Nikon and Elecraft customer service comparison

Apples and oranges – yes, I know.d600

These are two vastly different companies in terms of their size and what they produce but with my products from each company costing the same amount I can’t help but compare them anyway.

A year and a half ago, Nikon released its D600 – a semi-pro D-SLR camera body with a $2000 price tag. Almost immediately various forums began to fill with complaints of oil being deposited onto the camera’s mirror and sensor as the camera was used. Users around the world blamed a faulty shutter mechanism.

Nikon repeatedly denied that there was a problem and/or blamed the owner for any “damage” to the camera.

In the meantime they released a D610 camera – identical to the D600 except for a redesigned shutter…while still denying any problem with the D600’s shutter.

As recently as two months ago, a representative from NikonUSA wrote that Nikon does not acknowledge the problem and a solution from them would not be forthcoming since Nikon was not to blame for any oil deposits.

Last week, California law firm Zimmerman & Reed filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Nikon D600 owners. Six days later, Nikon has issued a global recall of all D600 cameras, even those out of warranty, for a free shutter mechanism replacement.

Just yesterday – and only when faced with a lawsuit – did Nikon even acknowledge that there was a manufacturing problem with one of their cameras, let alone make arrangments to fix it.

k3As I followed the course of the D600 saga over those months (eventually buying a D610), I was also reading, as I always do, the Elecraft reflector. Customer service and responsiveness from Elecraft is well known but the contrast between the way they are and how they could be (Nikon-like) is like night and day.

A lesson to be learned (or reminded of) from all this is that, while technical specs of a product are important, they are only as relevent as their company’s willingness to stand behind the product claiming them.



  5 comments for “Nikon and Elecraft customer service comparison

  1. Charly
    February 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Your Nikon story is similar to some Japanese companies who just will not admit mistakes of any kind. ICOM denied to this day faulty final stage components but did repair for free in warrantee. Reports finally trickled in from IC-7800 owners that now confirm a factory originated defect, even including some components not being soldered in.
    Of course die hard lovers of these equipments issue loud support for the defective items and denigrate those with legitimate complaints.
    I had same experience with vaulted Elecraft with my early serial number K3 with significant AGC faults and other problems that the factory fixed on mine but would not acknowledge those problems nor warn existing owners. The Elecraft owners reacted to me as insulted lovers, but of course the truth began to trickle out in very polite statements of similar problems.
    I incurred the wrath of Elecraft lovers who swore by that superior “customer service.” I agreed but pointed out that I had not tested Yaesu customer service BECAUSE MY YAESU had no problems and had not failed. Thus, I had no need to contact Yaesu customer service. I noted that I would prefer a product be well completed electronically and physically upon purchase instead of depending on superior customer service soon after purchase.
    73, Charly

    • kurt
      March 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Hi… I think what we are seeing here is, partly, the process of determining whether there is a real defect in manufacturing, or just one or two individual issues (not all QA is 100%!). Of course, thorough honest investigation of any complaint is the key to this. It’s the difference between the “first blush” saying, “It’s not our issue!” and “Let’s find out why this is happening.” As an aside, in some of the “bad-old-days” of Ma-Bell, whenever you’d ask about a dedicated line issue, the patten response was, “nothing wrong here!” But, the trouble would almost instantly go away. Hun? Well, as I was told, if a technician had a “no problem found,” they had to fill out several lines in a log book. If there was a problem found, it took them quite a long time to fill out several pages of information about the fault. The technicians weren’t Ma-Bell gun-ho (Our products are PERFECT!); they simply wanted to get the customer up and running as fast as possible…. along with the 10 other customers wanting service…

      kurtt: WB9FMC

  2. February 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Your comments about the Japanese companies are true of many large companies – they are far away from their customers, and I don’t mean geographically.

    And I am very familiar with the reaction you mention for anyone with criticism of an Elecraft product. Although I love my K3, I do not drink the Elecraft kool-aid or worship them or any other brand. However, they are responsive for the most part and this sets them apart – far apart – from any other manufacturer of ham radio products and I believe that certainly deserves to be acknowledged.

    If my new (non-oily!) Nikon performs as well as my K3 has, I’ll be a happy camper.

    • Charly
      February 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      I still say that the BEST customer service is the one you never need.

      BTW, Yaesu rebuilt my 9000d with five new boards for free during their Performance Enhancement Program; not a repair but a significant upgrade.

  3. Lou Axeman
    February 28, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    In a way, I hate to admit it because I like to gripe, but I have never had any trouble with any of the Kenwood, Yaesu, Ten-Tec, or Elecraft products that I have purchased.

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