Internet shopping and customer service

Internet shopping is, IMHO, a Good Thing. It may be argued that its success has been to the detriment of bricks and mortar shops. Be that as it may, but the efficiency of selling over the Web is amazing – a small business in an out of the way location can now regard its available marketplace as being Planet Earth. The business model is also ecologically attractive.

As a consumer, my interest is in securing a good price, but I also value good customer service

I recently bought a new camera and, as it was a non-trivial purchase [actually the most I have ever spent on a camera!], I did some careful research. Having established exactly what I wanted to buy, I started checking prices. I could buy direct from the manufacturer at “list price”. A better price was possible from a favorite online supplier, but I looked further and found a company that specializes in cameras, lenses etc, whose prices were even better. The saving was big enough to take a slight risk, so I placed my order.

At the time of order, it was not apparent [to me] that the company was in Hong Kong, but, as their shipping was free, I was not concerned. They shipped very quickly and I received the goods about 3 days after ordering, which was wholly acceptable. I opened the package and all seemed to be in order, so I put the battery on charge ready to have a play with my new toy.

That evening, the battery was fully charged and I was ready to try out my new purchase. I switched it on and the screen lit up – in Japanese! There was no obvious way to change the language. I Googled. The results that I got were rather alarming. It seems that this manufacturer of cameras makes two models of each one: an international version which works in a myriad of languages and a [much cheaper] domestic model which works only in Japanese. I had a bad feeling.

I immediately emailed the supplier. Much to my surprise [as it was after Midnight their time], I got an almost instant reply. They apologized, saying that it was their normal practice to change languages before shipping, depending on the destination, but clearly they had failed on this occasion. They asked me to send a picture of the screen to verify the language. I was not optimistic, but took the snap and sent it to them.

Again, the reply was almost immediate. They said the language was actually Korean. I was assured that an engineer would look at it immediately in the morning and they would email me instructions to set the language to English. I went to bed, reasonably optimistic that they would deliver. Sure enough, the following morning there was an email from them in my inbox. They guided me through the menus by means of descriptions of icons and, in a few minutes, my new camera was speaking my mother tongue.

In many ways, I feel more secure with a supplier with whom I have had a problem, which is addressed well, than with one where everything went smoothly. Guess where I will go next time I need some photo gear.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2014/05/16/internet-shopping-and-customer-service/