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Microsoft customer service (ho ho ho)

The other day I wrote about those tossers at Microsoft Empower ISV programme.

Well, finally (after one week) they responded to my email, ignoring most of it and pointing me to a list of requirements that was supposed to include the requirements that you have a company website proving you're an IT company.

The requirement actually says that you must "provide a company URL". This is not the same thing at all. And I did provide this (presuming this was so they could check for the product announcement within 6 months).

So I've sent another email. I'll probably get an equally stupid response in another week's time.

Luckily I don't really need to join for another couple of months so it's not a big problem at this moment. But the Microsoft support and their absolute disregard for the wee customer really pisses me off.

I guess what normally happens is that people who get pissed off just use the software unlicenced. But Microsoft probably don't really care.

Years ago I actually directly bought a Microsoft product (rather than having it distributed with a PC); Frontpage 98. It was quite early and full of bugs.

Now as I was working full time for someone at the time I was never able to ring their customer support (9-5 only) so I rang their US customer support in evening. But they refused point blank to talk to me because I bought the product in the UK. I protested but the woman on the other end simply hung up.

That's customer support for you isn't it?!

When you buy MS products you get lousy support. You normally have to pay for support calls EVEN IF IT TURNS OUT TO BE THEIR FAULT FOR SELLING YOU SOFTWARE WITH BUGS IN IT! How can this be 'reasonable' or 'fair'? Surely these calls should be non-chargeable with a 'very sorry' thrown in. But oh-no.

So we need to get even. I wonder how we might do that.

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

If a support call is resolved as a bug in the product the charges for the call are reversed. I've had this happen before I worked here - I was trying to generate an excel spreadsheet from an asp.net page and kept getting the login page.
When I called support, the support tech emailed me the url for the patch, reversed the charges for the call, and followed up with me afterwards to ensure that solved the problem.

[Disclaimer: I am a Microsoft employee]
Philo

Philo
Monday, March 08, 2004

Rightttt...you're the one who couldn't read simple requirements and proclaimed that you'd like to join Al Queda this infuriated you so much.  And now we're supposed to take you seriously?

Life is full of many shades, and sometimes organizations have bad customer service, but just as many (or more) times obnoxious, irritating, self-righteous windbags expect customer service to lick their toes clean and mow their lawn. I suspect this is a case of the latter.

.
Monday, March 08, 2004

Everytime I call Microsoft for support I get very good service. You are probably suffering from a code 12.

Francois
Monday, March 08, 2004

To a company of Microsoft's size, you simply aren't worth it. The cost of "supporting" you is more than the profit you generate, so they blow you off and pay lip service to support. Customer support by corporations for individuals is about marketing, not actual support.

bob
Monday, March 08, 2004

Dear dot,

> Rightttt...you're the one who couldn't read simple requirements and proclaimed that you'd like to join Al Queda this infuriated you so much.  And now we're supposed to take you seriously?

No. I did read a simple requirement; it asked for a company URL. I met that requirement. Microsoft did not fully specify the requirement that caused them to reject it because (their words):

"Unfortunately, the URL provided does not contain enough information for
Microsoft to validate your business as an IT company.
Your website should contain at a minimum an "About Us" page, company
details, nature of your business, and a "Contact Us" link.

At the present, your company website does not contain:
-    any About Us page
-    any company details
-    the nature of your business (that your business is IT related)
-    any Contact Us link"

ps. Francois, what's a code 12 ??

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

I've always experienced excellent customer service from Microsoft.

>I did read a simple requirement; it asked for a company URL. I met that requirement

You took the requirements far too literally. It was perfectly obvious to anyone with a smidgeon of common sense what was wanted. Alas common sense is all too uncommon.

I really shouldn't feel this bitter it's only Monday afternoon.

John Ridout
Monday, March 08, 2004

Al Quada aside...  I had a similar experience with them and cancelled the application and received a refund.

They treated me with complete distain throughout the process.  I was amazed, actually, but I believe a previous poster was correct;  It simply isn't worth it to them.  Not to mention they work at MICROSOFT so my relatively tiny endeavors are laughable.

