Microsoft – Experts at customer dissatisfaction

Anyone who has had cause to contact a ‘Customer Service Representative’ from any company will be well aware that this is one experience to be dreaded. It’s akin to battling a hideous troll, only your weapons are your words, and their armour is their lack of understanding.

Although Microsoft are the newcomers of the ‘big three’ console manufacturers, they have been in the business of computing for over 20 years, in which time they have dealt with more than their fair share of consumer issues.

In light of this, you might think that Microsoft would have the experience and technical knowhow to provide an excellent standard of products and service to their valued customers. You might think that they would be well aware that providing an excellent product or service is only one factor of success, and that a company needs to provide support for the people who pay their bills when the inevitable happens.

Hardware reliability issues aside, the Xbox 360 is great product and Xbox Live is a great service. Now that Microsoft have taken the decision to ‘bite the bullet’ on Red Ring of Death issues and spend £500 million on extended warranties, they have bandaged their deepest wound and essentially removed the greatest source of negative criticism that has been directed towards the 360. Both the media and gamers in general have one less thing to moan about.

As someone who is on their third Xbox 360, I have had no choice but to call Microsoft on a few occasions. Although the lack of Xbox 360 consoles for a short time was a minor annoyance, I do own other games consoles which can satisfy my interactive entertainment needs. Coupling this with the fact that my faulty 360 was replaced relatively swiftly, painlessly and at no cost to myself, my opinion of Microsoft did not suffer because of this. Microsoft have a clear focus on rectifying their most prominent failing, but it’s a shame they don’t seem to share the same concern for other issues that their customers may face.

My first indication that Microsoft staff may not have been given sufficient training came when contacting them about a Digital Rights Management (DRM) issue. Microsoft’s problems with DRM have become much more well-known as of late, and they have finally done something to resolve people’s complaints on this matter once and for all, but a year-and-a-half ago the two Microsoft employees I spoke to about being unable to access Xbox Live Arcade games that were purchased on a different profile had no idea what I was talking about. In frustration, I gave up trying to get a solution from the people who should have been best poised to help me, and found the answer I needed on a random internet forum.

More recently, my wife’s Xbox Live subscription was due to be renewed and on my recommendation she bought a pre-paid Xbox Live Gold card from an online retailer, as this is cheaper than buying it directly from Microsoft by credit card. Nevertheless, Microsoft continued to try and take the money from an expired credit card (even after being advised of the situation), and when they were unable to take payment they cancelled her Xbox Live subscription that she had paid for herself through someone other than Microsoft.

The fact that they should be able to cancel a service that was not even purchased from them is absurd. The fact that it took several calls and broken promises ( “a manager will call you back in 48 hours”) for Microsoft to admit they’d made a mistake and that she was entitled to another 12 months of Xbox Live is ludicrous. At this point we tumbled down the rabbit hole and truly entered the fictional Wonderland…

Microsoft said they would give her a code, which she could use on the Xbox Marketplace to redeem 12 months of Xbox Live Gold membership. The only problem was that they had run out of codes… Lets think about that for a moment. Microsoft, the company who provides the Xbox Live service and generates the Xbox Live codes (which can be found in thousands of shops and websites) had Run. Out. Of. Codes.

Microsoft sorely need to realise that incidents like this can destroy faith in a company. It’s a well known fact that bad press spreads faster and farther than good press, so if Microsoft truly want to succeed in this generation they can’t try to dilute the nasty stuff with sweet stuff. Maybe rather than making some new gaming announcements at next week’s E3, Microsoft should pull a renewed commitment to customer satisfaction out of their collectives arses…