How To Not Fail At Customer Service (Kudos to Canon)

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We’ve all had our share of lousy customer service and the web is full of horror stories about atrocious customer support. I’ve had a few of my own, including the incredibly polite brush-off I received from Apple when the power supply on one of our iMacs failed. For the third time… But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I’ve got a feel-good story to balance all those "insert company name here _’s customer service" sucks rants.

We hadn’t used our Canon DV camcorder much in recent years. It’s four years old and despite being a pretty decent model for that time, our current digital cameras can shoot video that’s pretty comparable in quality, without having to deal with tapes, digitization and another device to lug around. But when I took it down from the shelf, recharged the battery, then fired it up to prep for the kids’ Christmas concert, the screen displayed a mess of purple distortion and nothing else. Craptastic. Camcorder goes back in the bag until I have time to deal with it. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we decided that our daughter was old enough to be given our first digital camera, an old Canon A70 sporting an earth shattering 3.2 mega pixels. I charged the batteries, popped in a memory card and powered the camera up. Purple screen. 

A few minutes of Googling later, I discovered that Canon had suffered a spate of CCD failures in digital cameras and camcorders, affecting a wide range of models. Canon issued a service bulletin going back to 2005 that included this key text:

Effective immediately, and regardless of warranty status, Canon will repair, free of charge, the products listed above exhibiting the above-mentioned malfunction if Canon determines that the malfunction is caused by the CCD image sensor.

I sat down with the two defective devices on the table in front of me and called Canon’s Customer Service line, admittedly spoiling for a fight. The rep I spoke to was courteous and suitably regretful; but more importantly, he gave me an address to send my busted stuff and encouraged me to do so. I mailed it off and received an e-mail acknowledgment, including an inventory of everything received. Nice touch. Canon shipped everything back within a few days, fully repaired, and at no charge.

Kudos to Canon for leading by example. Maybe they were responding to threats of legal action, but frankly, I don’t care. The point is the company identified an issue with its products and it’s standing behind them, taking the responsibility for ensuring customers aren’t left holding the bag. Even four years after the warranty has expired. We just bought a new camera for my wife. A Canon.

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