I will apply again when I have the time to jump through their hoops.  What choice really?

B#
Monday, March 08, 2004

I did once raise an issue when I had MSDN; I spent hours producing 3 project that they could use to exactly reproduce the problem (which they were very pleased with - the documentation not the problem!) and they did reproduce the problem (and they WERE very responsive in this case).... but then said that although they reproduced the exact same problem they decided it wasn't a bug... more of a "feature". They told me to live with it but after a lot of effort I then found that in certain situations it didn't occur and could be avoided. The MS remoting development team (who allegedly the problem got passed to) couldn't tell me this.. I wasn't impressed; hey, I ended up knowing more about their product than they did.

There is another problem that is well reported in .NET and that is with remoting to a singleton implemented as a service; when you stop the service it takes (up to) 15 minutes to free the socket up, which means you can't restart the service for (up to) 15 minutes. Tools like TCPView (from sysinternals.com) do not show the socket as being in use... God knows where it is actually being held but it is very annoying!

Despite the fact that it is well reported and a lot of people have suffered from this they still haven't fixed it - or appear to be even trying. I think that it may be a hangover from earlier Windows as I had a similar issue when writing an IM type system in VB6 that also suffered from a socket being unavailable for a period after stopping it.

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

> You took the requirements far too literally. It was perfectly obvious to anyone with a smidgeon of common sense what was wanted. Alas common sense is all too uncommon.

The whole point of sensible requirements is that they are complete and unambiguous.

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

You've had a right git of a week, haven't you?  What with this, a dead hard disk and two threads on the theme of "Mind your own business".

Go for a pint...

a cynic writes...
Monday, March 08, 2004

They suck big time.

I had found a bug in Windows XP, reported it, and asked them how to circumvent the problem.  The arrogance they treated me with is mind-blowing. They would only accept my call after me paying 265 euro excluding VAT, because the machine had been sold by a OEM. However, it was obviously a fault in Windows, not in the hardware or firmware. For my 265 euro they take the call, but they would not guarantee anything at all, not even in the case that they had made the mistake. Well, I know for certain that they did make the mistake: I have found the solution. The problem is still in XP today, and I am waiting for the day someone writes an exploit. I wrote a complaint letter to the managing director here in the Netherlands, but no-one has even bothered to contact a dissatisfied customer.

I had never experienced that much arrogance by so many empolyees of the same company in so little time.

Karel
Monday, March 08, 2004

But for every one of you, there's surely a hundred who just THINK they've found a bug.

Kyralessa
Monday, March 08, 2004

I am sure that that is true. But, firstly, I accepted to pay if it proved to be our fault (standing still is far costlier), and secondly, that makes a poor excuses for the arrogance and total lack of reponse.

Karel
Monday, March 08, 2004

It's interesting that the Quality of Service that people get has declined over the last 20+ years. And because we keep getting crap service some of us seem to assume that that's what we should expect (perhaps because they are young enough to have never known any better)

I've seen the same disregard for service in IT organisations.

When I worked as a sys. prog. for a large insurance company in the late 80's early 90's if the mainframe CICS based mail system ever went down, within about 10 minutes the IT Manager would be round shouting at people and determining who was to blame and there were consequences.

At the time this seemed a bit over the top... but we made sure the system hardly ever went down.

In 2000 I worked for ICL for a period. Their email system was down for FOUR days!!!! Emails were lost and their was no rush to get it working again. Noone got in trouble, not only for it going down but also for the fact that they lost about 2 days worth of emails.

Now I dare say that we bring this upon ourselves.. we want to pay less for things and we therefore are getting what we pay for. But actually I'd rather pay more and have better customer service. It's why I shop at some stores and not others. Sure you pay more, but there's an attentive member of staff around and you are normally getting higher quality goods as well.

Having said that, the option was always there for companies to provide poorer customer service. It just wouldn't have worked before because people wouldn't have accepted it. Now it's simply de rigeur and everyone puts up with it... even defending  it in some cases which is ridiculous.

