Saturday, June 12, 2004

What's Up With Customer Service?

Ooh, don't get me started!

At home, I'm faced with a Canon digital camera that was $349 375 days
ago, I can buy today for $199, and Canon wants $115 to fix a software
problem that seems to be well known...Canon's choice will be: fix this camera under warranty, or return it un-repaired for my doorstop collection; I will then sell my Canon scanner and printer on eBay, along with the $200+ of accessories I bought for my Canon camera, and recommend actively that all my friends, family, acquaintences, etc. never buy a Canon product.

Oooh, cable TV. I called Comcast to upgrade my cable so I could receive the Lakers'
playoff games on TNT, only available on a cable tier that costs an
extra $29/mo above the one I currently pay for. 10 days later, the
upgrade finally pops on, after four one-hour phone calls where they
denied any guilt, and there is one playoff game left on TNT. Then, at
the start of that last playoff game, the cable service to my
neighborhood goes off, nuking my cable TV, High Speed Internet
service, and my VOIP telephone service. They have credited me about $1 so far...

One recent weekend, I drove to an audio production facility to lend a replacement unit of one
of our products so they could continue an important project while we
fixed their out-of-warranty unit, simply because it was the right thing to do.

I have to admit, we as consumers (both of mass-market consumer
products and mission-critical pro-audio products) have voted with our
pocketbooks to put ourselves into this position. Tantalized with lower
and lower prices (hysterically low if you consider historical prices
comparing today's gear with gear of 15-20 years ago), we buy into
*newer and better* products at ever decreasing prices while expecting
customer service from the manufacturer to meet our expectations based
on past products that were sold at healthy markups from manufacturing
costs. This trend has served to democratize the recording industry,
for example (I won't say it has improved the quality of recorded
output), but at the same time, it has trivialized the results that can be obtained by few people using the best gear.

Maybe the next cycle will serve to bring back some of the value to
consumer products as well as professional audio products. By building in enough profit to the
manufacturer or distributor to facilitate a return to a properly high
level of support, we might all benefit from a real improvement in the
quality of audio delivery. And we might create a few consumers in the US by giving them well-paying jobs.

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