Lofoten Postscript 1 – Hurtigruten Customer Service

 

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In an unusual departure from my normal blog …

From time to time I find myself in correspondence with organisations that IMHO have let me down in one way or another. How they respond sends a real signal in terms of whether they value me as a customer, and makes a difference to whether I’ll continue to use their services or buy their products.

Some examples of positive experiences recently have been Sigma and Sony, in the former case showing a real interest in my experience with early versions of the Quattro, and who went on to loan me kit for the trip to Lofoten, and in the latter case prioritising a replacement camera when my Sony RX1 r II was lost during the voyage up the Norwegian coast … which leads me nicely on to …

… My experience with Hurtigruten, the Norwegian shipping line, when I lost the Sony camera, has been less than positive, and has led to me writing a letter to their CEO, Mr Skjeldam, published below.

I have no real hope that it will change anything, nor do I expect to receive anything in return, and I’m sure many people will have no sympathy for my plight, after all it was my fault that I lost the camera …

… but …

…I do want Mr Skjeldam to understand how much the attitude of the Captain and the impotence of his customer service team (no doubt constrained by company policy to only be able to offer off-the-shelf apologies and trotting out the company line) compounded my frustration and disappointment.

I intend to publish Mr Skjeldam’s reply if and when I receive one.

Dear Mr Skjeldam

On Friday 19th February we boarded the MS Lofoten looking forward to a wonderful voyage up the Norwegian coastline from from Bergen to Boda for a photography trip on the Lofoten Islands, a trip planned for 12 months. As a semi-professional photographer I was hoping to capture the beauty of the islands, and perhaps exhibit some of the images. I’d bought a new camera, a Sony RX1r Mk 2, specially for the trip as its 42mega pixels would allow me to print big, and its low light capabilities would be perfect for dusk and night time shots, a capability that stretched my other, Sigma Foveon based, cameras.

Unfortunately, at the stop at Trondheim, I discovered on returning to the ship that the Sony was missing, most probably lost or perhaps stolen. I would like to stress at this point that I take full responsibility for the loss.

I informed officer Snore Andre Pedersan immediately, and, with 20 minutes before our scheduled departure, asked that the ship delay sailing by 10 minutes, allowing me 30 minutes to retrace my steps and (hopefully) recover the camera. Snore contacted the captain and asked, but my request was dismissed. I requested to speak to the Captain face to face. He arrived ten minutes later and after discussion again refused. The options he gave were to (a) leave the ship immediately and make my own way to Lofoten or (b) remain on board and leave my camera. Option (a) was not a great option! We had no time to gather money or our gear, or indeed just essential gear, let alone sort out accommodation. I had no choice but to leave the camera, and my trip, planned for 12 months, lay in ruins.

During the conversation the Captain was arrogant and rude, showing no empathy in my plight, giving me no real options, insinuating I was being selfish to other passengers in asking for a 10 minute delay, and turning away and leaving mid-conversation. Furthermore, at no time during the remaining voyage did he seek me out to explain the situation from his perspective, nor show any sympathy, let alone apologise. Instead he left me to sit and fume!

At this point I would like to add that officer Snorre Andre Pedersan was extremely helpful and did his upmost to help recover the camera. Despite the camera not being found I was very grateful for his help and rewarded him accordingly.

I contacted your customer service team whilst still on board the ship and have since been in conversation with them. After much correspondence I have received a belated apology from the Captain with a statement that was at best economical with the truth, and an offer of 15% off a voyage if I take it in 2016; in other words that I PAY Hertigruten 85% of the normal cost to repeat a trip I’ve only just returned from!

In my correspondence with customer services I have been told that the ship must operate to a fixed timetable and the Captain had no choice but to sail. I ask what’s the point of a Captain if he cannot exercise his own judgment and discretion, and has no scope to vary a sailing by 10 minutes? Furthermore, we set sail from Trondheim at 12 noon and didn’t arrive at the next port, Rorvik, until 8:45pm, surely adequate time to make up a 10 minute delay, or at least minimise the delay so that my fellow passengers would not have been inconvenienced.

So, nearly two months on, I find myself writing to you to express my real dissatisfaction and disappointment. Though I again stress that I blame myself for the loss of the camera if I had been allowed to retrace my steps immediately I am 80% confident that I would have recovered it, and if not, at least been able to take solace in the fact that I had tried.

