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I AM a little bit frustrated!

Once upon a time – let’s say last week – Paul Dawson, national chairperson of the Professional School Photographers Association (PSPA) and principal of Hydro Photographics, a schools and wedding/portrait photography business in Port Macquarie on NSW’s mid-North Coast – contacted Nikon’s customer service department for a DSLR firmware upgrade.

Hydro Photography uses Nikon cameras and (mainly) prime lenses for its schools photography, and Mr Dawson estimates it currently has around $50,000 of Nikon gear in use.

He’d heard that it was possible to enable Nikon DSLRs to read barcodes and have the codes written to the EXIF data on an image file, which would improve his schools photography business workflow, and customer identification.

So his call to Nikon was to confirm the upgrade was locally available.

Nikon’s customer service department said they didn’t know if this was possible, and the upgrade might not be offered in Australia, but next day confirmed that it indeed was an available firmware upgrade. So far, so good. All he had to do was ship the three cameras in question to Nikon Australia. Another email with an estimation of costs was on its way.

This came back within the hour. The cost would be $55 per camera for labour and $9.90 for freight. No big deal in the scheme of things, especially given the benefits the barcode reading upgrade would deliver, but Mr Dawson wondered whether alternatives such as having the firmware upgrade available on the website, or even forwarding a file by post would have been more convenient… Certainly more efficient.

News on the turnaround time came in soon after, and was a little more of an issue: ‘In the approximate time-frame of 1.5 – 2 weeks.’ This seemed a long time to wait for a procedure which would take a matter of minutes.

Having three cameras out of action during a particularly busy time for schools photography was not an option. So Mr Dawson floated a compromise:

‘I can’t have the cameras out for that long,’ he said. ‘What about,’ he suggested, ‘if I book in a date for two weeks’ time and then send the cameras down overnight two days before the two-week date?’ – Reasoning that he could then book the cameras in during school holidays.

Nikon explained that they could not pre-book repairs as they had a ‘queue-based system’ starting from when jobs are entered. But the customer service person said he would try to get it down to 1.5 weeks – without promising anything.

Mr Dawson replied again, first reminding him that the cameras were being used for schools photography.

‘I find allowing 2 weeks for a firmware upgrade is frustrating. How about setting up a remote login to our camera and you do the upgrade remotely? That way you still control the software and still get paid?’ he suggested.

Nikon said no, they couldn’t access cameras remotely. However, they would endeavour to reduce the turnaround time to one week.

‘We normally do not jump queues as it is unfair for other customers. However we may be able to assist you on this occasion.’

– Maybe it was the queue-jumping jibe, but at this stage Mr Dawson expressed some exasperation: ‘Thanks for your solution, he said, ‘but I don’t want to queue-jump, I just want it solved fast…Aren’t all customers like this?

‘Think about this statement you made. ……..”I don’t believe we are able to access cameras remotely”. Wouldn’t it be good if you could! Now that would be awesome customer service.

‘I will wait until the school holidays and if I haven’t solved my problem by then I’ll send them in to be upgraded.

‘Thanks heaps for getting back to me, I appreciate it,’ Mr Dawson concluded.

– This is by no means a customer service horror story! The customer service representative was prompt to reply, courteous, and provided the correct information. Within the system in which he worked, he couldn’t have done much better. (Well, maybe dropping the reference to queue-jumping would have been diplomatic!)

The reason Paul Dawson wanted to share this little yarn – which he was prompted to do after reading last week’s story about Nikon’s new offer to retailers –  is that to him, it represents a business mind-set which is doing no-one in the business any favours, a ‘can’t do’ rather than a ‘can-do’ attitude:

‘Businesses are so set in their ways they can’t see how to do business better.

‘It’s not just Nikon, its the Australian way of doing business and this is a reason why some people grey import. All I am trying to do is highlight the thinking of the “average Aussie worker/business/manager/CEO” – you and me included.

‘All the whinging going on in Australia due to Kevin and Julia, the weather, the GFC, the internet, Facebook and whatever else we can blame. But have a good look at everyone’s business (including mine) and we are all being held back with our old way of thinking.

‘The thinking of being so set in our ways – of how we did business yesterday. We forget about how we should be doing business today or tomorrow. The best vision is picturing your business how it looks next year.

‘We are forgetting how to set up a business that is easy to deal with and easy to buy from, and delivers value for money.

‘If Nikon thought ahead of the customer they could have set up a log in, connect my camera and do it remotely. They could still charge me their $55 – but I would have paid $100.

‘People are wanting to spend money, but businesses can’t seem to get out of the habit of finding excuses for not doing business. They blame “The System”.’

FOOTNOTE: The issue between Paul Dawson and Nikon found its way to the desk of James Murray, general manager, sales and marketing for Nikon Australia. (With no involvement from Photo Counter, by the way!). His impeccably prompt response was:

‘What Paul is asking for is exactly what we are working on – but it is true the current system won’t support it. It would improve customer service, but also show the real turnaround time (time customer is without the camera) and that’s a vital business measure for us. Simply when the job is booked in is only half the story. I’ll look at it again based on Paul’s suggestions, but fear it will have to wait for when the system is upgraded.

‘I would like to know if Paul is an NPS member, as we may be able to support him with someone loan gear while this is being repaired. If I understand the email it is Paul’s personal gear?’

So the story concludes on a slightly unfinished note – except that to solve his problem while avoiding the two weeks’ downtime, Paul Dawson found a workaround: He has since spent $1900 importing barcode readers, other hardware and software from Germany.

– This story was shared with Nikon’s James Murray prior to publication. He responded that he had no concern about its publication and had no further input. 


  1. Alan Alan March 15, 2012

    The difference between small business (remember us – the engine room of the economy!!!) is that we tend to say yes we can do it, then make it happen, because we need to have the competitive edge. We have done that in my business for years, and I can only remember us coming unstuck once or twice, and some phone calls sorted them out.
    Small business can move far quicker than the big guys, but we still need the big guys to improve, and make things happen faster.
    In the digital age, 2 weeks for a firmware update is stupid. It should be on the web, and available to download – its as simple as that.

  2. PG PG March 15, 2012

    James, if our business was all about us and our procedures we wouldn’t be relevant to our customers.

    Interesting to hear that consumers are thought better of at Nikon (not bad if you are a retailer) “if you were a NPS member you could perhaps get a loaner” not great if you have 20 x DSLR’s that you make a living by.

    James you know that the reality is that if there were only iPhones and the like left in this world we could still capture life’s moments and at a good quality. They say 80% of images will be taken that way in the not to distant future, hopefully some may even be saved for posterity by printing in some form!

  3. Tim Tim March 16, 2012

    Love the photo Paul ! Is that your special frustrated ‘look’ or is it a shot Keith uses everytime?

    • Keith Shipton Keith Shipton Post author | March 16, 2012

      I think that’s his, ‘Hurry up, the bloody sun is burning my eyeballs’ look. Taken in a hurry to meet an urgent deadline, as I recall.

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