And of course I doubt that the cost savings from lowering customer service are fully passed on to the customer.

I used to be able to ring up British Telecom and speak to a real person. Now I have to wade through 10 minutes of navigation and then have to wait in a queue another 20 minutes to speak to someone about why they overcharged me for something.

Sometimes they get it wrong too. I spent an hour on the phone to Dell one Saturday held in a queue (annoying but not particularly unusual). After the hour I was a bit annoyed but interested to see how long it would be to get answered so I left the phone and went out for the afternoon. When I came back 6 hours later I was still in the queue! It transpired that the Dell offices are closed on Saturday. Unfortunately it was still quite happy to stuff me in a queue and not advise me of that fact. When I eventually spoke to someone in Dell no one actually cared about it.

I seem to have more than my fair share of these experiences but as a matter of principle if they waste my time I try my damnedest to waste their time in return and I will ring directors at home of an evening to politely insist that they sort things out (which normally happens).

Microsoft present an impossible challenge as they are based in the US and generally the attitude is 'fuck you' and this attitude I'm sure comes right from the top.

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

I should point out that I mean that's generally the attitude in Microsoft, not the US. A spot ambiguous.

I'm sure that there are individuals within Microsoft who are great and very helpful etc. Philo you may be one of them so please don't take personal offence. But it is the Microsoft 'entity' that sucks.

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

If you think MS are bad in the US you want to try them in Saudi!

Stephen Jones
Monday, March 08, 2004

For anything that's not mission critical, I've always found Microsoft's Web support service to be excellent.  No hanging around on the end of a phone, and courteous technicians who escalate where necessary.

Since I usually check google, newsgroups and the Microsoft KB before submitting a support request, most of the time it turns out to be a bug and there is no charge.

Joe
Monday, March 08, 2004

I cancelled two credit cards on Thursday.  The first pelted me with voice menus, sent me to a non-working extension the first time when I picked the ostensibly correct options, and put me on hold the second time with annoying music interspersed with a "your call is important to us" message every twenty seconds.  The CSR was rude, and I had to specifically ask to be sent a confirmation that the account had been closed.  (Still haven't received it.)

The second put me straight to a CSR the first time with no voice menus at all, and he handled my request quickly, professionally, and politely, and he offered to send a confirmation letter before I even asked.  (I received it two days later.)

I wrote the first company an e-mail comparing the two approaches.  ("You kept telling me over and over, while I was on hold, that my call was important.  But company XYZ _treated_ my call like it was important.")

I got a reply which at least seemed to be written by a real human being apologizing and saying they'd send it to whatever department for review.

So what do _you_ do when you receive bad service?

Kyralessa
Monday, March 08, 2004

I know these requirements 'obviously' meant a proper webpage, but I am with the original poster, if MS did not specifically stipulate... Well good on you for giving MS a bit of a hard time anyway.

On another note, a Microsft rep actually called me the other day (at work, and we are only a 26 strong firm), he wnated to know how things were going, were we happy with the products, and give me his direct number so I could call him if I had any issues at all. I was impressed by that.

Aussie Chick
Monday, March 08, 2004

On another note, a Linux rep actually called me the other day (at work, and we are only a 26 strong firm), he wnated to let me know that if things were going badly, it was our own fault because we were noobs. He told me to rtfm if I had any further questions. I was impressed used to that.

Krag
Monday, March 08, 2004

http://members.microsoft.com/partner/isv/empower/default.aspx

To join the Microsoft Empower Program for ISVs, participants must meet the following requirements:

[snip]

Maintenance of the ISV company’s official Web site is required during the membership. The URL of the ISV’s official corporate Web site must be submitted at the time of enrollment, using the online Enrollment tool.

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 08, 2004

Philo, your point is............ ?

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

1) I'm amazed that anyone could possibly misinterpret Microsoft's request for a URL as being distinct from the content itself. You have a URL, so you 'must' have content. Yes, in a purist CS sense it may not be so, but in real life, a "company website URL" always points to a home page of some sort. Even if it is just an unformatted text file consisting of the name of the company and "Have a nice day". Geez.

