Nikon customer service, a $700 lens, and Ken Rockwell taught me a great lesson in business

Now you might be asking yourself, “What do Nikon customer service, a $700 lens and Ken Rockwell have to do with success?”

Well, just a few short weeks ago I was taught a great lesson in business and it’s one that entrepreneurs and CEOs should think about.

If you didn’t know, Nikon makes some of the best lenses in the world.

That’s why I made the decision to invest in some serious glass (lingo for lenses) a few years back.

At the time, I had one semi-professional DSLR, (a D70) which I bought just after “my story.” I am, of course, referring to the tsunami that I survived back in 2004.

My Tamron lens had served me well, but I was ready to get serious.

I saved up and decided to go all out. A fisheye lens ($700), an all-purpose lens ($700) and a wide-angle lens ($500). I’m by no means a professional, so it was a hard decision to make. I added them to my shopping cart and thought it over for a few weeks before finally taking the plunge and clicking buy.

Immediately I started second guessing myself, but it wasn’t till I read an article by Ken Rockwell that I decided to cancel the wide-angle lens and instead pick up the D40 kit which came with a 18-55mm lens.

I wasn’t disappointed. For the past 6 years I’ve taken thousands of pics and been very happy with my investment.

Until two weeks ago that is. At that time, my go-to lens (the all-purpose one) suddenly started shaking.

I was like, “What the heck?!” I tried to take some shots, but I soon realized it was a waste of time and had to go with my other camera.

Now I know that things break. I get it. But we’re talking about a quality lens from Nikon. I mean, we expect to at least get 10 years use out of something like that.

I also understand that accidents happen, but I never dropped my camera. I carry it in a special camera bag and I almost never take it off to use on another camera body.

So, no dirt, no damage, no accident, and yet…

I figured considering lenses are what Nikon is known for, that they would take care of the repairs for free or a minimal fee. Turns out I was wrong.

The Nikon service center quoted my wife $420. My jaw dropped, but then I hear this was the maximum it would cost, so I felt confident that they would repair it for the minimum after inspecting it. Final quote, $330.

Now 10 years ago, my brand new Pentax camera and Tamron lens was destroyed in the tsunami. $1400 down the drain. I didn’t argue, it’s just one of those things.

However, I have a problem with this case.

When you buy a fridge, especially from a good company, you expect it to last over 10 years. Regardless of how long the warranty is. The same goes for a good car, say a BMW, you want it to last. You paid more, because you know it’s worth it. Nikon specializes in lenses, so when one (that wasn’t cheap) gives out after only six years, you’re not a happy man.

Thinking this over, I decided to do what I think anybody should do in my situation, take it to the top. That’s right, I wrote a letter to the CEO.

I was sincere, but I made it clear that I was disappointed that a quality lens such as the one I bought, should last for many years.

Now, I know it’s not easy to get in touch with the top brass at most big companies. They have gate-keepers to ensure that only focus on things that need their attention. However, I remembered one program I studied in which the speaker mentioned how by using an express mail envelope, it all but ensures it will reach your target and even better, it will be opened and read. So I did just that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from writing this letter. It could have gone one of two ways.

  • Thank you for writing. We apologize, but the lens’ warranty has already expired. Should you want to fix the lens the cost will be 33,000 yen.
  • Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Every customer is important to us. More importantly, we wholeheartedly stand by our products. A lens such as the one you purchased is a quality lens that we believe people should have many years of enjoyment taking photos with. As such, please send us the lens and we will take care of this for you so you can get back to taking pictures of your son.

Personally, if I got a letter from a customer telling me that they were a loyal customer, had invested a sizable amount of money in my products and requesting a fairer price on the repairs, I would do it in a heartbeat. Probably for free, as I know how much that goodwill will earn me down the line. And goodwill is something you can’t put a price on.

In this case, that goodwill would be

  • This blog post
  • A glowing FB post on how much I love their company
  • Me buying a new Nikon lens (which I have been eyeing for a while)

On the other hand, refusing to accept my request would make me

  • This blog post
  • Bitch to my friends
  • Complain on social media
  • Buy a cheap lens (used) as a replacement (as I don’t want to invest in a good lens as I can’t trust it will last)

Now before I tell you what the response was, let me ask you: What would you do if you were in the CEO’s shoes and got such a letter?

CEOs and executives must weigh such options sometimes on a daily basis, but from where I stand this is an easy one.

Customer satisfaction is important, but customer loyalty ranks even higher. You want your customer to believe in your products so much that they never go anywhere else. The moment they feel neglected, they will.

So what was the result of my letter to Nikon?

Quite simply, a typed letter (unsigned) from someone in the customer service (not the president himself) expressing how sorry they were for the trouble the lens had caused me, that they hoped I understood that the price I had been quoted was fair and that they hoped I would continue to use their products.

I thought about it for a while. I was going to write again and force the issue, but why bother? I would rather spend my time doing something productive (like write this post) and simply delete the 4 Nikon lens and camera I was going to buy from my Amazon shopping cart.

Customers have the right to choose, and I have chosen not to give any more of my money to their company.

Besides, have you seen the quality that smartphones are getting today?!

The lesson I learned – customer loyalty is everything and companies should strive to ensure that their customers are not just satisfied, but happy. Today there are too many choices for customers to choose from, and the moment they feel neglected, they will jump ship as I just did.

Shame. I really did like Nikon.

Adrian Shepherd