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A Letter From Focal: A Lesson In Customer Service - Page 4

post #46 of 60
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post

Coming from a manufacturing background myself I think Focal has done a great job with their response to the Spirit One issue.  Some companies take really long times to react and not all react in positive manors.  The fact that Focal admits there was both a build issue and shipping issue says a ton about their honesty. 


It says absolutely nothing about honesty - or at least doesn't have to. There is a point when a fault is so egregious that it will inevitably become public. If you are faced with such an occasion, the best thing you can do is to get your version out first. You put your spin on it and, hopefully, no one remembers - or even hears - anything else. (And if you have been professionally involved with manufacturing in any way relevant to dealing with such issues then I am stunned that you don't know even the basics of PR strategy. I imagine the truth is that you have been involved with manufacturing but have had nothing to do with PR and communications - which rather makes your opinion worthless, leaving me to wonder why you thought your "special" qualification was worth invoking.)


Is that the case here? We don't know. Because we don't know how bad the fault is, because Focal haven't told us. Reasonably, it sounds pretty bad - even carried around in the bag that Focal thought should provide adequate protection and treated reasonably (otherwise there wouldn't an issue, surely?), headphones have been breaking. But this isn't enough information - buyers of high end audio products should demand more than this rather lauding a company for inflicting spin on them and holding back the facts they actually need.




- Focal must have had some sort of PR problem already - because when I just googled them the first auto-completion I was offered was "focal headphones problems" - which means that is the most commonly googled search concerning them!  So praising them for honesty when they seem to have already had quite a public problem to deal with may be rather over generous.


- Having googled them. I now know these are portable headphones. Leading me say "What you talkin' about Willis?" I'd assumed that they had to be listening room queens like Stax or HD800s. But, no, they're meant for a life on the road. The idea that headphones in this class should break from ordinary use if carried in a not sufficiently well-padded bag strikes me as - I believe this is what the kids say - "whack." 

Edited by scuttle - 2/5/13 at 4:43pm
post #47 of 60

From that google search:






Published: April 16, 2012 3:56 PM


A few weeks ago we reviewed the Focal Spirit One. It was well on its way to becoming one of the great nomadic headphones... but a few snags ultimately cut this perspective short. Since then, Focal has been working hard to resolve the issues and has just given us an update.



The company insisted that the headphones it had delivered to us were in fact part of a tiny series of unfinished, pre-market models. In our review we expressed doubts about the lifespan of several of the components, such as the swivel joints keeping the earcups in place (since our review, the model we have has already begun to crack) and the extension adapter, which was too short and of low quality.

Focal confirmed these issues with us and explained that there had even been an internal wiring defect that brought about a loss in signal on one of the speakers. But according to the manufacturer, these problems affected the trial run models only. Here's what Focal told us:

  – all the marketed versions have had their swivel joints reinforced
  – the cable's been improved (on the inside; outside it looks the same) and made sturdier
  – the internal wiring issues have been resolved


So this doesn't like praiseworthy honesty to me. This looks like a problem that was known about a year ago, which wasn't properly fixed, which has reached the point that it dominates the company's search results and which they are not dealing with adequately now. Because adequate would be defined by replacement with a reasonably robust piece of hardware, not the providing of a bag that only keeps the hardware safe while it is not  in use!

post #48 of 60

No need to throw them under the bus with such fervor - just buy headphones from a different manufacturer if this throws you into such a tizzy = problem solved. If you're looking for something in the world to get upset about, I'd say you're aiming way too low.

post #49 of 60

I agree with scuttle in that we need to be smart about our attitudes toward companies.  However, being smart does not mean being angry (nor does it mean being flat out insulting).


Scuttle's response is legally right.  But reactions so heavily impassioned also come off as very judgmental.  So, too, does eager, unquestioning praise.  As to my own comments above, they were not supposed to inflame or suggest I was myself inflamed (sorry if my tone conveyed otherwise).  Instead, I wanted to preach thoughtfulness and insight.  I value a skeptical mindset, not a cynical attitude - and those two are very different things.


