I know that Microsoft gets slammed a lot for being a cold-hearted, techno-behemoth. While some of this is true and deserving, a lot is based on simply them being so big and the not-uncommon habit of hating Corporate Big Guy. I wrote eight months ago here about an amazing experience I had with their tech department, I just went through a hellish technical issue, and the Microsoft tech support department came through again, stunningly. Making them two for two.
I won't go through any techie explanations, so not to worry. But I want to explain the personal side. I not only believe in saying nice things behind people's backs, but feel that if you are willing to call and complain about a problem, you should pass along praise when they do something above board.
The issue was that my Exchange account in Microsoft Outlook (basically, my mail account) would disconnect 3-4 times a day, and the only way to resolve it was by rebooting my system each time.
I sent a tech support request on the Microsoft Exchange site, and wasn't sure if I'd hear anything back. Maybe an emails. Well, 30 minutes later the phone rang, and it was a Microsoft technician. He spent an hour trying to resolve it, and clearly knew what he was doing, but to know avail. He's exhausted his limited, but said he'd pass it along to a "Tier 3" support staffer above him.
The next day, I got a phone call from the guy, Darrell Singh. And he spent 2-1/2 hours on the phone with me. Trying everything, but without resolution. He said he wanted to do some research on the problem.
First things first: he was amazingly diligent, patient, explained things thoughtfully and spent an inexplicably long amount of time trying to resolve the difficult problem, doing research to come up with various possible solutions, and when those wouldn’t work, researching some more. And eventually he came up with what seems to be the solutions. And when I say he spent an "inexplicably long time," I don't mean it was a long call -- I mean it took several weeks, and at least half a dozen phone calls, some of the at least two hours, all at least an hour.
This is serious tech support. From anyone. And hardly the perception of Microsoft. But it's the second time out of two that I've had a response like this.
Back to the show --
Darrell wrote me back an email to confirm everything. And then called the next day. And spent another two hours. But it still wasn't getting resolved. One thing that I thought might point to the problem is that Time-Warner was upgrading routers to all their customers, so maybe that was the center of the problem. It would have been SO easy for him to point the finger that way and begged off, that he'd done all he could, but he refused to and wanted to check with others at Microsoft. He'd check back in a couple days.
At this point, I decided to take a few matters into my own hands and called Time-Warner myself, and also the company that made the router, Arris. Let's just say it was like diving into hell. Terrible experiences, useless, not only no answers, but not even sure about the problem I was describing.
Happily, I still had Darrell to rely on.
And rely on him I did. For a couple weeks and half a dozen LONG phone calls. And he kept following up with emails to check in on the status of possible solutions we were trying. At one point, he had a brain freeze and thought he'd said he'd call on a Friday, rather than the day before when he had. I almost couldn't shut him up with his apologizing. It was no big deal, he'd spent SO much time with this, that glitching up on one single day was paltry.
And eventually he seems to have come up with what seems to be the solutions. It had to do with him impressively Disabling remembering that I said Time-Warner was my service provider. And in his research, he came across information about a similar-sounding problem that affected Time-Warner and one other provider. It had to do with a setting that they enable for the router, which isn't the default but can cause a conflict on their systems with the default. We disabled the setting...and there hasn't been a disconnect since.
(NOTE: I don't know if this is a Microsoft issue or a Time-Warner issue or a router issue. But clearly it impacts all three, and Time-Warner and the router company, Arris, should have at least had a clue about the setting. And from what I can tell after talking to others who know much more about these things than I do, the issue is more related to Time-Warner. But it was Microsoft that found it.)
So, I just wanted to pass this along with high praise. The tech support was stunning.
I can't swear that everyone will have tech support like this from Microsoft. In fact, I'm sure it won't all be the same, always. I'm sure there will be problems. But I also know that the response I've gotten twice, with all the follow-ups, is because of training, so there's something structural in this.
And it's not just that Microsoft did such an amazing job with this -- that could be common, or luck of the draw that it was that great. It's that the other experiences with other companies on this same problem were pathetic, literally useless. No effort and just finger-pointing. So, even if Microsoft's attempt had just been that one, initial phone call that got nowhere -- the fact that they just called back was more impressive than the others.
This all would have been an impressive level of tech support under any circumstances, but all the more so since -- writing a tech review column for the Writers Guild of America for almost 20 years, which I cross publish on the Huffington Post -- deal with a LOT of tech support and therefore have a lot to compare it to. And that’s why Microsoft’s here leaped out as all the more noteworthy.
I’ve happily had extremely good experiences dealing with Microsoft, including their PR firm at Waggener-Edstrom. So, it’s great to see that continue. (My sole “quibble” with Microsoft is that I have been trying for three years to review a Surface tablet, and bizarrely have yet to be sent one. For years, they’ll send me all manner of products to review when I request them – just never a Surface, for some reason even they can’t explain. Oh, well, can’t have everything…)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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