Using the bloggy pulpit to discuss customer service faults

It’s a Sony
[Via I, Cringely]

The machine pictured here is a Sony XDCAM EX, a 1080p tapeless HD camcorder. It is a so-called “prosumer” model that lists for $7800. I bought a pair of these cameras (new in the box) at the beginning of July to use for shooting this summer’s Startup Tour. Many video professionals think these are the best HD camcorders you can buy for under $20,000. The video is stunning — clearly network-quality or, indeed, feature film-quality.

If only they both worked.

The cameras came from Abel Cinetech in New York City and we paid about $14,000 for the pair. The cameras worked fine for a few weeks until one froze-up in Boulder, CO. We couldn’t get the camera to boot. We sent it in for repair and Sony checked it into their system on 8/4. I spoke to one of their reps a few days later and was told they were waiting for parts but the camera would probably be repaired by the end of the next week.

I called that Friday and was told the parts were in and the camera was being repaired — and that I should call again in a few days. So I called back Tuesday, then Wednesday when we were in Portland and was told essentially the same thing again — they were working on it and it would be a few more days.

I called again this past Monday and was told that they needed more parts from Israel which they were expecting sometime around September 16th. The guy I spoke to was very direct and said that considering the last time they ordered parts they came in a few days late, as well as factoring in repair time — I was looking at it being ready a few days after the 16th.

At this point I started asking for a replacement, explaining that this was a new camera and that we had already spent so much on rentals (this camera rents for $100 per day). My priority was getting it back ASAP, which could be achieved by having it replaced. The guy suggested I speak to a manager and it might be possible to get a replacement.

I spoke to a manager named Sylvia on Tuesday of last week who said that they don’t have loaner cameras in the service department, but that it might be able to arrange something with another department. Silvia said she’d talk to the engineers and get back with me later that day. I haven’t heard from her since… In fact, I asked for her direct number at the end of the call and she declined, saying that she was going to send me an email with all of her contact info…. That never arrived either.

I suspect Sylvia isn’t a manager at all, but rather some support rep they put on the phone to appease me.


Cringely was one of the people I discussed yesterday. This is a slightly different problem – very poor customer service for a manufactured good. No updates on the progress of the repair. Making the customer spend all their time trying to work things out. Not to unusual.

Except than in today;s world it is simply irresponsible to have such poor service. Email updates are sent out for almost everything but not here? For people who have spent $14,000 there should be special, individual service plans. Free rentals until the camera is ready, that sort of thing. All it takes is good IT.

The technologies should be there to do this. The fact that they do not speaks to a similar problem as yesterday’s post – they do not really understand what technology can do. While the problems from yesterday come from adopting new technology without understanding it, today’s is more about refusing to adopt technology because of not really understanding.

The tech world knows what can be done with good IT and wonders why it is not being used in circumstances like this.

4 thoughts on “Using the bloggy pulpit to discuss customer service faults

  1. Sony makes a great TV which doesn’t seem to have many problems. Their cameras, on the other hand……. I am sorry to hear that even paying that much for one doesn’t save you from the “we are waiting for the parts” statement. We quit buying Sony cameras after they moved their repair store out of town and it took months to get a camera repaired.

    1. Sony is a great example of an innovative company which keeps dropping the ball on so many things, customer service being one of them. Apple may make mistakes, seeing as how they are human, but I have never had a bad experience with any warranty work with them. And even out of warranty.

      I had a Macbook Pro with Applecare that was 2 weeks past the end of the warranty and whose battery fried. I took it in, expecting to pay for a new battery but the expert said that the failure was close enough to the warranty period that he would just get a new one from the back for no charge. I was gobsmacked.

      That is how you do effective customer service. Give the customer more than they expected. And with the low expectations most of us have, that should not be hard.

  2. Why didn’t Able Cinetech help you? I do a lot of consulting work for BandPro Film and Digital, including the service department and this would never have happened there.

    1. The camera problems actually happened to someone else. The lesson I learned is to try not to deal with warranty work done by Sony, who apparently has no ability properly service their customers, and to work through companies with a vested interest, like ABle Cinetech. That is why if I have to make a large purchase, I will do it from people who may charge a little more but will be there if I need help.

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