In my view, information presented to us, on any topic and from any source, should be questioned and explored before it is accepted.  This includes PR from a major corporation.


Private industry in any form - small or big, technology- or entertainment-focused, providing hard goods or soft services - exists in large part to service and satisfy its customers.  We know this much is true.  But it is also bound by certain legal and professional obligations.  Honoring a warranty is required and enforceable by law.  And offering a warranty in the first place is a business tactic, one practiced by just about everyone/everything trying to make a profit, especially in the realm of high-volume commodities.  (Even the truly dinky stereo repair shop I use in Chicago offers short-term warranties on its work.)  Companies are in the business of trying to survive and trying to make money, and their missions to provide great customer experiences often only complement such imperatives, or are even based on them.  The most successful businesses are the ones that provide more than just the thing itself.


In this case, Focal is issuing replacement parts because it must, by law.  However, Focal did not issue the letter to Jude to share with the Head-Fi community - and commit to the even greater number of replacements it will be asked to make as a result - because of the law.  Like offering a warranty in the first place, their proactive response is a business tactic.


This is the issue at stake in the discussion on this thread: interpreting, and evaluating, how the corporation handled a defect that arose regularly in a product purchased by many.


Focal initiated its public letter on the basis of a calculated (or guessed) risk on how such action would affect the company image.  Their marketing department analyzed, forecasted, and strategized what consumers' reactions would be.  They knew there would be positive reactions and negative reactions, and in-between, complicated reactions as well.  They knew community opinions, through online forums like Head-Fi, professional reviewers, and customers talking to dealers, would evolve over time.  And at the end of all their deliberations and calculations, they decided the company would be better off taking this route.  (One of the main differences between a larger corporation like Focal/JM Labs is its complex structure with specialists doing things like professional marketing and PR - as compared to that same "function" being managed through the gut instinct and ambitious vision of the lone entrepreneur making those decisions on his own.  Speaking of entrepreneur, read Tyll's review of the Spirit One and description of Focal's Powerpoint presentation if you need a hint at the kind of resources and take-no-prisoners strategy Focal/JM exercises.)  There may have been some moral code or company value at stake - that part is unknowable to us, whatever their public statements might claim - but what is certain is that at least a few influential chiefs at Focal hoped to secure the future of the company when they did it.


I see a lot of the conversation above based on taking sides - good Focal, bad Focal; do we call this customer service or do we call it something else.  The legalistic mentality exemplified by scuttle is one approach to the subject.  But Head-Fi, as a whole, is a community, united through an online medium that enables a globally distributed subculture to exchange information, build consensus, and produce a unique identity.  As a subculture, it shouldn't be that kind of conversation at all.  Certainly, we can and should applaud Focal on their proactive efforts to resolve customer issues, even before they have necessarily arisen.  (After all, in this case, what's good for Focal happens also to be good for the consumer, and hopefully its actions will raise standards across the industry - also good for the consumer.)  But let's be less enthusiastic and more staid of mind.  Let's think our way through all sides of an issue - the successes (like offering replacement parts), the failures (like the self-interested nature of corporations), and the things that just are (like the technical and PR capabilities of a larger business) - before we come to judge.  And especially, let's wait to insult our fellow Head-Fiers, at least until after the world ends, and maybe a little bit longer.


In fact, I think, the more thoroughly we assess a given situation, the more patience we show each other, the more likely we are to avoid judging at all.  That way, instead of the "good/bad," "right/wrong" argument, we'll all end up carrying on a forward-moving, productive dialogue.


Just my .02 deadhorse.gif

post #50 of 60
Why'd Jude put this on the homepage... tongue.gif
post #51 of 60
Originally Posted by Mr Samurai View Post

Good job Focal! I'm going to go check out their product line-up.

