Sony, Customer Service and Professionalism
Late last week there was something of a blog storm over a video that photographer Matt Granger posted about his experiences with Sony's customer service. If you haven't seen it already check it out. Basically he had a terrible time getting customer service for his professional Sony cameras. After he posted the video, many of those in the photographic community who also shoot with Sony camreras chimed in with their own similar stories of poor customer service from the company. While I haven't had to deal with Sony's customer service directly here in Ireland, I too have heard the stories, and have had to deal with the company for other issues.
From my own perspective, the Sony gear I own is relatively low end and I don't have any expensive cameras. Part of the reason I haven't gone down the A7 sries path yet is because the customer service options here in Ireland are relatively limited. I also have some concerns about the build quality of Sony's cameras. I wrote a while ago about my NEX-7 dying. After a little over a year and a half, it just stopped working properly. In order to get it repaired I'd have to spend over €100 just to have it evaluated as it was out of warranty, and the repair itself could cost another few hundred euro. At his point, second hand NEX-7s were selling for around €299 so it wasn't really worth the effort. But it is kind of ridiculous that a camera that cost €1000 to begin with was basically worthless after a year and a half.
A friend of mine bought an RX100 which stopped working a few weeks after he bought it. He returned it to the store and they had to send it off to be repaired. Luckily the store had a good policy for their customers and gave him a loaner while it was repaired, but it still took several weeks to get hos own camera back.
Recently my kit lens from my A6000 stopped working. It just refused to open when turned on. Again, it's out of warranty and it isn't worth getting repaired, as the cost to just have it evaluated probably exceeds the value of the lens. It's a cheap lens to begin with, but are we seriously in the era of disposable electronics.
And yet, I haven't stopped using Sony products. I still love my A6000 despite its issues, and I still think Sony are doing some of the most innovative development in the industry right now. But I'm reluctant to spend a lot of money on an expensive A7 series camera and lens when the experiences of so many when it comes to customer service is so poor.
Another knock that you often hear levelled at Sony is that the company doesn't understand professionals. I don't think this is entirely fair, but given these kinds of stories you, can see where this comes from. It doesn't have to be this way though. I think most of the problems photographers are experiencing with Sony and customer service, or their perceived professionalism, comes from the fact that Sony's camera devision is treated as part of their consumer electronics range. I think this is a mistake. Sony, as a company is perfectly capable of handling professional customers and gear. In fact Sony is responsible for some of the most high end professional equipment in the world and is completely dominant in one particula high end professional market. That is of course Sony Broadcast.
Having worked in the Television industry for many years, it's an industry that is dominated by Sony gear. Much of the world's news gathering is done on Sony ENG (electronic news gathering) cameras. Many of the world's television studios run on Sony broadcast equipment. Sony's high end cinema and television cameras are used the world over for documentaries, news, drama and movies. I think part of the reason that I've always liked Sony even though some people seem to love to hate the company, is that I've worked with Sony professional and broadcast gear for so long. Sony couldn't reach this level of saturation without understanding the professional market.
So I think one possible solution to this ongoing issue, as well as a way to avoid the potential fallout from more customers having experiences like Matte, is for Sony to treat its camera devision either the same way as it treats its broadcast devision, or make it part of it. The needs of professional photographers may not be quite the same of the broadcast customert, but they are similar. On top of that, many people buying Sony cameras are doing so for their video capabilities.
Here's an example of what Sony offers as a support package for Broadcast and Professional customers
Sony are making some moves in the right direction. They have already started a program of Sony Professional Support for photographers, but it's limited by country and some are reporting that it's not as robust as similar programmes for Canon and Nikon. I understand that it takes time to set these programmes up and roll them out across the world, and I think Sony has in part been taken by surprise by the growth of it's A7 series. That's not to make excuses though. They need to have professional support in place. As I said, it's not like the company doesn't have expertise in this area, which again leads me to wonder why they don't tap into the resources of their broadcast devision.
Anyway, I hope these things do get resolved, because Sony does make some great camera gear at the moment, and they're one of the most innovative companies in the industry, and one of the few pushing it forward. I do think they will resolve this. The company has shown a commitment to becoming a major player in the photography industry and they do seem to be slowly understanding the market, so I am optimistic.
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