More Examples of Bad Technical Support

A few years ago I wrote my Why I Won't Buy Another HP Computer blog, wherein I detailed several terrible support experiences that I had to endure with Hewlett Packard's technical support people. In order to show that not everyone has terrible technical support people, I recently wrote my Why I Will Buy Another Dell Computer blog, where I described a great experience that I had with Dell's technical support people. That being said, not everyone can be a good as Dell, so in this blog I will illustrate another bad support example - this time it's from Microsoft's Technical Support.

Here's the situation: I recently purchased a Dell 8700 computer, which came with Windows 8.1 installed. Since I run a full Windows domain on my home network, I would rather run the professional version of Windows 8.1 on my computers, so I purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack from Microsoft in order to upgrade my system. The upgrade process is supposed to be painless; Microsoft sends you a little box with a product key that you use to perform the upgrade.

Well, at least that's the way that it should have worked, but I kept getting an error message when I tried to use the key. So after a few attempts I decided that it was time to contact Microsoft's Technical support to resolve the issue. I figured that it was probably some minor problem with the key, and it would be an easy issue to resolve. With that in mind, I browsed to and started a support chat session, which I have included in its entirety below:

Answer Desk online chat
Vince P: 5:12:37 PM Hi, thanks for visiting Answer Desk. I'm Vince P.
Welcome to Answer Desk, how may I help you?
You: 5:13:09 PM I just purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack Product key from Microsoft for my Dell 8700 computer, but I get an error message that the key does not work.
Here is the key: nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnnn-nnnn
Vince P: 5:13:43 PM I'll be happy to sort this out for you.
For documentation purposes, may I please have your phone number?
You: 5:14:02 PM nnn-nnn-nnnn
Vince P: 5:14:38 PM Thank you, give me a moment please.
As I understand, you cannot install Windows Media Center using the key that you have, is that correct?
You: 5:17:53 PM Yes, I am trying to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
Vince P: 5:18:12 PM First, allow me to set expectations that Answer Desk is a paid support service. We have a couple of paid premium support options should your issue prove complex and require advanced resources. Before we discuss those further, I need to ask some questions to determine if your problem can be handled by our paid support or if it's something really easy that we can fix at no charge today.
I will remotely access your computer to check the root cause of this issue.
[Note: Vince sends me a URL and code to initialize a remote session to my computer using a 3rd-party application.]
You: 5:19:40 PM Why is a remote session necessary?
Vince P: 5:21:19 PM Yes, I need to check the root cause of this issue.
Or I can send you some helpful links if you want.
You: 5:21:52 PM Or you can ask me to check anything for you
What do you need to check?
Vince P: 5:22:38 PM
If this link doesn't work, there might be some third party application that are blocking the upgrade.
It is much faster if I remotely access your computer, if it's okay with you.
You: 5:24:34 PM I have gone through the steps in that article, they did not work, which is why I contacted support
Vince P: 5:25:06 PM I need to remotely access your computer.
You: 5:25:11 PM The exact error message is "This key won't work. Check it and try again, or try a different key."
Vince P: 5:25:16 PM Please click on the link and enter the code.
You: 5:25:46 PM Or - you can tell me what I need to check for you and I will give you the answers you need.
Vince P: 5:26:51 PM
I'm sorry, but I have not received a response from you in the last few minutes. If you're busy or pre-occupied, we can continue this chat session when you have more time. If I do not hear from you in the next minute, I will disconnect this session.
It was a real pleasure working with you today. For now, thank you for contacting Microsoft Answer Desk. Again, my name is Vince and you do have a wonderful day.
Your Answer Tech has ended your chat session. Thanks for visiting Answer Desk.

Unbeknownst to "Vince", I worked in Microsoft Technical Support for ten years, so I know the way that the system is supposed to work and how Microsoft's support engineers are supposed to behave. Vince was condescending and extremely uncooperative - he simply wanted to log into my machine, but no one gets to log into my computers except me. I know my way around my computer well enough to answer any questions that Vince might have had, but Vince didn't even try. What's more, when Vince sent me a long support thread to read, he took that as his opportunity to simply end the chat session a few moments later. Very bad behavior, dude.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's chat application crashed after the session had ended, so I wasn't able to provide negative feedback about my support experience, so this blog will have to suffice. If I had a way to contact Vince's boss, I would have no problem pointing out that Vince desperately needs remedial training in basic technical support behavior, and he shouldn't be allowed to work with customers until he's shown that he can talk a customer through a support scenario without a remote session. If he can't do that, then he shouldn't be in technical support.

By the way - just in case someone else runs into this issue - all that I had to do in order to resolve the issue was reboot my computer. Seriously. Despite the error message, apparently Windows had actually accepted the upgrade key, so when I rebooted the computer it upgraded my system to Windows 8.1 Professional. (Go figure.)

My 15 Minutes of Fame

For some inexplicable reason, Microsoft chose me to be one of their featured employees on the Microsoft Careers website. As a result, I was interviewed and photographed, and my information was posted on the Microsoft website for all to see.

Here is what they posted about me:

robmcm (2)

Support Professional
Developer and Line-of-Business Support Internet Team

At Microsoft, we have the opportunity to directly impact the development of a product.

Supporting Microsoft's enterprise-level customers with Microsoft's Internet Information Services Team may seem like a daunting task. Not for Robert, a Support Professional with Microsoft's Developer and Line-of-Business Internet Support Team. He thrives on challenge. "Working on the Internet Support Team is living on the 'Bleeding Edge' of technology," he says. "There are always new issues, new problems to be solved."

It's the excitement generated by Microsoft's products that first attracted Robert to Microsoft. "I worked for a community college in Tucson, AZ," he says, "where I managed a large Windows NT network. We were an all-Microsoft shop, and I was something of a Microsoft software addict. When an opportunity to work at Microsoft came along, I jumped at it."

Starting in Microsoft Access Support, Robert quickly learned that a career at Microsoft would allow him to grow and seek new challenges, while constantly making a difference in the lives of Microsoft's customers-to him, the most rewarding part of his job. "Seeing the way our software helps so many people, and helping them use our software to make their lives easier is great," says Robert.

"Another aspect I enjoy," he adds, "is when an idea of mine becomes part of a new product. I can't think of any other companies where an employee has the ability to contribute to the direction of a project simply by e-mailing a suggestion." Some of the product contributions he's made have even been on behalf of Microsoft's customers. "I'm proud of instances in which I was able to represent our customers' wishes to the Development Team," he adds. "It's always great to be the customers' advocate."

When asked what it's like working at Microsoft, Robert becomes animated. "The way people here work together is amazing," he says, "Microsoft hires people from diverse backgrounds; that allows us to draw on each other's experiences to solve a problem." "And," he contends, "the amount of knowledge that is available internally is staggering - searching our Intranet for information is often more productive than searching the Internet.

The atmosphere of cooperation and camaraderie isn't limited to the workday. While Robert and his co-workers share a passion for technology, a passion for helping Microsoft's customers, and a strong desire to learn, they also share a need to relax, unwind and have fun. "Our team barbecues, goes to lunch together, goes to movies or GameWorks," he says. It's their ability to maintain a balance between work and life that allows them to face the challenges of working in the fluid and fast-paced industry of high technology.

According to Robert, the most technically challenging part of his job is trying to stay abreast of new programming language technologies. "All our programming languages are constantly being redefined to take full advantage of new Windows technologies," he says. And it's the dynamic nature of these languages that often leads to the part of his job that Robert finds most exciting. "Programming," he grins. "There are plenty of opportunities to write code, and I love to write code."