Professional Services Again a Topic

Canon Professional Services (CPSe) in Europe has sent a newsletter out to current members announcing a transition that will take place in 2023. CPSe will become a paid service, and open to any business

One of the dilemmas of the various professional services—almost all the camera companies have one—was that they required “qualification” to get into the anointed few. Originally, these services were all free. For a long time, in order to qualify for them you needed to show that you were a working professional photographer, including references and tear sheets.

That kind of qualification takes a lot of time to administer and could be gamed, and over time the services all relaxed their qualifications. Which led to over abundance of members and not enough staff to support them. In the US, these all turned into paid services, as otherwise the funding for them would have to come out of the profits of the subsidiary, and the subsidiary itself is constantly being assessed by corporate as to its sales and profit achievements.

So I’m personally glad that Canon Europe has turned to a different scenario: prove you’re a business* (even a freelancer), show that you’ve registered enough gear, pay a fee, and you’re in. Moreover, Canon has extended that to service large companies. The paid tiers are €100, €200, €350, €1000, €3000, and €5000, and the requirements of equipment needed for each tier and the benefits available increase as you navigate upwards. 

This is the way it ought to work: value for value. I pay X to get Y. Each year I can evaluate how much I paid and how much I got in return. For instance, I’m a platinum member of NPS here in the US. That entitles me to 10% off a new Nikon product purchase, 10 equipment loans plus loaners while equipment is being repaired, 5 free maintenance/cleaning services, 25% off repairs, free overnight return repair shipping, and of course, Nikon’s Priority Purchase program. I can easily assess whether those things are worth the US$350 I pay for the service. 

However, Canon Europe’s making everything an absolute business relationship—you must show proof of business to register—is causing grief with some current CPSe members. From dpreview: “[Canon Europe says] that they will change my CPS account. In the future they will charge for their service…I think [I’m] about to sell my gear” That seems an odd reaction to me, especially since that poster just bought an RF 400mm f/2.8 and says that they’d now likely switch to Leica ;~). 

But in my emails I’ve been getting comments about this new CPSe program from freelance photographers. It’s difficult to project from just a few responses, but I think one issue may be that there are some people in Europe making money as photographers and thus claiming pro status, but who aren’t actually registered as a business. I don’t know if that’s for tax or regulation avoidance or something else, but unless they’re a legitimate business, they won’t get in the new CPSe program. 

The other problem with Canon Europe’s change is this: the enthusiasts and non-businesses currently in CPSe are being told that they should move to Canon Club. This is an entirely different entity than CPSe with a different set of benefits (exclusive content from Canon Ambassadors, a moderated community forum, special offers, tutorials and masterclasses, and discounts on maintenance and upgrade services). The Club, too, has tiers. While it doesn’t have a cost, to maintain your status you’d probably need to continue buying and registering Canon cameras and lenses, as products you registered previously eventually go off the supported list. 

I’ve long written that the camera companies need to engage their customer bases more and in better ways. Sony’s Kando was one example of that which I heartily endorsed, and hope it returns again this year. 

With demand (and thus sales) now far lower than peak DSLR era, it’s important that the camera companies understand and embrace their remaining customers. Failure to do so will ultimately result in companies disappearing from the camera scene. 

I don’t know if Canon Europe is doing the exact right thing or not, but it is an attempt on their part to provide services to customers beyond the products themselves. For businesses, those are business-oriented services for a fee; for enthusiasts, those are enthusiast-oriented services provided for free. If there’s something truly missing in each program, those potentially participating in it need to take that up with Canon Europe. 

*I don’t know what Canon Europe requires to prove that you’re a business. My guess is that it varies via country (including the UK). Some people are misconstruing something I wrote as meaning you have to be “licensed as a professional photographer” in some way. Not true. But what Canon will accept as proof of business is unclear to me.

Bonus: One thing that’s starting to be a common element in discussions I get involved with is “rising costs.” Everyone’s costs are rising. I had to raise my prices last year, and I expected that to result in less business (it didn’t; just the opposite, surprisingly). I’m old enough to remember 18% mortgage rates and non-stop inflation in the US. Those things aren’t under my, or your, control. You have to adapt to them. 

Companies are currently adapting to the factors that are impacting their business. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in business for long. We can debate about whether a company goes too far (or not far enough), but I don’t think we should be automatically condemning them for reacting to the challenges they face. 

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