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Eliott Peck, Canon USA: Satisfaction Beyond the Sale

January 10, 2013
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A self-professed sci-fi fan, Eliott Peck uses Star Trek terms like “prime directive” when describing the guiding principles behind his zeal for satisfying the needs of consumers. Indeed, his entire career has been infused with a true sense of mission ever since Peck, senior vice president and general manager for Imaging Technologies and Communications Group (ITCG) Sales at Canon U.S.A., joined the company in 1975, just 48 hours after graduating from college.

A photography buff, he began in customer service and then moved to the technical department, where he worked side by side with pro photographers. His next transition was to sales, where he learned on the job. In 1989, 10 years later, having achieved the company’s top sales award, Canon U.S.A. president and CEO Joe Adachi moved Peck to the management side.

Since then, working together with personal mentors Adachi and Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager at ITCG, he has been instrumental in helping to steer the company through changes in the retail landscape and toward a pro-active philosophy of designing ‘hit’ products for the U.S. market, such as the professional Canon Cinema EOS line.

Peck has seen industry retail channels evolve from camera shops to mail order dealers to mass merchants and then to electronics stores and Internet sites. Along the way, he has seen the cameras reach technological heights unimaginable when he started out.

“There was turbulence in the market even back in the ’70s and early ’80s. The rise of mail order was a tremendous disruption. And at the same time, it grew the business.

We went through this before, and what’s happening now is just the next evolution in where people shop,” he said. “It’s disruptive if you have a traditional business. But many of our retail partners have adapted smartly to this and found ways to engage clients. And at the same time, for a lot of categories, the overall business is growing. It’s really about the consumer.”

The consumers’ love of preserving memories with cameras is the one constant that has always informed the direction of product development at Canon, resulting in designs that make image capture—and now, image sharing—easier. But what really sets a company like Canon apart, Peck said, is satisfaction beyond the sale.

“That goes back to the one thing I learned early in my career: keeping customers happy when things are not working well,” he said, adding that the company’s main service facilities and call center are in the U.S. “We put a tremendous emphasis on our service department. All our efforts are to help consumers make educated decisions.”

Canon’s U.S. customer service department, just a handful of people when Peck inhabited it early in his tenure, has grown to about 2,000. Its growth is part of “understanding the mindset of the consumer and reaching out to them throughout the before, during and after process of the sale,” he said.

While Peck has made an indelible mark on Canon’s U.S. history, he has also given freely of his time and expertise to ensure the continuity of the overall photo imaging business. Now active within the Consumer Electronics Association’s Digital Imaging Division, he also represented Canon for many years on the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA) board.

“[Peck] could always be counted on for his contributions to our industry,” Jerry Grossman, PMDA executive director, said. “I think Eliott always recognized that a strong, healthy photo industry was important for manufacturers and dealers alike, and he was always eager to help bring people together for the benefit of the industry.”

Peck’s activities at Canon have always been future-forward. “The thing that sticks in my mind every day that I’ve learned from Mr. Adachi is to challenge yourself, think different, and to understand how to balance what is uncontrollable—things like the economy, competitors’ business, world economics and natural disasters—with what is controllable. We constantly work with our staff to reach that balance.”

Focusing on the controllable was what Canon U.S.A. did, backed with two years of research data culled from users, with the EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR. The camera had an HD video recording feature that really caught on.

“A lightbulb went on,” Peck said, and the company did hundreds of interviews with directors and camera operators about what features they most wanted in film cameras. That was how Cinema EOS was designed and finally brought to fruition in 2012. “It was a brand-new business that was created here,” Peck said. “Historically, that had never happened before. And with the success of the line, we now have the clout to say, ‘This worked; now, what else can we do?’

“Today, if you are reactive, you can only chase business by having a lower price than somebody else,” Peck said. “In the imaging business today, there’s a lot of pictures taken on smartphones but also an awful lot taken on high-quality cameras. There is a tremendous population that is aspirational, that wants to be better photographers, and that wants to step up.

 The investments we make in the market, and the customer care we offer, support that. That side of the market is always going to be healthy because there are enthusiasts. And we’ll focus on that, because that’s what we do best.” DS



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