Gadgets, Thoughts

Nokia FAIL

I'll start this post by pointing out that I am a Nokia fanboy. I love Nokia devices. I've only ever owned Nokia phones, and it is no secret how much I love my Nokia internet tablets. But boy are Nokia frustrating.

I am currently awaiting my N900...still. I pre-ordered several weeks ago. Such is my geekiness and general devotion to Nokia devices that I've been following the progress of the N900 pretty much all year. And the red-hot second it got announced and was available for pre-order I did so.

Unfortunately this has exposed me to how poor Nokia's logistics operation is. They make great devices, but they just don't seem to have a clue when it comes to communicating with customers, or having a firm idea of their ability to deliver.

Originally it was widely expected the N900 would be available by October, in time for the Maemo developer conference. Now maybe Nokia never planned this to be the case, and maybe they had to change their plans. But it was not ready. Instead they gave the 300 attendees, pre-production models (just on loan though).

A few weeks later and it was expected that the N900 would be ready for late October. But eventually Nokia stated that they were taking feedback from the 300 developers and fixing important issues. I can accept that. Hell that's even a *good* thing. It might have been nice if they had stated up front that this was the plan. But I'll give them credit, and assume it was.

So they announced the device in late August. With nothing more than a very vague suggestion of when it would ship. And apparently no fixed plan.

This is pretty poor in itself, I appreciate their openness, and that many of their competitors would not even indicate a device existed until they knew exactly a ship date. However, I believe it's possibly to be open, whilst still giving specific expectation of time frames. For example, give a date for a date, eg we will take a check point on 'nth of October' and at that point we will announce the ship date.

But no, just vagueness and handwaving. In early November (10th?) Nokia announced that they had started 'shipping'. This apparently meant units were leaving their factories, because it certainly didn't seem to mean anyone, anywhere, was getting one.

The thing which started to annoy me was that, at no point, did I as a customer with a pre-order, have any e-mails sent to me to keep me informed. Everything I know was because I went looking on line for information.

A couple of weeks ago I e-mailed customer support to ask them what was happening. Nokia have announced they're shipping...so where is my device?

The response I got, on the 12 of November, was that the 'tentative' date for delivery was the 19th

Great, but why tentative? That's a really short window, and any logistics operation worth its salt should be working to a firm date on that scale. I've only just stated working on a project, and one of the first things I learned about it was the date we must be finished. Because the amount of time it takes to go through manufacturing, etc. is a known quantity, and the date that we will be ready is fixed. So my team has to tune content to fit in the time we have been given. That's just good business.

So I guess it came as little surprise when the 19th arrived, and no word was received about my device being shipped. Though I was surprised that I didn't get an update from Nokia. But just to rub salt in the wounds, I did get an e-mail from Nokia, first thing on the 19th...'you contacted customer support last week, please fill in this survey'... So some part of the business is capable of realising I've interacted with Nokia, and automatically following up. Why can't you apply that to - 'Nokia told you your order would be with you by now, but we're sorry to tell you that there has been a delay'? I e-mailed them again, and on the 20th I got a response. Sorry, the delivery date is now 'tentatively' the 23rd.

I responded asking, what do you mean by 'delivery date' is that to me? Or to you, then you'll ship them out?. After all, if on Friday the 20th, there is any chance in hell of you delivering to me on Monday the 23rd, then you know for sure, none of this 'tentative' nonsense.

They said delivery date, did mean delivered to me. But they couldn't even tell me what had caused the shift in dates. Whoever is answering the e-mails simply hasn't been told why the date is moving. Surely someone at Nokia knows? Surely someone, somewhere should have a pretty good idea exactly how long it takes to get physical units from a factory to distribution centres, from there to local warehouses, and finally into the hands of delivery companies. If this was my business, I'd expect to know from the moment the design for a device is final, from the moment I deliver the software. Exactly how long before they are ready to hand to a courier to fulfill an order. Factories run at known speeds. Trucks run to schedules. Someone should know the date they can hit, with risks calculated for random out of control issues (driver strikes etc.)

But here I am on Sunday the 22nd, and I've had no e-mail to indicate shipment. My order status still simply says 'this order has not shipped' Maybe it will ship out on Monday, but Nokia customer services apparently have no clue. And they aren't making any effort to keep me updated, if I want to know what's going on I have to go ask nicely for an update.

Of course the reason all this is so frustrating, is that I do love these devices, I am sold, I was sold a year ago on the rumours alone. If I was less of a geek, less taken by the openness of Maemo, less of a Nokia fanboy, then I could just walk away, order myself something that is available right now, from a company that knows how to do customer service.

But I am a geek, and I won't walk away. I'll just sit and wait and endure the pain of interacting with a company that just doesn't have a clue. Because I know ultimately what they lack in logistics capability, they make up for in an R&D department that churns out some fantastic devices. With an openness policy that puts everyone else to shame.

But Nokia, please, for your sake as much as mine, fire whoever is responsible for taking the output of your r&d, and putting it in the hands of paying customers. And get someone with a clue. Nothing infuriates customers more than no information. You could have gone though the same set of steps, even the same set of date push-backs, with much less bad feeling, just by pro-actively informing me of what's happening. Rather than making me chase to be told when I get to give you money.

But really, you should not have had to do any of that. Because you should have control of your distribution. If you have to give 'tentative' dates, then you are already expecting to fail.