|Nokia Conversations Blog|
|Nokia’s Conversation Blog has launched an extended discussion on its myriad US service problems.|
I’m happy to report that there has been some progress (small, but real) from Nokia in terms of addressing it US service problems, which I’ve written about extensively.
First, here’s their most concrete step forward so far: Today, Nokia announced that the long-awaited firmware update for the US N95-3 should be available by early June.
Note that this does not mean Nokia has improved its firmware update process — which (as Beth Kanter, Robert Day, and I noted) is PC-only and very cumbersome, confusing, and annoying. And, in my experience, Nokia’s firmware update process is also risky — it’s what bricked my N95 in April.
…But still, a lot of US N95-3 users have been waiting (and waiting) for this firmware update. News that it’s coming soon appears quite welcome in that community, judging by the initial comments to the announcement.
Also, I’m encouraged to see that Nokia’s Conversations Blog yesterday launched a series of posts on its myriad US service problems. So far, there’s been:
- May 15: Introductory post, in which Nokia promises to specifically respond to my six suggestions for their US operations.
- May 15: A post on US repair turnaround time.
- May 16: A post about the forthcoming N95-3 firmware update.
I think the fact that Nokia has made this discussion so public, and is respecting and addressing concerns raised by users, is a very positive step. Frankly, this is far more than most major companies are willing to do. Nokia is willing to publicly acknowledge its significant problems, and doesn’t seem to consider this inherently risky or bad for business. Many, many companies and organizations could take a lesson from Nokia on this front.
That said, Nokia’s blog does try (understandably) to put as positive a spin as possible on its US service problems. As far as I can tell, they’re not painting a specifically inaccurate rosy picture — but so far they haven’t directly tackled the hardest issues.
Therefore, it’s still up to current and would-be US users of Nokia N-Series phones to keep pushing for clear answers to our most pressing questions and concerns. This is going to take time, folks.
Here’s what I mean…
US SERVICE TURNAROUND TIME:
Short-term fix: Earlier I suggested that one measure Nokia could implement immediately that would help restore US consumers’ confidence would be to guarantee a 7-day US repair/replacement turnaround time. On May 15, James at Nokia wrote:
“Whilst there is a stated 30 day turnaround in the warranty policy, this is designed to capture all Nokia products and typically applies to older products where spares may not be readily available. Nokia USA assures us devices are typically returned within 7-10 days and that 85 per cent of those returns happen within seven days. This is much closer to the time frame Amy (and we) feel is acceptable. To be special, we reckon a five day turnaround for Nseries devices would help boost confidence somewhat.”
To put this in context, this is not new information, and it doesn’t address the issues I raised, which focus on certainty:
- Certain about maximum wait time. The 30 days that Nokia’s warranty currently allows for turnaround time is far too long for such a must-have device. Overnight replacement or loaners (similar to what AT&T offers, according to Ricky Cadden) would be ideal — but for now I’d be willing to settle for just being certain that I’d have a working unit back in my hands in a week. Nokia’s 30-day wiggle room, plus numerous user reports of longer waits, is a worry I’m not willing to tolerate for a $600 must-have device. The point here is not average speed, but a guarantee.
- Certainty that the problem will be fixed. User James Roblimos commented, “What about the numerous reports of people who get their phones back with the same issues they’ve sent them in for? I’ve read numerous horror stories of owners sending in their phones …with hardware problems, only to get them back several weeks later and the only thing the warranty techs did was flash the firmware (sometimes not even that).” [Examples here.]
In this comment I asked Nokia to please respond directly to these core concerns. We’ll see what they have to say next.
US SERVICE LOCATIONS:
In the post about US repair turnaround time, James of Nokia also wrote:
“If you live in NYC or Chicago, you can roll your phone into the local Nokia Flagship store where it’ll be repaired within three days. This is on a par with other device manufacturers in the US, but as Amy rightly points out in another part of her post, there simply isn’t the breadth of Nokia service centres in the US to make this feasible for the masses. That though, could be about to change.”
This is good news for Nokia users in those two cities — which doesn’t include, well, the vast majority of the US. And I’m also curious what user actual experiences with Nokia’s in-store service have been in those cities.
If you’re in NYC or Chicago, I’d love it if you could drop by the Nokia store there and see what the in-store staff have to say about how they handle service, replacements, and loaners. And if you’ve had service done in those stores, how did it go? As we’ve seen with Nokia’s phone customer service, sometimes the reps say very different things from Nokia corporate. It’s worth an on-site reality check.
CLUNKY, RISKY FIRMWARE UPDATE PROCESS
Again, Nokia’s notoriously clunky, PC-only firmware update process is what bricked my N95. Today, James at Nokia contended that Nokia’s update proces really isn’t very risky:
“The NSU [Nokia Software Update] team tells us that over 8 million devices have successfully been through the update process and the failure rate is ‘very low’.”
…If that’s true, then why did the Nokia customer service rep who Beth Kanter spoke to on April 17 tell her that Nokia discourages users from doing the firmware update except as a last resort to combat severe functionality loss? That doesn’t sound very “safe” to me.
Also, Nokia support has claimed that the firmware update bricking problem happens when you try to install a US firmware update on a non-US phone. Since I bought a US N95-3 from Amazon, that creates further concern — are N95 retailers selling non-US phones as US phones?
Who needs all these layers of fear, uncertainty, and doubt? It may be that Nokia needs to train its customer service reps better on this issue, they’re sowing considerable concern in the US market.
In this comment today I reiterated to Nokia that their firmware update process (not just the firmware version) is a huge hassle for US consumers — and far inferior to the user experience offered by their main US competitor, Apple.
In my comment I’ve asked Nokia to specifically comment on whether, when, and how they plan to make firmware updates less painful — and also Mac-friendly. We’ll see what they say.
NEW PHONES SHOULD HAVE NEW FIRMWARE
Especially since Nokia’s firmware update process is so awful, it’s especially discouraging that right now brand-new N95-3s are being shipped to US customers with old firmware. ZDnet’s Matthew Miller wrote:
“Nokia’s support for these high end devices will have to get much better before I can recommend people go out and spend US$500+ for a device optimized for U.S. 3G bands. Every other Nokia N95 has received a firmware upgrade, except for the N95-3 North American version that actually came out before some other devices. This apparent lack of support for loyal N95-3 buyers has left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and this kind of treatment should not occur in the future if Nokia wants to reach U.S. customers.”
In my comment today, I asked Nokia if they could update their existing inventory of N95-3s so that no device is shipped with outdated software. Again, we’ll see what they have to say.
…So that’s where this conversations stand as of today. I’m grateful to everyone who’s added their voice to this discussion. I’ve notified several Nokia and N95 user forums about this ongoing discussion on the Nokia blog, so hopefully even more folks will be chiming in.
In my opinion, so far Nokia does seem to want to improve its US service — and they can only do that if we’re telling them what we really need from them, to keep them on target and accountable
(Note I also posted a video overview of this situation on Seesmic.)