Nikon Cuts Back on Third Party Repairs, Again

No sooner had I posted my Profits over Progress article I received an email from iFixit and a pointer to an article on Nikon repair they were posting.

The gist of the article is this: NikonUSA is no longer going to support Authorized Repair Centers with official parts—and by implication, testing gear, training, and tools—after March 31, 2020. This is a further retrenchment from NikonUSA's previous policy change in 2012 (which stopped selling parts to any repair shop, and in some cases, even individuals).

As I write this, I know of 15 Nikon Authorized Repair Centers here in the US, plus, of course, NikonUSA's own two repair centers. The irony is that many of the repairs NikonUSA claims to do themselves are actually not done by them, but are farmed out to others. The Nikon LA repair center even ships some product across the border to be repaired in Mexico.

It's highly unclear how things are going to work in the future, but I note that I get regular and steady email from users who are having issues with NikonUSA's own repairs. As I've documented before, NikonUSA's database can't even keep up with what it going on with repairs, and talking to anyone via phone is a lesson in Kafka-like bureaucracy. 

Lest Sony owners get any joy from this, things seem worse over in the E/FE world. At the moment, only Canon is left providing repairs pretty much as they've been done in the past, and even there I get emails about issues and problems that happened when someone tried to get their camera or lens repaired. 

If NikonUSA's moves are about money, then they're making bad decisions. Part of that bad decision comes from the paternalistic attitude towards NPS (Nikon Professional Services), which corporate always touts as their gift to the serious, dedicated shooters and insists must be free. Virtually all of us pros aren't looking for free, we're looking for good (or better still: great). We're more than willing to pay for that. 

Part of the problem also derives from Nikon's policy of prix fixe repairs coupled with work only done on officially imported cameras. 

So let me put that into context: Nikon corporate and NikonUSA think of support and repair as a cost center. Such thinking is 1970's Big Company Beancounting. The real problem that's being ignored is this: support and service are the one place where Nikon actually engages with customers. Sales are through third parties (e.g. the dealer is NikonUSA's customer, and they don't treat that dealer very well, either). 

Note what I wrote in my recent articles: if you want to stay in the camera business, you're going to have to fully engage with customers. When the repair system now clogs up and the complaints get louder, just exactly how is that one customer engagement NikonUSA does going to help it? ;~)

Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, Nikon corporate is spending huge sums buying back their stock. I don't think that's because they think their stock is undervalued and a good bargain. It's because their board is trying to consolidate control as they inevitably downsize. 

Funny thing is, I've been writing about NikonUSA's issues when it comes to repairs for 25 years now (yes, I checked; that's the right number). In that time, there was only one short stretch where things got better, and that's because the person in charge started reaching out to some customers who had the biggest problems. Overall, things have just gone disastrously downhill to the point where, when you send something in today, you don't know if it will need one, two, or three trips to be made right, and it will be like pulling teeth to try get any useful information out of the company. 

This will not play out well for NikonUSA, and the fact that they tried to make this change outside the view of the people who buy their cameras is just going to heighten the user paranoia. Bad move, NikonUSA. But that's what you're good at: bad moves ;~).

Disclosure: I'm a member of NPS, and I've had very good service from NikonUSA. They know who I am and how many of you read what I write: I'm pretty sure that my servicings get special handling within Melville. I'm not a member of CPS or SPS, though I've had products repaired by both. Canon was the best in this respect, in one case providing a complete refurbished camera replacement for a repair that would have taken more time. Sony shipped my gear to another vendor to repair, and that took extra time. The repairs were reasonable in cost, but I was without that gear for a longer time than I'm used to.

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