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Leica service followup

Following up on yesterday’s entry— first, please note that only certain special lenses like the 90/2 APO APO-Summicron-R require service in Germany. The Leica 90/2 is unquestionably one of the pinnacles of modern lens design, and requires exceptionally high-precision equipment to build and service, equipment that apparently resides only in Germany (and quite probably the expertise to use that equipment also). I’ve added a small note to my review, btw.

By comparison, you can buy a brand-new Nikon or Canon lens, and take your chances. My turnaround time from Nikon/Canon (known from numerous lens experiences) is generally 2-4 weeks; they have USA-based service centers. However, I once sent a brand-new Nikon 360/f9 view camera lens in for service that required 3-4 months to service in Japan.

Yesterday’s entry received a response from Leica about being “very very disappointed that you went to the blog without consulting us”, perhaps because I was informed before I sent the lens in that it “might have to go to Germany” to be serviced. In addition, Leica did not promise any specific turnaround time. Leica was honest, and I don’t fault them for not quoting an up-front turnaround time. Furthermore, I spoke with Leica today, and they had already pulled my 90/2 from the outbound items for Germany (to re-check it), to double-check whether it really needed to go to Germany (my service request was for it to be performing at 100% of specification, and to remove some internal dust). That’s responsive service, and speaks well for Leica.

Discussing this with Leica’s VP of Marketing, there is approximately 2-3 weeks of transit time to Germany from the USA (including customs), and perhaps 7-10 days of processing time in the USA. Many products can be serviced in US, but I learned that apochromatic (APO) lenses have to actually go back onto the production line due to their exceptionally precise tolerances, where even a tiny misalignment can defeat the exquisite optical calculations. So all of this is understandable, but the fact remains that even one month is a long time, and 3-4 months is very long indeed, though the 3-4 month figure might be a case of “underpromise and overdeliver”.

A product consists of both the physical object and the service and support. I don’t think any customer would consider a 3-4 month turnaround fair or reasonable. Even one month is 3 weeks too long for a working professional.

It’s all too easy for companies to react negatively (or ignore) constructive criticism, instead of understanding that they lose sales by not understanding their customers, that they worsen the situation by not tackling it head-on, and that they would be far better off sending profuse thanks to anyone willing to provide such invaluable customer feedback. The bottom line for success: apply Miller’s Law to any customer feedback:

Try it sometime—it’s very easy to not apply (I’m good at that), but when applied rigorously, the results can be astonishing. What often happens is the converse, Lloyd’s Law:

We should all hope that Leica takes the foregoing to heart, because the presence of multiple viable lens/camera manufacturers benefits everyone regardless of brand. Leica is a venerable company with a long history, and with world-class offerings simply not available elsewhere. Leica has recently experienced ownership turmoil (read the news). With luck, that will sort itself out with a newer and stronger and more realistic Leica emerging.

My short-term suggestion for Leica: fix the turnaround time issue. It’s not my concern that the Leica experts and their advanced equipment reside in Germany; that’s Leica’s logistical problem to sort out. Leica could expedite shipping, provide a loaner, etc; there are all sorts of tactical options to mitigate the impact, along with a longer-term strategic plan to fix the problem.

My medium-term suggestion for Leica: expand your market by doing what Zeiss is doing with the ZF line: make the world-class “R” lenses available in (at least) Nikon mount. There is simply no company today that addresses the high-end “no compromises” lens market. (The Coastal 60/4 is a “no compromises” lens, but it’s a singleton offering).

My long-term suggestion for Leica: the Leica R10 digital needs to emerge; the M8 rangefinder is definitely not for everyone. An R10 digital should be 16-20 very high quality megapixels, and there should be some new AF lenses to go with it. A Leica M9 rangefinder, with full-frame and Live View is also sorely needed.

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