Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My letter to Pentax/Ricoh: When Customer Service Fails

I recently had a bad customer service experience.  Such things are unavoidable. In this case, the warranty repair of my brand-new camera was delayed by warehouse closures, lack of parts, etc. These are things I understand.

The bad part of the story is that — although the basic problems were unavoidable — the overall experience was eminently solvable with just the slightest bit of customer awareness and contact. Over the three and a half months my camera was gone, No one from Pentax/Ricoh contacted me. Not to tell me they had received the camera. Not to tell me it was delayed. Not to tell me they were replacing it. Not  to tell me the tracking number when they sent it back. All of these things I had to find out by calling them, repeatedly.

But to make a bad story worse, I wrote to the company (see below) suggesting they would do well to keep customers (who may already be annoyed that their new equipment doesn't work) informed of basic status information, via emails, phone calls, or post cards.

That was three weeks ago. Today a representative of Ricoh called me (a first!) to explain to me:
  1. I had written to the wrong person. Their executive VP doesn't handle issues like this. (Well, duh! But since their website doesn't provide any information on who to contact, I had no choice.)
  2. Once again, he explained why the repair of my camera had been delayed. (Something I had been told, many times on the phone when I called to ask where my camera was.)
  3. Their repair department was in another state entirely. (How does that matter?) And that it was very small and the staff did not have time to be corresponding with customers.
It was that last statement, along with the reassurance that my letter would be "kept on file", that really confirmed that Ricoh, as a company is fostering a culture devoid of empathy or care for their customers. 

Well, if they are going to "file" my letter and do nothing about it, I guess I will too. So I am filing my letter here, online, as a cautionary tale for any other customers who might unfortunately ever need support from Ricoh/Pentax. Better yet, someone considering purchasing any of their equipment might also want to consider their customer service history and attitude before making a decision about what brand to buy.

November 10, 2013

James Malcolm, Executive VP
Ricoh Imaging Americas Corp.
633 17th Street, Suite 2600
Denver, CO 80202

Dear Mr. Malcolm,

Earlier this year my wife bought me a Pentax X-5 camera as a present. I was thrilled. Unfortunately, the camera had a problem that caused it to freeze randomly. What happened next makes me wonder why anyone would purchase products from Pentax or Ricoh. What is worse is that the entire affair was easily avoidable had Ricoh taken just a few simple steps to demonstrate an interest in its customers. The damage to my opinion of Pentax/Ricoh may be irreparable. But I would like to offer some suggestions to salvage your reputation with others.

First let me explain what happened. I started by going to your website to see if the issue with my camera was a known issue. I was told I should send it in for repair under warranty, which I did. Over three months ago.

Since that time, Pentax/Ricoh has never contacted me directly. No notice that the camera was received. No message that it was accepted as being under warranty. No information about when it might be returned.

In that time my wife and I have called your support center at least five times. Each time the support personnel were extremely pleasant and accommodating. Even apologetic. Each time we were told a story about how parts were ordered, supplied were delayed, or some other action was pending. As pleasant as your representatives were, they never were able to give me a clear idea of what was wrong with the camera in the first place or when I could expect to get it back.

After two and a half months, they finally told us “management” had approved replacing the camera.  (Why? Who knows.) Since then we’ve called every week to find out where the replacement is, only to be told that they couldn’t say until they got a tracking number from “the warehouse”.

It is over three months since I sent my camera in, As I said, Pentax/Ricoh has never initiated any communication with me. Everything I know about this story comes from my wife and I dogging your support department on the phone. If I had thought there was any chance of this happening, I would never have purchased a Pentax camera to begin with. And knowing what I know now, I would never recommend Pentax or Ricoh products to anyone else either.

But for the sake of your current and future customers, I would like to suggest the following small changes to your procedures that could make a tremendous impact on overall customer satisfaction:

  • When a customer sends in a product for repair, notify them (by email or postcard) that:
    1. It has been received.
    2. Whether it is accepted as a warranty repair or not.
    3. Ideally, tell them approximately how long the repair will take.
  • If there is any delay in the repairs, contact the customer again explaining the delay and giving a new estimate for completion.

What hurts most about this experience is that we deliberately chose a Pentax camera over other competitors based on the Pentax 35mm camera we have used for more than 25 years. I will never think of Pentax in the same kind light again. And that is sad because the entire episode could have been so easily avoided.


Andrew Gent