SmugMug Gallery Fiasco


SmugMug Gallery Fiasco, originally uploaded by noeltykay.

See update below.

My friend Noel Kleinman (who takes some of the most *amazing* photographs of children and especially his son Jack) uploaded a series of photos to his photostream on Flickr today that document a recent print job that he had done using SmugMug. The photos Noel uploaded really highlight what an awful job SmugMug did on the printing job.

What makes this story worse, is that the photo print (which cost $60) that Noel had made up was a very special print. Noel took some photos of his friend’s kid while he was out of town and had planned on giving him the print as a gift for his 40th birthday this Saturday.

Now this is the worst kind of PR a company can have in my opinion. A great photographer saying that their printing sucks and documenting in detail online.

So what should SmugMug do? Well, if I were them I’d have the print redone as professionally as possible and do everything within power, including overnight mail or special delivery, to get the print to Noel before his friend’s birthday on Saturday night. I’d probably also comp him a free print in the future and hope that this one bad example could be chalked up to a single mistake and not the general type of production quality that SmugMug stands for.

I’d probably also check into who was doing SmugMug’s printing and make sure that they had adequate quality control in place to prevent this from happening in the future.

Where did I first see this problem that Noel was having with SmugMug? On FriendFeed. Don MacAskill, SmugMug’s CEO, is on FriendFeed too so it will be interesting to see if indeed a company’s CEO can turn a PR problem into a PR solution.

I don’t really blame SmugMug for the bad print job. Anyone can get a print wrong. But it’s what you do when your customers have a bad experience that counts most of all.

This is also why every company should have a person (or a PR company) that monitors the blogs, twitter, digg, reddit, friendfeed, flickr, etc.) for opportunities to turn customer service problems into customer service solutions.

Update: Two things. First, it should be noted that despite this most recent printing problem, Noel Kleinman holds SmugMug’s customer service in very high regard. Also it is nice to see that SmugMug’s CEO Don MacAskill monitors social media very closely and personally responded to this blog post in less than an hour. That’s to be commended for sure. Not very many CEOs personally monitor social media on their company. I’m printing both Noel’s comment and Don’s comment from the comment section below to this original post.

From Noel: “Thomas…

SmugMug has ALWAYS provided quality prints to both me and my customers who order from my site.

I have been a SmugMug client for a year now and in that year I have sold several thousand dollars worth of prints and all of my customers have been extremely happy with their prints.

There was one instance last November where a client made two seperate orders…the second order ship prior to the first order. The first order was time sensitive and the client contacted me on a Saturday night. I in turn e-amiled SmugMug support on a Saturday night and had a response within 15 minutes apologizing for the snafu. SmugMug reprinted the first order and sent it overnight to the customer. The original order shipped and the client had two sets of images.

SmugMug customer support is FANTASTIC! In a perfect world the canvas would have been fine…it wasn’t. But SmugMug has been a great company to deal with in every aspect imagineable!!!!

Noel
www.nkpix.com”

From Don:

“We’ll definitely make this right. SmugMug has an extremely simple, legalese-free print guarantee:

“If you are unhappy with your prints or gifts, SmugMug will reprint or refund your order, whichever you prefer.”
http://www.smugmug.com/prints/our-guarantee.mg

In actual practice, we often go much much farther, from custom color correction by our in-house Pros to overnight shipping, refunds, and even sourcing from other labs. A simple Google search will validate that hundreds, if not thousands, of times over.

I just found out about this particular problem, but it turns out our Support Heroes are already all over it – they told me I was lagged. 🙂

Thanks for blowing the whistle – certainly makes our job easier when we know about problems.”

Be Sociable, Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...

14 Comments

  1. Cybasumo says:

    there is so no way i can give that as a gift~! i mean… come on…

  2. Noel says:

    Thomas…

    SmugMug has ALWAYS provided quality prints to both me and my customers who order from my site.

    I have been a SmugMug client for a year now and in that year I have sold several thousand dollars worth of prints and all of my customers have been extremely happy with their prints.

    There was one instance last November where a client made two seperate orders…the second order ship prior to the first order. The first order was time sensitive and the client contacted me on a Saturday night. I in turn e-amiled SmugMug support on a Saturday night and had a response within 15 minutes apologizing for the snafu. SmugMug reprinted the first order and sent it overnight to the customer. The original order shipped and the client had two sets of images.

    SmugMug customer support is FANTASTIC! In a perfect world the canvas would have been fine…it wasn’t. But SmugMug has been a great company to deal with in every aspect imagineable!!!!

    Noel
    http://www.nkpix.com

  3. We’ll definitely make this right. SmugMug has an extremely simple, legalese-free print guarantee:

    “If you are unhappy with your prints or gifts, SmugMug will reprint or refund your order, whichever you prefer.”
    http://www.smugmug.com/prints/our-guarantee.mg

    In actual practice, we often go much much farther, from custom color correction by our in-house Pros to overnight shipping, refunds, and even sourcing from other labs. A simple Google search will validate that hundreds, if not thousands, of times over.

