It shouldn’t be this way…
So if you’ve read the first couple of episodes in my ongoing saga with Sony’s Xperia UK Customer Support team then you’ll already know that my premium and supposedly water resistant Xperia Z mobile phone malfunctioned as soon as it became submerged in shallow water. You will also have read about the response that I received from the UK Sony repair service and be aware that it infuriated me. If not then I’ve quoted it again below as this chapter is all about why Sony’s response maddened me so much. Also bear in mind that in addition to the statements reproduced below I received a quote of approximately £266 for the “functionally equivalent device” mentioned.
Your handset is uneconomical to repair. We offer you a functionally equivalent device.
So yes, Sony didn’t offer me what I think I deserve or am entitled to and yes, that is a significant source of my frustration and disappointment but it is not the only reason why I’m dissatisfied. As you will read below, there’s more to it than that and I think that I’m justified in being upset about it.
When I packaged up my handset and sent it to Sony’s engineers I thought that they were going to assess it with a view to establishing liability and only then would a repair be considered. I was certain that they would find a fault which pointed the finger at design, materials or workmanship and thus the repair or replacement would be at Sony’s expense. As it happens, it would seem that Sony’s contract engineers have either…
a) assumed that my handset was sent in purely for a repair as the result of accidental water damage and given no consideration as to the reason for water ingress and therefore to liability
b) they have concluded that I am liable but have failed to explain their reasoning.
As the customer, I feel that I should not be left wondering how the decision of liability, which clearly affects me and is central to the whole issue, was established. Or indeed if it ever was.
Of course I realise that Sony have apparently made up their mind about how they intend to treat this case and therefore I know that I am now incredibly unlikely to get the outcome that I want and, frankly, deserve. To be clear, all that I’m after is for Sony to put me back into the situation that I was in prior to taking my handset to the swimming pool where it failed as a result of some as yet unknown or unacknowledged reason but which was NOT due to misuse. What that means to me is that I want Sony or the retailer to supply me with a replacement handset at no cost to me. Why should I be out of pocket? An offer of a refurbished handset would have been fine, as long as it worked: I’m not trying to scam a free copy of one of their latest models. To be honest, even a decent discount on a direct or equivalent replacement would have led me to think that they were being reasonable. After all I’d had two years use from my device before I decided to use it in water for the first time, so offering only a discount to me wouldn’t be unreasonable. However what Sony decided to do got my back up because the only thing that really is clear from their statements above is that they believe that I was at fault. And it came with no explanation.
So, supposing that I accept liability for the failure of my Xperia Z and therefore the offer might be of interest to me, then the biggest problem that I have with the statements above, issued by Sony’s Customer Service, is that they are not at all transparent. To me it looks as though Sony simply see a customer’s misfortune as an opportunity to try and make as much additional money for the least amount of effort that they can get away with. That may not be an entirely fair or accurate statement but without proper transparency that is the conclusion that I’ve come to and if others conclude the same then it is likely to be a fairly serious problem for customer retention and isn’t retention what good Customer Support is all about?
So now let’s review and consider each of the two comments that I received from Sony…
Your handset is uneconomical to repair
To support this statement I think it would useful to have a full quote for a repair that details which parts have failed and an associated cost to replace each component including labour. By the end of the quote it should be easy for the consumer to see that the cost of repair is uneconomical when compared to the price of a replacement. It may be too technically involved and therefore expensive to provide this level of detail but something in addition to the simple statement above is surely required to give the customer confidence that Sony and their engineers are operating in the best interest of the customer and not in their own.
We offer you a functionally equivalent device
(Also, bear in mind that I received a quote for approximately £266 alongside this statement).
What on earth does this statement mean? After all my device isn’t functioning at all! I don’t want another brick and I certainly don’t want to pay for one! I assume that Sony intend to replace it with something working at least?! At least I sincerely hope that’s the case for roughly £266.
Aside from the poor choice of words these are my two main questions:
- Exactly what model device is being offered to me? I could make an assumption that it’s the same as my old handset but a more recent and cheaper model may also be considered a functionally equivalent device. However, before I hand over that kind of money I want a proper description of the product just in case my assumption is incorrect or they are offering something to me that I’m not interested in.
- What is the condition of the replacement device? New? Refurbished?
Neither of these questions should have to be asked. The offer should be explicit with no opportunity to misunderstand.
In summary, it really shouldn’t be this way. I believe that there should be absolute clarity and transparency in all communications with the customer regarding the engineer’s assessment, the justification for the decision about liability and the potential remedy or offer put forward. Sony has failed spectacularly on all counts. What’s more, in future chapters you’ll see that it gets worse when I start to try and interact with Sony’s Customer Support agents…