2) I find it hard to believe that anyone bothers with customer support numbers at all. It's just such a hassle. Yeah, you may be *entitled* to it, just as you can return an almost worthless consumer electronic device under warranty and enclose $15 s/h to get a replacement in 6 weeks or so. In other words, why bother? In the case of hardware, you return it and get a refund to your credit card if you can't make the device work. In the case of software or hardware that is out of warranty, chances are that someone, somewhere will have experienced exactly the same problem as you, and the answer is waiting, indexed, on a newsgroup or in a forum somewhere on the web.  My point: in terms of cost effectiveness (value received in exchange for my time invested), even a free help desk is generally worth less than nothing, because I can dig up the knowledge faster than I can explain it to someone. I learned this years ago when I foolishly attempted to use Borland's help desk to get assistance with an obscure Borland C++ template bug.

I think some people don't have enough serious problems in their lives, to debate and complain about such inane bullsh*t.  Cope and get on with your life.

Bored Bystander
Monday, March 08, 2004

> I think some people don't have enough serious problems in their lives, to debate and complain about such inane bullsh*t

The trouble is that there are TOO many serious problems in one's life to put up with the unnecessary bullshit that only serves to steal precious time away.

But if you put up with it then it will continue and you get what you deserve.

Presumably this attitude is where the "bystander" handle comes from?

Gwyn
Monday, March 08, 2004

Hey, I'm an active participant in life. One thing I do is seek highest efficiency in my life. Which gives me more energy to fight the worthwhile fights. The 'bystander' label comes about from sidestepping useless effort.

I avoid unproductive friction. Like arguing with vendors about a company policy that is pretty much obvious, unless you choose to parse it into oblivion.

Just put some crap into index.htm/default.htm, upload it, and be done with it.

Bored Bystander
Monday, March 08, 2004

Gwyn wrote,
"Microsoft present an impossible challenge as they are based in the US and generally the attitude is 'fuck you' and this attitude I'm sure comes right from the top. "

... and then ...

"I should point out that I mean that's generally the attitude in Microsoft, not the US. A spot ambiguous."

No, you were right the first time -- the attitude is from MS, and from the US in general, and in the latter case it definitely comes straight from the top. Watch Dubya smirk his way thru a news conference sometime, you'll see what I mean ;-)

odinprotectsus
Monday, March 08, 2004

Shut up and get on with it: get lots of cheap software.

Whine and go off in a sulk: don't get lots of cheap software.

Patience
Monday, March 08, 2004

"Watch Dubya smirk his way thru a news conference sometime, you'll see what I mean ;-)"

Yeah, but he's up there and your down here.

Thinkaboutit
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Trouble with a Microsoft product?
Google Group Search, microsoft.public.*

There you go. Some issues are also covered in the MSDN Knowledge Base but more recent bugs, ho-to questions, and generally weird stuff are usually covered somewhere on these newsgroups. Sometimes by an MS employee but more often by an MVP or humble peon users.

You can also access these groups through the MSDN website -- if you prefer a horrible search engine and a slow web interface...

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Back in my PFY days I had a problem for which I called MS. Computer ran fine under DOS, but when I ran Windows, the system was unstable. The support person was very knowledgable and in the end he found out the shop that had sold us the machine had overclocked the memory bus. Reverting to normal bus speed solved the problem.
Now all this was a long time ago, but the contrast between the help we got from MS in those days versus that of other companies we used at the time was incredible (btw. the price difference between the MS products and the rival stuff was also amazing, often ending up 10x cheaper).

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I agree that MS is unduely maligned largely because of size & wealth envy. And if you approach ANY support system with an illogical demand that is only correct in a theoretical sense, yes you will be run around.

As I said in an earlier post, Borland support for their C++ language compiler sucked dog unmentionables when I tried their tech support back in '92. The tech weenie I spoke with had total RTFM attitude and treated me like an idiot. I've never gotten that from MS. Since that experience, Borland's up and down performance as a company has been much more understandable.

The basement on tech support is very, very deep.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

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