How To Plug PR Black Holes, Or Steal A Rival’s Customers

Why have I become a Nokia Care Center? Because I wrote a nasty blog post about them a year ago, that’s why. In October 2004 I was not happy with the response of my local Nokia centre, which seemed very cavalier and, well, careless about the data saved on a customer’s phone. Basically, there was no straightforward way for the customer to save their data before it was wiped off during a Care Centre repair. Several angry customers were belatedly waking up to the implications of losing all their phone numbers and other personal data. This struck me as dumb and I wrote about it.

Big mistake. Not because I heard back from Nokia (I never did, as I recall) but because I heard from other customers, all seeming to have some problem with their Nokia phone, and, increasingly, assuming I could do something about it. Nearly 40 so far, which is not a huge amount, but more attention than most of my posts receive. This once happened before, when I wrote about Coca Cola doing some online music venture. It ended up being colonised by semi-literate gamers confusing the post with some online game. I appreciated the traffic but after the posts crossed the lines of vulgarity and legality, I figured it was better to pull the post.

Of course, this kind of thing happens because the comments start figuring in the search engine results, not just the original post, and then the page starts climbing the rankings. A search for “Nokia Care Centres” on Google puts me 4th, way above many Nokia corporate sites, while the U.S. spelling puts me 8th: only one non Nokia site is above me there, a complaint from an expat site in Singapore. That, coupled with all the other hopeful requests added as comments (usually along the lines of “Can u send me Nokia Care Centers in Bangalore?”, the most recent comment of less than an hour ago) push it higher up the rankings and make readers assume such previous pleas for help have been answered. They haven’t, at least not by me, but I’m almost thinking of setting myself up as a Nokia Care Centre.

The bigger question here is: Why is Nokia not monitoring this kind of thing and helping out these customers by either approaching me to post something helpful on their behalf (folks looking for answers should go to this link, or call this number, or send an email here, or whatever) or post a comment themselves to reach these lost souls? Surely someone in Nokia has noticed that their own Nokia Care Centres are getting bypassed on Google, as dozens of unhappy customers cry for help or vent their frustration elsewhere online?

Nokia, please pay one intern to trawl the web for this kind of black hole and the problem could be solved, and a PR blindspot fixed, in before it gets out of hand. (Then there are the rivals: Why has Motorola or Samsung not called me up and asked to advertise on this page, realising they could win over dozens of new customers frustrated by their Nokia experiences? No really, folks. I probably need to mull over the ethical aspects of dissing a company so I can woo advertising from rivals, but after that brief Mulling Period is over, I’m open to all offers.)  

Nokia’s “Care” Centres

Please note that I don’t work for Nokia, this is not an official Nokia site, and although I’m flattered by all the attention this post gets, posting your problem isn’t going to help you. I’ve invited Nokia several times to offer some text that I can include here to direct users to a real Nokia site, but without success, so I’m doubtful they’re going to be reading anything here. Instead, I suggest those of you in India visit this link for more information about where to get help. Alternatively you can send them an email here.


Is it a sign of Nokia’s demise, or just a glimpse of an opportunity missed?

I had to take my 7650 in for mending yesterday: The keypad doesn’t respond well when I press ‘6’, which I do a lot. So rather than swear every time I key in an SMS with the letters M, N and O in, I thought I’d get it fixed. They have quite a few official Nokia Help Centres (I think they’re called Care Centres) around my town so I tried one.

It was not a particularly helpful help centre — there was only one customer in there, and the spare customer helper person disappeared out for her lunch as soon as I came in — but that wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was that the conversation with every customer seems to go like this:

— My phone doesn’t work.
— OK, leave it with us and we’ll check it.
— Great, a thousand thank yous (this is a polite country).
— Have you backed up your data?
— Pardon?
— We’ll have to erase your data when we check the phone.
— Er, erase? You mean all my phone numbers, treasured text messages, settings, photos of my grandchild?
— Yes. And those mildly pornographic pictures of your wife you keep in a sub-folder.
— (Gulp.) Don’t you have any way to back up the memory first? This is a phone, not a computer. I’ve never backed it up in my life. How do you back it up?
— No, we don’t do that kind of thing.
— You don’t do that kind of thing? What do you do then? Ruin people’s lives? Push otherwise normal people into madness? You expect to write down all the numbers and key them in again? You expect my grandchild to be happy when I explain to her the photo got deleted by my friendly Nokia Care Centre? (exit to sounds of flying phones, curses, scratched nails on blackboards etc etc)

Ok, that’s not necessarily a real conversation, but I find it too weird that Nokia can’t back up the memory on its own cellphones. Sure, they’ll probably argue liability and all that, but I’ve heard of some very angry customers who didn’t realise that handing over their cellphone to a Nokia Care Center would erase all their data. It must be easy to take a snapshot of the memory and then reload it. I’m not surprised customers don’t back up their cellphone memory. Have you ever tried to use Nokia’s PC backup software? It’s about as easy and helpful to use as a home-labotomy kit.

I can’t help concluding from this that Nokia either doesn’t get it, or is losing it. Maybe their help centres elsewhere are more helpful. But if the company wants to retain market share, and to encourage people to store more on and do more with their phones, they’ve got to help them keep that stuff there.