Sony Settles for Less than Pixel Perfect Customer Loyalty

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Apr 04, 2005
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By John Hennessy


Molly Wood, senior editor for CNET.com, has an interesting piece on Sony’s handling of an apparent glitch with the new Sony Playstation Portable (PSP).


Some users are experiencing pixel problems. A number of pixels can be dead, stuck or discolored. According to Wood, there seem to be a lot of defective PSPs out there. Half the 12 in-house units she surveyed at sister site GameSpot had at least one dead pixel.


Rather than step up to the plate and make sure early adopters of this new device have an outstanding experience, Sony seems to be ducking for cover and hoping the problem goes away. At least their message regarding support has been inconsistent.


When someone from GameSpot contacted a Sony rep, the rep advised that PSP owners should use the device for “a week or two” to determine whether the dark spots really bothered them as much as they thought.


When David Carnoy, author of CNET’s Fully Equipped electronics column, pressed a Sony rep, he at first got a vague response offering the “week or two” advice, but with further pushing, the Sony rep said the following:


“Any customer that is dissatisfied with their PSP can contact our customer service and follow the standard warranty procedure. There are no limits (or minimums) to constantly lit or dark pixels that are required for the warranty. It is important to note that as with any LCD product on the market, a very small number of dark pixels or continuously lit pixels is normal for LCD screens, and is not a sign of a malfunction.”


There is still the question of what resellers have been told. Why, for example, does GameStop think Sony’s replacement policy is 10 bad pixels?


Wood recommends that you make sure you know the return or dead-pixel policy before you buy a new PSP.


Moderator’s Comment: What do you think the response will be to Sony’s apparent disregard for customer satisfaction? What should it be?


A small company with a terrific innovation like the PSP would bend over backwards to make sure early adopters of its product were enthusiastic and highly
satisfied. That’s very different from the laissez faire approach Sony is taking to customer satisfaction.


Sony’s target audience for its PSP device is tech savvy and highly connected. To think this group isn’t going to use its Internet savvy to share horror
stories is pretty naïve for a tech company like Sony.


Sony was probably able to get away with a few clunkers in the past. Not any more. Sony’s perception of this technical flaw as something customers can live
with is not the stuff of long-term brand loyalty.

John Hennessy – Moderator

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6 Comments on "Sony Settles for Less than Pixel Perfect Customer Loyalty"


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Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Technology this cutting edge tends to bring issues and it’s not unexpected that Sony would prematurely release this product in order to revive their street cred. Doubtless, there will be negative blogging, however this won’t keep those who want to be the first to own the PSP from buying it for themselves (or their kids). If Sony corrects the next generation and offers promotional compensation (free games, upgrades, etc.), people will forget pretty quickly.

Jeff Weitzman
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Jeff Weitzman
15 years 10 months ago
This is not cutting edge technology, at least as far as the screen goes, but yes, it is a manufacturing certainty that a certain number of dead pixels will exist. LCD screen manufacturers have been dealing with this issue for years. The larger the panel size, the higher the likelihood of having a few dead pixels. Nearly all computer monitor brands require at least a couple of dead pixels before they will replace a screen. On a screen as small as the PSP’s, there should only rarely be a dead pixel, though. Sony’s product is not cheap, so you would think Sony would be more willing to replace a bad screen. I’m not sure if there is an issue here or not. It seems like Sony will replace the units with dead pixels, but it also seems like they are trying to discourage consumers from asking them to. I suspect someone at Sony panicked and gave the wrong impression, thinking that word of an unusual number of bad screens would put a damper on early… Read more »
Rob Madonna
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Rob Madonna
15 years 10 months ago

I think Sony is going to survive this. I spent some time in the home theater industry competing against them. It’s not a secret that consumers consider their products to be of the highest quality and, therefore, are willing to stretch their dollar for a Sony product. At least in home theater, they don’t OEM a lot of their product line so there’s a good chance that Sony LCD TV was manufactured by LG Electronics. Put a Sony and LG side by side and consumers will go for the Sony. That being stated, I don’t believe this will ultimately hurt their brand and Sony will rely on their past brand reputation. Apple has a lot of negative buzz because of the battery problem in iPods yet they still top out in sales. Like iPod, Sony’s product will generate a negative buzz, but it won’t stop consumers from buying this and other products.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I accept Sony’s explanation that a few errant pixels are the norm with this type of product. But just like the old “contents sold by weight, not volume…contents may settle in shipment” disclaimer, it doesn’t quite cut it. (Why don’t they just shake the box a couple of times and fill it up again?) It’s a tough situation because the product developers and quality control people have probably long ago rationalized a few bad pixels as being an acceptable standard. Chances are, the vast majority of consumers of the device see these complaints reported in the media and say, “Gee. I never noticed that before. But now that I can see it (using this magnifying glass)…that’s just not acceptable.”

At times like this, it’s critical that top management step in immediately and put the matter into the hands of skilled customer relations people who know how to “finesse” what is basically an unsolvable problem. Product people are too logical. They don’t understand gray areas and they’re totally unsuitable for determining appropriate PR responses.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Even when the customer is wrong, a weasely service policy does damage to the company reputation. And in this instance, the affected customers are not wrong.

Service policy aside, it looks as if the PSP and similar products are banking on an imperfect LCD screen technology. A spotty screen or constant black or white pixel would probably drive me up the wall. Reading between the lines, it looks as if Sony made a pragmatic QA decision to permit a small number of bad pixels in its early units. Probably lets them deliver the device at a lower cost. A tradeoff with some merit, from an operational perspective, but customers want their technology to work, period.

Laurie Cozart
Guest
Laurie Cozart
15 years 10 months ago

This is one small glitch for Sony. However, it’s a sad indicator that companies truly believe the consumer will settle for sub-standard goods if the problem is “spinned” properly. Companies as large a Sony should be setting the standard of ethics and customer care.

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