    I just found out about this particular problem, but it turns out our Support Heroes are already all over it – they told me I was lagged. 🙂

    Thanks for blowing the whistle – certainly makes our job easier when we know about problems.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Don, great to see you and your team’s responsiveness.

    I think it would make a great outcome to this story if SmugMug somehow got Noel his print professionally done in time for his friend’s birthday on Saturday night.

    Noel is obviously a satisfied customer, but was probably feeling a bit aggravated by the recent print job.

    It’s great CEOs like you who keep tabs on social media that show that someone is listening. It’s especially positive I think when action comes from the very top.

    As said before, mistakes can happen all the time, but it’s usually how they are handled afterwards that counts the most!

    Good luck.

  5. Noel says:

    Don –

    Your team has been great…Andy just shot me a note. I am fine with a simple refund. No big deal regarding the canvas…really. I was just shocked at the quality of the canvas because the SmugMug logo is on the outside of the package…I an my clients are so used to high quality prints that i was just shocked.

    I appreciate the quick response and I hope that you get the quality of canvases up to par with those of MPIX. I anticipate ordering some more stuff from Club Smug. I just ordered a Blurb book and anticipate ordering some other stuff as well.

    I will continue to preach the excellent customer service, the unbelievable community at DGRIN and the wonderful prints! Just make sure that for my clients some time soon!

    Thanks!

    Noel
    http://www.nkpix.com

  6. Mark says:

    “Not very many CEOs personally monitor social media on their company.”

    Thomas, I do agree with you, but (obviously) there are some CEOs (or equivalent) out there that do monitor social media about their companies.

    About a year ago, I blogged about how awesome Pandora.com was, despite the threat of internet radio being shut down. I received a comment from Tom Conrad, CTO @ Pandora. It was nice to see such a big-wig (in my eyes) patrolling the ‘net.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Just a quick echo that SmugMug is always ready and willing to make sure a situation is taken care of right, well beyond what you would expect of any company. Also, in terms of customer service I *always* had exceptional service.

    Speaking directly to quality assurance, I’ve had a support hero call me *before* an order went out to note an issue with the quality of what a print would result due to an original photo. They held the order, and allowed me to upload a corrected photo before letting everything go to print. I can’t imagine any other company being that on top of things.

  8. Keith says:

    Looks as though this is well on its way to being resolved, which is a relief.

    I’ve evaluated prints from most of the leading on-line sharing/hosting shops, and have found no one takes the printing process as seriously as the folks at SmugMug. They went through a very transparent process when choosing a new printer, and as Don mentions, they back it with a bullshit-free guarantee.

    It’s also worth mentioning that, printing aside, they’re by far the most accessible, knowledgeable and friendly support staff that I’ve encountered in my years of doing business and paying for services on-line. This is not, by any means, an exaggeration. They’re a bunch of really nice folks who happen to run what I believe to be the finest photo hosting service available today.

    And it follows that–while I’m not at all surprised–I’m glad to see that Don and the gang are all over this.

  9. Thomas Hawk says:

    Mark, Tom Conrad from Pandora is absolutely another tech exec who is active in social media. A good guy as well.

  10. populus says:

    Everybody makes mistakes, but as others have noted, Smugmug’s customer service and support borders on the fanatical. Take a look at Dgrin, Smugmug’s forum site and see how often Smugmug staff respond to questions, and how quickly.

    Before going with Smugmug, I tried several other services and none could come close in the quality of customer service.

    Unfortunately, for casual readers of your site, the quick response of Don Macaskill and his team, and the satisfaction of Noel Kleiman with the outcome may not be apparent. It would be nice if you could write a post about the outcome.

  11. Noel says:

    Don and his team again went above and beyond the call of duty which is par for the course for SmugMug in terms of their support.

    Again, I want to reiterate that I was surprised at the subpar quality and craftsmanship of the canvas, as I and my clients have always received fantastic prints from SmugMug. I am hoping that the quality of canvases from SmugMug improve so that I can offer these to my clients.

    Thanks Don, Andy, Wendee, Markham and the rest of the SmugMug support heroes!

    Noel
    http://www.nkpix.com

  12. -gary says:

    The reason I signed up for SM in the first place was the responsiveness and openness of it’s owners and staff. Not only on their own site and blogs, but on any that raised an issue with their service.

  13. Lawyer Mama says:

    I’m always *thrilled* to see companies actively engaged in using social media this way. It’s a win win situation for everyone.

    Noel’s recommendation goes a long way for me & I’m sure I’ll try ordering from Smug Mug. Despite their fantastic customer service, I have to admit that I’ll think twice about ordering a gallery wrap from them over MPIX. Perhaps once I hear (and see) that the quality has improved.

  14. Mark says:

    Glad to see this turned out well, I must have just stumbled across the posts on flickr and ruled out smugmug as a result, but going back to flickr and now this blog I will be signing up for smugmug.

    Thanks for sharing!