replaced, how much it will cost and get acknowledgement from me before proceed.
  6. Again, provide timely update on the status of the repair. It’s important for manufacturer to keep me up to date and not for me to call in every other day to check on the status.
  7. Ensure problem was resolved completely before sending the equipment back to me.

These are probably my basic expectation. I believe some manufacturers have been doing this, but perhaps they need to keep the consistency in doing so. And on the part for “exceeding expectation”, that’s pretty much down to individual manufacturer to play. From giving discount on chargeable repair, goodwill servicing, or perhaps loan gear for camera under long repair lead time and etc., the key thing here is to keep it consistent. You don’t want to please one customer by giving him/her some good deeds while losing another customer on the other hand for not offering the same. Setting some basic standards and guidelines are the best way to start with.

As for Leica, well, they really need to find ways to improve on the lead time for repair work. I know there will be a lot of investment required as their camera requires a lot of manual and mechanical adjustment, but for the price tag they are charging their customers versus the service level now, I think it simply doesn’t justify at all. I heard that when people sent in their M-9P, they were offered the options to either replace the sensor, or to trade in the camera and upgrade to the M Type 240. But when I sent in mine, no one offer such option to me. And some claimed their sensor replacement only took a few days, but mine took close to a month. I wonder what’s the problem for them to keep up the consistency and quality for their after sales service.

Leica really need to buckle up in a lot of areas in terms of after sales service. We have heard a lot of stories about people leaving a brand due to bad after sales support. I have yet to leave a brand for that reason, and hopefully it will not happened in the days to come.

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