Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kodak Customer Service Is Good

Way back when, I bought a Kodak Easyshare 5100 printer. It gave me a lot of trouble, but I eventually got it working. These three posts tell that story.

Over the months that I've used this printer, it's proven itself a finicky beast. I've often had to randomly remove and reinsert ink cartridges, cycle the power, run nozzle cleanings (which suck back a lot of ink), and recalibrate to keep it chugging along. I take all of that in stride. I've been a PC user since the days of dot matrix printers that were the size of suitcases, were loud enough to annoy neighbours, and printed at speeds measured in minutes per page rather than pages per minute. I've wrestled with printers for many years, and I expect a certain amount of trouble from them.

That being the case, I shrugged off this printer's quirks. It was hard to get running in the first place, and needs more assistance to perform than Hugh Hefner without Viagra, but I can live with it. The fact that I only print once or twice a month probably doesn't help. (Another Hefner joke could easily be placed here. One could argue the greater comedic potential of either drawing a parallel or a contrast. Discuss.)

However, I hit a whole new problem not long ago. Colour was printing fine, but no black ink was making it to the page. The printer was reporting plenty of ink left in the cartridge, and I even tried a new cartridge, but the printer would only produce occasional faint grey lines where black text should have appeared. Since colour appeared as normal, as a workaround I printed the handouts for my Bible study sessions in red or blue, then photocopied them.

After accepting that this wasn't just another of the printer's quirks that I could talk it out of, I began Googling the problem. I quickly learned from sites like this one that my problem was not unusual, and indicated that the printhead needed to be replaced.

I used the contact form on Kodak's site to report my problem on a Monday morning. I outlined the diagnostic steps I had already taken, and advised them that I thought I was having the same printhead problem that others had reported, with a link to the site above (i.e., "My symptoms are just like this."). I told them my printer was out of warranty because it was over a year old, and asked how I could go about buying a new printhead, since they don't seem to offer that part for separate purchase.

I got an automated reply within a couple of minutes. More impressively, I got an actual human reply about four hours later, saying that if I would send them some info (my name, address, and "Kodak service number" from a sticker inside the printer), they would send me a new printhead free of charge, no further questions asked. I replied, and after one more quick and polite exchange because in my infallibility I forgot to include the Kodak service number, they said the printhead would be shipped out ASAP. I got that message just after midnight on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after my initial inquiry.

They said it would probably take 3 to 8 business days; it arrived Thursday morning, less than 72 hours after I first contacted them. It was very easy to swap out the old printhead and put in the new one, and in case it hadn't been, they included both written instructions and a link to a section of their website that explains the process in so-clear-Grandma-could-do-it detail with lots of pictures.

Their service is a lot faster than mine. It finally occurred to me over a week later to let them know that I got the part, it worked (more on that in a moment), and I was impressed with their service. I got another human reply early the next morning, thanking me for letting them know how it turned out.

There's lots of good news here. My printer works again, although it's still as temperamental as ever. Whenever I use it now, it gives constant warnings that my black ink is below 30%, even though I just replaced the cartridge. This has trained me to deal with that warning just like I deal with the Check Engine light that's always on in my car: by ignoring it.

I wanted to write this up for the same reason that I sent that last "attaboy" e-mail to Kodak: their service was superb, and I think it deserves recognition. They were amazingly fast, and each of the reps I dealt with was polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. They never questioned my need for the part (although, having been a tech, I spelled out what I had already tried pretty thoroughly in my initial description), they didn't give me any red tape, and they offered me the part freely despite my explicit inquiry about buying one. I couldn't be more satisfied with the service I received.

Kodak met my definition of good customer service perfectly with this incident. I don't define customer service as never having a problem with a product or service. Every company in the world is run by human beings, and every one of them makes mistakes. Every assembly line produces an occasional lemon. Customer service is measured by how well a problem is handled once brought to the company's attention. By that standard, Kodak gets a perfect score from me.

Incidentally, one of the forms included with the printhead was a packing sheet showing its retail price: $70. At that price I wouldn't have purchased one, since that's rather close to what the printer cost brand new. This is why Kodak can sell their ink so inexpensively. Many printer models have the printhead component attached to the ink cartridge. When you replace the ink, you're also replacing the printhead. That increases the cost of the cartridge dramatically, but has the side benefit of preventing some printhead-related problems.

However, I'm not here solely to praise Kodak. Their customer service is phenomenal, but the actual product is mediocre at best. As you can see from this article and the other ones I've written about this printer, it's been quite a headache at times. If you aren't willing to nurse a printer to get it working and don't get your onsite tech support for free, then I can't recommend an Easyshare 5100, despite their low cost of ownership. I've also never - not once - printed a photo that looked nearly as good as a professionally produced print. On the rare occasions that I want prints, I still take a jump drive to a kiosk and pay a quarter each.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of Hostage Bunny surrounded by his captors. Note the rare glimpse of evil mastermind Shirtless Dr. Zaius, who could also use a belt.


RebelAngel said...

I can't take it anymore! What are their demands? That poor bunny!

Anonymous said...

I use a laser printer-an HP LaserJet 1018. I've never had a problem with it, I've never had to change anything inside; not a cog or even a whizzlenugget. Best of all, it prints about a page per second. Sometimes I'll just print things for the joy of watching the pages fly.


Anonymous said...

I wish I can say I am happy with Kodak Customer Service. I had a similar experince to yours in the beginning. They sent me a new printhead. The new printhead did not remedy my kodak printer issues. After a month of dealing with kodak, I have been asked to return the printer via UPS. After they receive the printer they will send me a new one within 20 days. They want me to print up a printing return label and since I don't have a printer, I don't mind the minor inconvenience of going to the Library. And this is the problem. I am not getting the printer return label in my e-mail. I am getting their other e-mails. but never the much needed UPS info. I keep calling them and getting hung up on, disconnected and the printer is still sitting in its box waiting to be mailed off. I have been trying to resolve this issue for over a month. I asked if they could snail mail a return label. No, not an option. I asked if I could just have the info to send and will give it to UPS. No. I have to have it e-mailed and print it up.

I have spent hours on hold just to be disconnected and hung up on. I asked for a consumer advocate and have been hung up on. I have asked for a supervisor and have been hung up on repeatedly. I have e-mailed and tried to chat and it is the same answer everytime.

Tired of Kodak treatment. I am glad this happened before I bought the Kodak camera I was planning on purchasing in a few weeks. Why bother? I don't need the headache. I am glad you had a good customer service experinece. Thank you for allowing me to share my Kodak nightmare with you and your readers.

Unhappy with kodak in NC.

PS. I wonder if Kodak is going to be the GM of cameras and printers. I ask this because of the way they treat their customers, I am starting to think they might be in trouble...

Anonymous said...

PS. And yes, I have checked my spam filter and all that jazz...

katty said...

Customer service is about giving customers what they want or perhaps it’s about satisfying customers some times they will say that it is about making customers happy. Anyways, thanks for sharing this post!
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