Written by 6:01 am News

When Should Customer Support Stop?

Steven Stone has a simple answer to this question – never…


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Recently I talked with a manufacturer who will remain
nameless, who told me, “We don’t support products not intended for import into
the USA. We consider that a gray-market product.”

Usually when a company has a policy to limit product support
it’s because they have had problems with un-authorized distributors or dealers
selling gear within an authorized distributor or dealer’s territory. And while
I certainly understand why a manufacturer would want to support their distribution
chain, does limiting customer support do anything to punish the wrongdoers or
reduce trans-shipping? I don’t think so. But, it sure does catch some end-users
by surprise and leaves them with expensive boat-anchors.

I have a strong bias on this issue – I believe that, short
of provable in a court-of-law larceny, manufacturers and dealers should always
give the same level of service to a customer with a 10 year-old product as a 10
day-old one. It shouldn’t matter where or when they bought it, if you make or
made it, sold or sell it, you should supply a customer with a repair option for
their malfunctioning gear.

Notice I said “option,” not “free warranty,” or “lifetime
guarantee.” Obviously fixing an older audio component can be expensive for both
parts and labor. Often repair costs can run more than the cost of a
current-model replacement. But even though few owners would opt for spending
more than their gear is worth on repairs, some small few would, and they
deserve the option of having their gear repaired by the original manufacturer.
Companies that deliver this level of customer loyalty get brand loyalty in
return.

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I’m not expecting or demanding that audio manufacturers
repair everything they’ve ever made, including entry-level $49 CD players. But,
when someone spends $10K or more on a CD player they should have a authorized
repair option available to them, regardless of the player’s age or where it was
purchased.

 Is that really too
much to expect?

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