The recently improved and re-launched Canon Professional Services programme has now been operational for over two months, so CPN decided to investigate how it has been working and the level of service it has offered. CPN visited one of Canon Europe's five key 'Regional Competence Centres' and CPN editor Steve Fairclough spoke to Canon's Dennis Norgaard (EMEA Customer Services Director) about the new CPS programme and how Canon continuously strives to deliver world-class service to professional photographers and videographers.
It is difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of the CPS operation until you have it explained. Canon's Dennis Norgaard told CPN: "We have five Regional Competence Centres (RCCs) in Europe – one in Sweden covering seven countries; a competence centre in Germany covering 10 countries; a service centre in Paris covering Belgium and France; a competence service centre in the UK near London; and a service centre in Milan, Italy, covering Italy and some of our Eastern European countries, 11 other countries. As a part of the EMEA expansion, since the start of this year, we now have a competence centre in Moscow. This centre covers Russia and 11 aligned Russian-speaking countries in that region."
According to Norgaard the operation involves a combination of Canon in-house service combined with more than 90 certified partners across Europe with whom Canon works closely. He added: "We have a dedicated team of highly skilled specialists in the competence centres, who are servicing our customers, and we also working together with our partners in order to ensure that the service delivered throughout the region is the best you can get."
At the UK RCC operation in Hertfordshire, England, between 100 and 150 parcels are received every day with the parcels from CPS members receiving priority treatment. All of the details of the packages are entered into a database and the content of each parcel is placed in a numbered and priority coded LinBin that can be linked to the repair information on the database. The red CPS priority LinBins are easy to track visually through the RCC and are passed straight upstairs to the Canon technicians.
But how long does a Canon Professional Services technician have to train for? Dennis Norgaard revealed: "For highly-skilled technicians that deliver for our high-end professional customers you're talking about an education that can take several years. It's about having the right skill set; the right training and education, as well having the right tools to work with in order to ensure that we are delivering the right level of quality and speed of repairs."
Spare part requirements
Once Canon's technicians have a lens, DSLR or camcorder in their hands they will make a decision on whether a repair requires a spare part, or not, and then enter a spare part request onto the system. At the UK RCC the workers on the parts bay will receive notification of the part request and locate it from a holding bin. The part is then put on a 'dumb-waiter' and sent upstairs to the technicians. Astonishingly, even this part of the process is timed and it's estimated that each part is delivered within two minutes of being requested. It is this sort of minute attention to detail that helps such service operations to run smoothly.
Indeed some of the CPS operations have recently changed as Dennis Norgaard explained: "We have been very keen to ensure that the operations are working in a highly standardised way in the countries that are in the scope of this programme. We have specifically certified partners that we have agreed can deliver the service under this programme. This is really important because a professional photographer works out of different countries and is not necessarily linked to a certain country. In this way he can see that the partners who have this certification can deliver (service) in the same way."
He added: "We have defined the back-up processes that cover all these 16 countries – in the few cases where we might not be able to live up to the turnaround time for our gold and platinum customers we will be able to give the customer a back-up. This (back-up) will be available the day after we find out we cannot repair it within the service level agreement terms. There is a centralised back-up centre in Germany – from there the products are sent out to where they are actually needed. In this way it works extremely efficiently."
The process at the UK RCC is that once a service has been completed the equipment is sent back downstairs to the output department. There the LinBin contents are carefully checked against the packing list on the system. Any difference between the input and output checks will flag the item as 'incomplete'. This process helps to ensure that customers receive all of their kit back, including smaller items such as batteries and lens hoods.
The contact with photographers and videographers is via what Dennis Norgaard describes as "four primary, key 'touch points'." These are the web, the first line Canon helpdesk, Canon's Repair Centres, and e-mail correspondence with customers. These 'touch points' of contact help Canon to constantly measure and improve its performance levels on an ongoing basis.
Indeed the importance of regular customer feedback is vital, as Norgaard revealed to CPN: "We do customer surveys on a monthly basis. This feedback helps us tremendously to understand where our priorities have to be in order to improve the processes we are using. These are really our key guidelines to understand the journey of the customers; the questions they have and the needs for the future as well. The feedback is investigated and it's used for future changes within the service operations."
Although Dennis Norgaard admits that the CPS programme is but a part of the total Canon service offering, he revealed: "It's not the largest part, but it is the most key and important segment we are working on."
One of the most important parts of the support that CPS offers is the number of events that it provides support at across the world every year. "The number of events is quite big. We are talking about many hundreds of events that we are supporting either internationally or locally that are fully covered by our technical staff in order to support our customers," explained Dennis Norgaard. "If you take the World Cup in South Africa, we had a team of technicians and we also had technicians from our partners who work to support our photographers at all the sites where the teams were playing."
He added: "This (World Cup) event took four weeks and during this whole period we had people on site with the necessary equipment and also the necessary back-up equipment to support our photographers. I know that this is something that they (photographers) really appreciate because it is crucial that if they have a problem they can get it fixed immediately. The game doesn't wait until their repair is done and they need to have the shot, the right shot, in order to earn the money… so it is very, very important that we are there to support our photographers."