Indeed, I've been wanting to start trying cans by these new small compines

Originally Posted by audionewbi View Post

Now this is customer service, well done :-)

indeed this is enough to get me to google thier company name and check out the product! 

post #52 of 60
Originally Posted by jude View Post


two of my favorite things--Scuderia Ferrari F1 team and Head-Fi


LOL, then why the Santander jersey?  wink.gif


Originally Posted by gopanthersgo1 View Post

Why'd Jude put this on the homepage... tongue.gif


Because he is the Jude, and as such requires no justification.  biggrin.gif

Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

post #53 of 60
Originally Posted by warrenpchi View Post

LOL, then why the Santander jersey?  wink.gif

Because he is the Jude, and as such requires no justification.  biggrin.gif
Could he not see the future though... he is supreme ruler of Head-Fi, isn't he?
post #54 of 60

of course he can but he's not at liberty to share it with us <3 

post #55 of 60

The part that makes me itchy about this comes from an email reproduced on Tyll's review:






3 weeks later. I'm contacted by the director of North america distribution for Focal. After reading my review they offer to send me a FREE set of headphones. I'm blown away!! I really love these cans(look, design and comfort). So I accept and was truly grateful for the gesture. I receive what is now my 3rd set of Spirit ones. Once again rattle/vibration in the left cup and sometimes the RIGHT as well.

3 weeks go by and distributer sends me a followup email. Asking how I like the headphones. He also mentions that sales through Crutchfield has dropped to ZERO since my review. He goes on to politely ask that if I enjoyed the headphones if I would amend my review. I felt kinda bad that he has gone through the trouble of sending me a free set of $280(retail) headphones but I relayed to him that I could not amend my posting because the free set was defective as well!! He replied that he appreciates my honesty and will forward my experience to the folks in France.

At this point I figure I'm done. I have NO money invested the headphones. I'm amazed that it ever got to the point I got free headphones(functioning or not). I'm left with a positive opinion of focal and Crutchfield. They both have gone way out of their way to please one consumer. Just when I think the whole thing had blown over I receive an email from the director of Focal's China operation!!! He offers AGAIN to send me a ANOTHER set of FREE headphones!!! I'm just FLOORED!! I have accepted his offer. So I'm now waiting for my 4th set of S1 headphones!!


OK, so 1) sending free stuff for reviewers and asking for "amendments" on reviews does not sound like something that should be praised, and 2) the reviewer is left with a "positive opinion of Focal"... Huh? Free headphones was all it took? And they didn't go "way out of their way to please one consumer", but they were dealing with a REVIEWER, one that was allegedly hurting their sales, of course they went "way out of their way", they should not be praised by that. They should be praised if they did the same to John Doe who had a problem no one was making a fuss on the internet about. In fact, these actions may seem like bribery for some. 


Other than that, of course it's nice of them to come clean and change the transportation case. 

post #56 of 60

Speaking solely as a white-shoe attorney, I won't take any case involving less than an HD800 or SR-009.  

post #57 of 60
Originally Posted by sfoclt View Post

I won't take any case involving less than an HD800 or SR-009.  



I won't take anything less than an HD800 or SR-009.


(Or so I would like to think.)

post #58 of 60

I can vouch for their warranty and exchange policy for defective products as I'm unlucky enough to get 2 defective pair and the 3rd one is collected just today.

The local distributor in Singapore exchanged it straight no questions asked upon verification of the defect.

post #59 of 60

I'm glad they sorted it out. I gave up on the Spirit Ones after a couple of defective units, the build is really quite plasticy and I never got to experience the sound of a working unit. I replaced them with a wonderful sounding pair of AKG K550s to listen to while on the go, a bit large admittedly but functional enough once you shorten the cord. Focal/JMLabs is my favorite speaker manufacturer, I've been lusting after their Utopia series for years, but I was underwhelmed with their first headphone. 

post #60 of 60

gj focal

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