I would like to place yourself in my shoes and ask whether you would have tolerated your Captain’s attitude and inflexibly, or lack of communication afterwards, or would have been felt adequately compensated by a 15% discount offer? Of course I would imagine that if you had asked the Captain to delay departure by 10 minutes you might have received a very different response, but perhaps you believe the CEO of the company is more important than a paying customer?

I would like to stress that the cost of the loss was covered by my insurance company, who, I might add, responded immediately. And that on hearing of my plight Sony rushed through a replacement camera within a week. Great examples of two companies that truly believe in customer service!

I now leave this in your hands and for you to determine what it is worth to Hurtigruten to turn an angry, disappointed and upset customer, into one who might consider travelling with you in again (but not in 2016!).

Finally, I would like to add that the Lofoten Islands are a truly wonderful and that no trip to them could be totally ruined. I captured many beautiful images with my other cameras (https://richardjwallsblog.wordpress.com/category/lofoten/page/2/).

In a spirit of openness I’ve published this letter my blog and will publish your reply when received.

Yours in good faith.

 

 


4 thoughts on “Lofoten Postscript 1 – Hurtigruten Customer Service

  1. Richard

    I feel your need to vent your grief and frustration. But from captain’s point of view delaying a vessel can have many knock on effects. Unforeseen delays during the voyage meaning he cannot make up time, extra fuel cost in faster voyage. A raft of paperwork for a delayed sailing, missing a running tide that may change to be disadvantageous, bad weather or wind coming in. Hurrying to turn around at the other end has safety implications. Not to mention delaying and knock on effects for other passengers. Its just not worth the grief for £1000 camera in his eyes.

    If they run a tight ship (pardon the pun) they will not budge for personnel effects that dont impact the service, vessel or crew.
    As for the attitude, could their be a case of different cultures getting off on the wrong foot then escalating?

    Sincerely

  2. Hi Unerphotoblog

    Thanks for this considered and balanced comment.

    Writing and publishing the letter was certainly a cathartic exercise. I don’t expect to receive a reply, and if by chance I do, I expect a robust defence of Hurtigruten’s handling of the issue … and in any case it’s impossible to compensate for the photo opportunities missed.

    The implications of delay are all valid, but in your one comment you’ve provided a more detailed explanation than I’ve received from Hurtigruten in two months …

    … and though cultural differences undoubtedly exist, I don’t think this excuses the fact that the Captain feel the need to discuss or explain, let a lone sympathise with my plight, even if he thought I was in the wrong.

    … and when all is said and done it was my stupid fault for losing the camera in the first place.

    Richard

    1. Richard
      Your Foveon images from Norway stand out, really stand out. They do stand up as ‘Fine Art’. And its work that is so different to the norm I could see folk buying them from an exhibition. Unlike the majority of over processed work we see out there.

      How do (or did) you find the IQ from the Sony RX1r. Also wondering where does the Sony fit into your mindset when out doing landscapes.

      With the Merrills do you bracket your exposures or use ND Grads? I dont see evidence of ND Grads.
      And how are you finding the DP0Q

      Ive a trip to Iceland coming up in September, in the planning process im looking at styles of photography in the hope to capture something different, I came across http://iamafoodblog.com/iceland-ring-road/
      If I can use the merrills to capture a style half way between the above and yours I may be onto a winner;-].
      Sincerely

      1. I’m really jealous you’re heading to Iceland, I’ve never been! And I love the images on the iamafoodblog, they have that otherworldliness about them. I hope you have a fabulous trip.

        I’ve not had much of a chance to test out the Sony but initial impressions are very positive. I need to spend a bit of time experimenting with various settings but I love it already.

        Where does it fit? Well I guess it’s spontaneity (Sony) v patient set up and capture (Sigma). The Sony’s high ISO, dynamic range and 42mp = I can rock up and take a shot on the spur of the moment, and if I get it a little wrong use Lightroom to correct.

        The dynamic range is pretty poor on the Merrill’s and the Q, but I like to travel light weight so don’t carry a collection of filters of around. I either bracket or take a lot of care with the exposure not to clip highlights (which doesn’t always work). That said on the Q I do have a permanently attached grad filter!

        I’ve tried most of the Q’s but the DP0 is the only one I’ve bought and I’ve turned more and more to it for landscapes over the last few months. It’s a bit more forgiving that the Merrill’s and the colours are a little richer. On the downside the Q seems to be (strangely) noisier than the Merrills and very poor for night-time / long exposures.

        But I guess it’s all personal taste at the end of the day.

        Hope this helps and have fun in Iceland

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