microsoft customer service

Is Microsoft Starting a Trend in Customer Service?

I was in for an unpleasant surprise today when I tried to use Microsoft Word on my iMac. I received an error message that the application wouldn’t open. Nuts!

I envisioned calling Microsoft and going through menu hell. You know, you’ve been there. You call customer service and spend 10 minutes being shunted from menu to menu and none of the options quite fits your problem.

Then I Met Maya

I screwed up my courage and called Microsoft, expecting the worst. True, I was greeted by a recorded voice offering several options including “technical support.” Next, I was asked if I needed support for Office on a Mac or PC. I chose Mac and was immediately connected to Maya.

I fully expected that she would ask me to reinstall the Office software so I had my backup disc ready. Not so fast. First, she asked about the problem and we tried a couple of things when she suggested that I allow her to access my computer.

I honestly love when they ask that because I’m all thumbs when it comes to following instructions on the phone. We immediately went to Applications and then Office. She scrolled down a long list of what I consider gibberish and zeroed in on one line. She asked me to delete it, which I did.

Voila! Problem Fixed.

That’s Not All

Then Maya asked if I had had to wait a long time before I was connected to her. I said “no.” Did I find the experience pleasant or difficult? It was “fine,” I said. Then she asked if I would mind her connecting me to a subject matter expert who wanted to evaluate my experience even further.

Microsoft store on FacebookI was introduced to another technical support rep. She, too, wanted to know if I had a satisfactory experience. I answered “yes.”

Why not? I could use Word again.

Here is the kicker:

She told me I could email Maya directly the next time I had a problem and bypass calling Microsoft technical support! Am I in a dream? Did this really happen? Yes!!

A Lesson For Other Companies

Customer service can make or break a brand, or at least tarnish it if you have a bad experience.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve kvetched about customer service problems in other posts. I got into a lengthy discussion with a Hertz representative in my comments section about the impenetrable website for their car sharing service.

I chastised Home Depot when they wouldn’t cut a piece of baseboard so could take it home on public transportation or a taxi (I live in Manhattan), but they will cut it for you if you live in the ‘burbs where nearly everybody owns an SUV.

I got into a long discussion with Samsung when they claimed the TV I had bought wasn’t a TV – really.

If you own or work for a consumer products company I have some advice: follow the new Microsoft model and pride yourself on customer service.

In the past I didn’t receive such personalized service when I called Microsoft tech support.

That’s back when the company was the elephant in the room before it was muscled out by new goliaths like Google and Apple. Microsoft played the heavy when it was riding high and hurt its brand. It’s now playing catch-up in a new Internet world.

But why wait until your service deteriorates? I’m still enraged when company websites don’t list a telephone number to call when you have a problem.

They force you to email them or, worse yet, refer you to their customer support forums. There you’re supposed to get answers to your questions from other knowledgeable customers.

Did you ever notice there are almost all questions, and hardly any answers? And why should they shunt the responsibility off to other customers who may not know as much you do?

I want to give credit where credit is due. A friend who had moved was unable to reach AT&T on the phone when he had a problem with his telephone installation. I sent a tweet to AT&T’s customer care account on Twitter and within minutes an AT&T rep monitoring the site had called my friend.

I find myself increasingly turning to Twitter customer service accounts for help. No menus to navigate. No long wait times.

Companies need to stand behind their brands and make it easy for customers to get help when things go wrong. Being shunted off to the menu merry-go-round is the equivalent of ditching your customers at the exact moment they are most vulnerable.

I sure don’t like it and nobody I know does either.

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  1. Wow Jeannette. This is the best customer service story about Microsoft I have ever heard! Thanks for sharing it.

    One of my favorite customer oriented companies is Apple. I’ve been a Mac owner since the very first year it came out. (I used to sell computer so I was thrilled with OS over DOS at the time.) But since you have a Mac you likely know: when you get a new iMac from them, you can buy extended service which I always always always (did I say always?) get. I can call, I can chat, I can have them call me and problem solved. I much prefer the manufacturer to take control of my system on their end. It always (I’m repeating myself) is the quickest way to a solution.

    Hoping this customer service trend continues.

