SmugMug Gallery Fiasco
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!!!!
“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.”
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.”