Microsoft is a common target for rants, dislikes, and disdain. And the negative views and opinions are frequently justified. But Microsoft can also be surprising, and I had that experience this week.
I have only ever contacted Microsoft Support twice, both in regards to my home network. The first occurrence was a year and a half ago. I had made some significant network changes, upgrading my home servers to Windows Server 2003, installing a new firewall, changing how Active Directory was configured, completely revamping DHCP and how IP addresses are assigned, and more, and I ended up with a rather bizarre Active Directory/WINS/DHCP/DNS issue which was causing painfully slow network login times for many clients. I spent hours, many hours, trying to figure it all out. And finally, in frustration, I paid $99 and opened an e-mail based support case with Microsoft. The case was assigned to a support engineer named Ewen Tang who sent me a long e-mail with things to try so as to report back to him. I collected the information for him, and he then followed up with utilities that he wanted me to run to help diagnose the problem. In the course of a lengthy e-mail thread that ran for several days (the delay caused by my traveling), Ewen figured out what the problem was, and offered me a series of solutions. I opted for the quick hack workaround solution just to get things working, and Ewen offered to leave the case open for a while (it ended up being months) until I had the time to implement his other suggestions. Yes, I paid for support, but time is money, and that was $99 very well spent.
But did I just luck out, or is Microsoft’s e-mail based support actually as good as my experience seemed to indicate?
This week I ran into another issue, this time with Terminal Server licenses that I was relying on to manage my headless servers. After wasting many hours tinkering, I paid the $99 and opened another e-mail based support case. This time the case as assigned to Steven Shao, who immediately sent me an e-mail telling me that he’d look into my issue, and then sent me a detailed follow-up e-mail that essentially explained that I had misunderstood Terminal Server licensing and requirements, providing me with links to clarify things, and explaining what I needed to do to fix the situation, saving me money by pointing out the configuration I need so as to not have to buy additional TS client licenses. Steven’s advice did indeed help me solve my problem (and he saved me money, too), but he didn’t actually have to do any real technical troubleshooting. And so he offered to refund the $99 I had paid, and I then received several follow-ups to confirm that all was now well, and to ensure that I was indeed getting my refund.
Bashing Microsoft is a common occurrence, and is sometimes lots of fun. And yes, there is definitely a lot to bash and make fun of. But, at the same time, when a company like Microsoft gets something right, that really should be noted. And Microsoft Support has indeed impressed me.

11 thoughts

  1. People bash MS a lot (especially with things like "M$"), but I have to say, their products have made my life easier! Sometimes you don’t realize just how powerful their stuff is until you have to do a lot with it. I spend a good amount of time cleaning data for new projects and the high level of interoperability between the MS products, especially Access and Excel just makes data cleaning a joy.
    Other than the fact that Vista (my OS) is a horrible nightmare, I rather like their stuff.

  2. Slightly different product but same company… Microsoft definitely impressed me when my xBox 360 caught the red ring of death bug as well. Phone support was great, they registered my xbox via phone w/no hassles 1.5 yrs after purchase and had my console back in half the time they promised! I’m definitely a Mac OS guy but I’ve got no quarrels with MS as a company.

  3. I am actually a fan of Microsoft and the technology Microsoft has developed. Too many people only think of Microsoft as the big giant that owns their desktop.
    Long live Bill Gatus of Borg.

  4. When I was setting up email lists running off our own smtp server for FITC, I ran into a problem where Hotmail users would not receive our emails. I found a support email address for Hotmail and contacted them, thinking I’d never actually hear back. Within 24 hours someone had contacted me and we emailed back and forth for a period of two weeks while that engineer worked to resolve the problem eventually resulting in our emails getting through to Hotmail users. This was the only time I’ve had to deal with MS support and the experience was excellent.

  5. I’ll step up as an admitted MS basher. But my problem is not with the company as a whole, because I know a lot of intelligent, nice people work there. My problem is with their management. They continually do anti-competitive things, and release low quality software, and it’s because of management decisions and poor QA/project management (look at Vista, for example).
    I truly resent the fact that we are stuck with so much crappy software, like the years we had to suffer through IE 6’s lack of standards support and bugs, while management allowed it to stagnate because they didn’t have any competition. That’s the kind of stuff that burns me up. How many billions of dollars have web developers wasted over the years trying to get IE to behave? And all because MS achieved a monopoly with IE, and then ignored it for a few years…and IE 6 still won’t go away!

  6. I’ve contacted Microsoft a few times for paid support and their handling and response and technical expertise has always impressed me. Everytime the technician asked the right questions and stepped me through diagnostic tools to quickly find the problem and then correct and then followup several times via Email to confirm I had reached the conclusion of the support ticket. Never did I have to go through a tier of unknowledgeable lackeys that escalated the problem. I was immediately connected with a person that would solve my problem.
    I’d say only Cisco provided me better service in all my support experiences.

  7. MS’s cost-free support is an exercise in futility but I have heard good things about the paid support. The other day an instructor of an ITIL class I was attending was praising MS’s paid phone support. The front-line tech escalated to two other techs in a matter of an hour or so. When one considers the cost of having three techs busy for a couple of hours it would seem the caller got a pretty good bargain.

  8. As long as Microsoft REFUSES to compete on quality, they can only compete on support.
    I yearn for the day when Microsoft products are worthy of the market share they garner. Sigh.

  9. M$ basher here. <RANT> While it is nice to hear that if you pay them they will fix what you already bought, but I want it to work with the first purchase price and not have to pay them again to get it working. </RANT>
    I am down to only one Windows machine at home (1 out of 6) and I am plotting that machines demise as I type. I don’t know how long it will survive as a Windows machine. I’ve switched to Mac and Linux.

  10. If only Adobe support was ……. <rant>I love Adobe and their products but support/licensing is a disaster. I have tried getting a couple licensing issue resolved and the communications have not been good. The support guy disconnected me and it’s been 3 hours and he has not called back (what’s the point in getting my name/number at the beginning of the call…?). Anyway this post just gave me a place to vent.. :-)</rant>

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