I have now been a SmugMug Pro user since November. Prior to that, I used a competing site called Zenfolio (for one year). I fully intend to renew my Smugmug Pro site once it comes up for renewal. The key features they were lacking versus their competitors are now available (namely coupons and packages), but this is not the only reason I’ll still be here.
The one thing that continues to set SmugMug apart from the rest of the serious image hosting companies is their commitment to their customers. Sure, they are privately held with no debt load, so sometimes features are slower to appear than at a VC funded competitor. However, this creates an environment where they are only adding things that are essential to the Pro user, and they only do it if it really makes sense. No knee jerk reactions to odd requests, or doing things just because they can. The end result is an ongoing financially viable service that won’t disappear out of the blue someday (without warning no doubt). In fact, they also provide an easy to use and democratic method to submit feature requests.
The commitment to customers is carried over to customer support as well. They truly are fanatical about this. In fact, I think the only other company I have dealt with that is comparable is ExactTarget (an email service provider). SmugMug will respond to you extremely quickly via email for any support requests you might have. And they are actually pretty quick to respond on their message forums as well, although that is not the official channel (seriously, if you have an immediate support need, email, don’t go to the forum). The General Manager, Andy Williams, is generally the first person to respond to posts in the forum, and provides great insight for why items are or are not possible.
The last place that this commitment to customers is so evident is the creation of the SmugMug User Groups (SMUGs). These events are actually open to any photographer or videographer, but the conversations at times can be of direct benefit to SmugMug users (such as in the Denver meeting last December when feedback was solicited about the coupon and package systems). So many companies toss up a forum or a Facebook page and call it done. I love that SmugMug is sponsoring these in person gatherings. Paralleling my experiences with ExactTarget at Connections (I cannot sing their praises enough), a SMUG meeting is a great way to get feedback on your thoughts, as well as make your voice heard to the people who are really involved with this company. That in itself is priceless.
Customer service isn’t the only reason to stay with a company of course. The whole reason for having images hosted by a site like SmugMug is the ability to sell them. People who have purchased my prints have been quite pleased by the final product quality. Fulfillment by Bay Photo (one of two choices SmugMug Pro users have) has been flawless. When you couple this fact with the customer service commitment I see, that is the reason I do not need to look anywhere else – nor should you.
If you have been looking at similar services, or if you belong to one and have been thinking about moving, I would encourage you to take the SmugMug 14 day free trial. All features are active during the trial, so you will be able to get a real feel for how it will fit with your needs. You won’t be sorry you did.