    • Pat — I love Apple’s technical support. I always buy the 3 year extended service contract. Unfortunately, mine ended on this iMac (my second) on Dec. 31st. But what’s great about Apple is that you can lug your computer to the Apple store and get help at the Genius bar.

  2. Your experience sounds like a dream. Usually when I’ce had computer problems in the past it ends up costing hundreds at a computer shop or I’ve had to replace the computer. What you describe is what I get at work when they remote in and take over your computer (with your permission). The first time it happens it’s spooky but they can fix a lot of problems over the phone that way. It’s nice to think that level of support will be available to the regular consumer.

    • Pat — it was like being in a dream. A vast improvement from their service in the old days when they were king of the mountain.

    • Wow I’m impressed, they sounds like they have awesome customer service… A rarity these days. I too cannot stand when you have a problem and they don’t even list a phone # to call… At all. Jeez! Who has time to email them and wait 48 hours for a reply email? That’s even worse then getting caught in the automated phone system hell. At least then, if u push enough buttons usually you get a live person.. Even if they are in the mailroom. 🙂

      • Susan — Companies are on to the trick of your punching “0” to get an operator. Now you hear, “Sorry I didn’t understand that. To return to the main menu…” Eeeeek.

  3. Am delighted to hear that Microsoft is finally improving their customer service. Apple has been fantastic for years but that has not exactly been the case with Microsoft.

    By the way, I read today that from now on it’s possible to use Word on Apple’s phones. So that’s good news as well.

    • Catarina — I agree that Microsoft was pretty arrogant when it was king of the hill. Apple has been rated #1 brand in the world for a couple of years running. Sure, it’s because they have a superior technical product with a beautiful design. But for me its their phone support service and after that expires you can still get free support by making an appointment at the Genius bar. That’s one reason they’re #1.

  4. Jeannette, nothing beats good customer service.
    We have Shaw for our Satellite service for our TV. Recently I had cause to call them and the weird thing was I had superior service from one of their reps and the worst possible service from a second one.
    Our receiver was on the fritz and the first rep told me exactly what to do and how to do it and she was so pleasant through it all. I forgot to ask if the AC/DC adapter came with the unit so I called back and got this cocky character who kept telling me that I meant the remote control – No, I didn’t, I meant the adapter. Anyway, I ended up with the wrong information and bought an adapter which wasn’t necessary as it came along with the unit.
    I like the idea that if you have a rep – like Maya – that you like that you can contact her again. Wish Shaw would pick up on that idea.

    • Lenie — I’ve been there with that kind of service. That’s why I was so impressed with Microsoft that I felt compelled to write about it!

  5. That is incredible and I guess there is light at the tunnels end. From now on I always going to allow them to send me to the next level as having the email address of a support person who can get right down to it is like cyber gold.

    • Tim — it is like cyber gold. I love Amazon. If you want help you type in your phone number and an Amazon rep calls you back instantly. Now that’s fast service!

  6. I am glad you had a good customer experience, and that Microsoft is taking the extra step to ensure you did. It seems too many companies concentrate on Sales, once they have sold you the product they are done with you. I believe they think there are so many customers out there; they can get away not having return customers, that a loss of one will be replaced. I am happy to see that at least a few companies have gotten it through their head that it is the customer that is paying their wages.

  7. What an unusual experience, and especially when it was with such an ordinary piece of software. It would never have occurred to me to contact them, in part because my copy is so old. But why company’s don’t all maintain good customer service is beyond me. It’s just good business plan and simple.

  8. I’m completely impressed with your MS experience and say Whoopee that some of these people are finally catching on. Customer service has long been my #1 factor in either purchasing a product or continuing to use one. There are instances where I will go very far out of my way NOT to use a brand if I’ve had abysmal customer service. Kudos to MS

  9. Wow Jeannette! That’s awesome that you had a positive experience with Microsoft. A couple of months ago, I had a very frustrating experience with a Microsoft rep for my Office software (Windows). My old laptop had crashed and I was trying to re-install it on my new computer. The man I talked to insisted that my activation code was invalid and he was not sympathetic at all. He kept insisting that I go back to the retailer who sold me my software. Honestly, it was the same old tech support that I had come to expect from them. He was obviously reading from a script and he didn’t offer any viable solutions. I still don’t have Office on my laptop.

    I’m really happy for you. Maybe I should try calling Microsoft again!