Nokia’s Blog Starts Discussing Problems
Nokia’s Conversations blog is getting interesting now that it’s not all just happy talk.

Recently Nokia launched its Conversations blog, a good first step any company can take toward transparency and engagement with its customers, partners, and critics. Not surprisingly, most of the initial posts were “happy news” of one kind or another. I don’t begrudge them that — almost any company is doing some good things worth discussing.

But the real proof of how serious a company is about embracing public conversation is whether it’s willing to openly discuss thorny problems. Today Nokia’s blog took a first step in this direction with this post: When things go wrong with updating your device software.

There, Nokia staffer Charlie Schick picked up on the discussion that’s been happening here on, and on other blogs (like Beth Kanter’s and Jenifer Hanen’s), and via social media like Twitter concerning the myriad obstacles encountered by current and would-be US users of Nokia’s high-end N-Series phones. He focused on the firmware update problem I and other US users have encountered and mentioned Nokia’s support forums — which can indeed be a useful resource for solving some problems with Nokia devices.

Schick’s blog post is a good start. But I found his comment today on my blog even more to the point.

…All in all, I think this is a promising start to the public conversation. Of course, so far it’s all “just talk” — but real progress comes from action. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of action Nokia and its US market can muster together.

I left a couple of comments on Nokia’s blog — which will probably be approved for publication to the blog after people get to work in Finland. So in the meantime, here’s what I commented…

Charlie, thanks for raising this issue here. As I’ve written on my own blog, I really do want to see Nokia succeed in the high-end US phone market, mainly because I think your N-Series products offer the best potential so far to serve as an all-in-one mobile journalism/blogging tool. I know a lot of US journalists and bloggers who could use those tools RIGHT NOW. Getting those people what they need to do what they do is my core concerns, because we need the info they produce.

So to clarify, this isn’t a “help Amy” thing. As much as I’d love a new N95, I know it would only lead to more frustration unless Nokia USA gets its act together on service and support.

I’m encouraged that Nokia seems willing to address this in public. I think the combination of your blog and discussion boards is a good place to focus this conversation.

What I’d suggest is that Nokia make it easier to track discussion and progress on its current US problems. For instance, why don’t you set up some issue-related categories on this blog (with their own feeds) called:
– Firmware updates
– US service/support
– US distribution
– US pricing

You could set up similar directories in your support forums to make these topic areas easier to track there. Currently, your forum offers a section on N Series and S60 devices, which is global and mostly technical. You also have a forum for software updates.

But none of your forums have a US focus — and there’s nowhere to discuss your service, support, and distribution issues.

Categories and forum directories are powerful tools for focusing online conversations and communities aimed at consensus, collaboration, and problem-solving. Plus, they can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. Maybe focusing this conversation would be a useful first step toward both building goodwill with the high-end US market, documenting progress and setbacks, and making improvements happen.

It might even be worthwhile to start a separate blog or community for US N-Series users aimed at engaging this community in enhancing the overall service, support, distribution, and pricing experience. I think if your potential market here was more aware of what Nokia is trying to do to solve these problems, and that their input counts, then together we might find solutions that could help Nokia succeed in this market.

That’s the nice thing about online media — there are always lots of options for collaboration, as long as your goal isn’t to control the conversation.

…Also, to clarify, the point of my posts on about the N95 were not really about difficulties with your *product,* as your post today might imply.

As I’ve said many times, I think your N95 product is fabulous. It’s definitely far superior to your main US competition, the Apple iPhone.

Rather, my point is that Nokia USA’s poor business practices (inadequate warranty, too-long service turnaround time that requires shipping, lack of local distribution and replacement, inconsistent answers from support, and too-wide discrepancy in pricing between buying from Nokia vs. other outlets like Amazon) are sabotaging your own efforts to gain headway in the US high-end phone marketplace.

Before high-end US consumers are going to trust Nokia enough to pay premium prices for your premium products, they need to know whether you’ll really be there for them if they need you. Frankly, right now it’s not clear whether you’re really serious about serving the high-end US market. With mobile devices, service (in every sense of the word) is at least as important as product quality. So far, Nokia USA gets a B- on product (it would be an A+ except for the firmware update problem), but you’re definitely flunking on the service front.

Nokia could fix its clunky and risky firmware update process (which *does* badly need fixing) and STILL not succeed in the US high-end market because of these larger problems. That’s the 800-lb gorilla in the room, and that’s what you really need to be handling — ideally with transparency and public engagement.

– Amy Gahran

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