Servicing pro cameras and lenses
Indeed before big events such as the World Cup Canon professionals need to make sure that their equipment is in perfect condition, but Dennis Norgaard draws an interesting analogy when talking about the need for photographers to remember to have their cameras and lenses serviced. "An important thing is to think of it a little bit like when you have a car. You don't just buy the product and believe that it's going to operate perfectly for the next five or six years, without anybody having the opportunity to have a look at it and give it a service. The customers who are using these products professionally definitely have a need to contact us regularly to ensure that the products they have are really living up to the best standards, in order to ensure that the photos they have to shoot will be as good as possible, because they live off the results of what they and their equipment are able to do."
Norgaard also points out the need to calibrate lenses with DSLR cameras. "You have a camera and a lens – these two have to be tuned in order to fit together in the right way. If you combine an older lens with a new camera in order to be 100% sure that you get the optimum out of that combination it is always right to have this calibrated in the right way. This is something that photographers definitely need to think about," he advised.
He added: "It's not just about whether the lens or the camera are living up to the factory standards, it's about making sure that these two things are actually working optimally together. It's unrealistic to think you can always combine a new camera and an old, well-used, lens and have a perfect working combination. This is where the value of regular servicing of equipment is extremely important."
And what of the CPS video programme? Norgaard said: "The CPS programme covers video as well although the number of members is much smaller than photo. We have standard turnaround times for video as well, so we are prepared in exactly the same way as we are for the photo area."
As well as being able to rely on Canon to provide repairs, checks and cleans and calibration of equipment many CPS members enjoy the chance to have direct contact with support staff. For example, at the UK RCC there is a second level helpdesk for CPS members. Dennis Norgaard explained: "We know that several of our end users are very keen to have direct contact with the technicians in our competence centres. It's not just about delivering a camera in for repair, but it's about having the opportunity to exchange some words with a technician, because then they have the ability to talk with people who know exactly what they are doing and have many years of experience. This is very important for the customers."
Many professionals will also have questions about the quality of a photograph and the CPS teams are happy to examine pictures to see what might be at fault. Dennis Norgaard revealed: "We have the right tools to look at these and understand if the camera has operated optimally when the pictures have been taken. So, it's a combination of having the opportunity to talk with the people who actually repair and look at the products but also talking professionally about the quality of the pictures."
One of the aspects that is constantly helping to improve the quality of service is the development of tools, for example a microadjustment tool, by Canon Inc. in Japan, ensures that the quality of the repairs carried out gets higher and, where possible, the time taken to do the repairs decreases. But are there any other areas where Canon can improve its service?
Dennis Norgaard replied: "One of the areas we are working hard to improve at this point in time is our web experience. We will work hard to increase the content on the web but also the experience of searching on the web in order to find what you need. It's an area we have a clear view on, have very thorough plans, and know what we want to do in order to increase the experience. If you look at the customer journey, the first place where our customers normally start to look for what they want to know about either the product, Canon in general or specifically the service on the web. So, definitely this is an area where we will be working hard to be much better than where we are now."
CPN asked Dennis Norgaard what was the most important part of the service programme? He replied: "In my view it is a key differentiator for Canon to have a first class, well-functioning, service function. The service is crucial because these customers will have a regular contact with services. It means that it is extremely important that we have the right attitude, the right way to deliver the service, that we are actually delivering according to what we are telling the customer we will do, the right quality and the right experience as well. That, in my view, is going to give a key difference for the customer."
The re-launched CPS programme
And what of the re-launched CPS programme that was put into place in early April 2010? "We now have over two and a half months' experience of handling the programme in full production and I can say, based on the scorecards we have, that it works. I think this is a key milestone that we have this programme implemented and, for sure, we'll look for ways to improve it further in the future. There are always possibilities to make things better but we can clearly see that the customers are extremely satisfied with the service that we deliver to them," revealed Dennis Norgaard.
The other key area is to make sure that the promised Canon Professional Services 'target times' are being met as Norgaard explained: "Looking at the results during the last couple of months I would say that we have achieved all the targets in all the countries in Europe for all the levels of repairs within this (CPS) programme. Looking at the results we have achieved during these past two months we have exactly achieved, and actually a bit over-achieved, what we had promised to our customers. I think that's excellent. We have tested all our processes; we know they work; the back-up process works, so I think we are in very good shape to make this an excellent success for our customers as well."
Norgaard added: "Although the new programme has presented some challenges for our customers we hope that the long-term benefits are delivered in better service. We have been able to establish a pan-European standardised way to support our customers – I hope they see this is really a great achievement. Also, we have been able to do it not only via Canon internal resource but also via our special certified partners. I really hope and believe that this is going to be a key differentiator for the pro business in general and I'm very sure that it is going to help our customers as well. Hopefully, they will think that they are getting a much better service experience compared to what they had seen before this programme was launched."