Ever Received a Poor Response from Microsoft?

I feel like I’m asking for trouble here, but I’m trying to find examples where our responses to your questions have left you…

  • More confused than you were before
  • With a bad taste in your mouth about dealing with Microsoft
  • Could have been worded better
  • Not feeling respected as a customer
  • Feeling like it didn’t exlain the solution/problem in your terms (MS-only acronyms, passing the buck to other internal teams, etc)
  • Etc

If you aren’t comfortable posting your example in public as a response here then feel free to send the example directly to me (jledgard@microsft.com ).  I’m not trying to get anyone fired and would actually prefer if the names were changed to “protect the innocent”.  What we are looking for are good real world “anti-examples” that could be used in training materials given to employees that want to learn “Customer Interaction Best Practices”. 

Oh, I’ll take your positive experiences as well.

Thanks in Advance

Edit: To clarify. While hearing about communication through official channels is interesting… I’m more interested in examples where the person responding was someone who’s full time job was not to talk to customers.  Good examples include MS employee participation in newsgroups, resonces to MSDN Feedback items, or answers to questions in blogs.

Comments (15)

  1. Rich C says:

    Well, I have to provide my positive experience(s), Josh. Despite the rep that exists, I’ve always found support and responses from Microsoft to be more than adequate.

    So far, in fact, that I had MS support fixing hardware problems for me when there was some corrupt memory issues.

    Further, the involvement in the community by employees is amazing. And yes, this predates the blogging craze.


  2. Jeff Parker says:

    Hmm, you know. I can only think of one experience that I could have deemed mediocre. WinNT 4 Desktop upgrade to Windows 2000 pro for some reason the save as dialog box wouldn’t work in any application, would blue screen. I called hoping to get some help of some sort hoping that maybe my experiences would help them figure it out to help someone else down the road. I had 2 days free to work on this it took 4 days for a Microsoft Engineer to get back with me. By then I had just reformatted and loaded 2000 from scratch rather than upgrade. This was usually pretty typical back in the old days 4+ Years ago just time on getting a call back. Since then Microsoft people seemed to pop up everywhere. They were more accessible face to face contacts.

    However, it is funny you ask I had to dig back in my mind for about 15 years of dealing with Microsoft, I have never met a Microsoft employee I didn’t like or had a bad experience with. Though I have never met anyone from the non technical side, I typically don’t deal with marketing and sales and so on. Some are very opinionated but they have knowledge and experience to back it up but even then always open to new ideas. They are not pompous and never claim to know everything, if they do not know they will try to figure it out they are also generally quick witted and funny, they are also willing to go out of their way to help you out when they can, sometimes I wonder what you guys put in the Kool-Aid, some sort of caffeinated riddlin. Unfortunately there really isn’t enough of the MS techies to go around and they seem to be shrinking. Trust me it is noticeable to us out here on the east side of the states that MS seems to be pulling the awesome technical people they have in the field back to Redmond, the guys we deal with on a day to day. We seem to be loosing some of the direct face to face people with no sign of replacements. However I personally do not feel as detached because I also read the blogs here at MSDN but I know a great many do not read the blogs and feel detached. Now I am not saying don’t take the guys to Redmond, I wish every one of them the best of luck, but give us some replacements.

  3. I get the feeling you’re thinking about direct communication with Microsoft through some kinds of "official channels" that I’m not part of, but I’d have to suggest that the IE blog is an example of a bad answer to questions. The recent posting on standards support is a prime example. The reason everybody’s asking about standards support isn’t because we want to be told, yet again, that Microsoft does or doesn’t think that standards are good or bad in some nebulous, general kind of way. We want to know, specifically, that the particular specific huge holes in standards support *are* going to be addressed. Even if this information is released gradually, or we’re told that "these items (PNG, fixed positioning, windowed selects, etc) are on our radar for consideration, but we haven’t decided yet which ones we’re going to address for IE7" or "PNG alpha is in, watch this space for more announcements". I can’t understand the reasons behind the huge secrecy in what’s in, out or undecided for IE7, but it would be possible to be at least a little bit specific about which answers you’re not giving. Right now, despite the constant "we hear your concerns" rhetoric, there’s no indication at all that anyone actually *does* hear what our concerns really are.

  4. Josh Ledgard says:

    Actually Stuart, the example you referenced is the type of thing I’m looking for. The training we are putting together is meant for people whose full time job is not to respond to customers.

  5. Brian Duffy says:

    The only communication channels that I consider poor ARE the official ones. Particularly things like the "Official" IE blog.

    Overall, the MS employees posting in blogs, consultants at our site and on newsgroups are generally excellent.

  6. David says:

    I’ve only need to contact support one time. I was having problems with email app with MSN Premium 9. I was trying to download the email, but was getting some kind of DLL error. I contacted support through a different channel and received a response in an adequate time frame. The answer was very informative and well written. I had no problems understanding what I was asked to do, but I am somewhat computer savy. My experience is positive.

  7. Ever received a poor response from Microsoft? You betcha! In fact, I would deem most responses from Microsoft as "poor". (A notable exception is Helena Kupkova on the XML team, so there is still some hope).

    Case in point: The UDT decoder in the DCOM stack is rotten, and has been for quite some time. When XPsp2 was released I managed to create a reproduceable case. And what was the response? I could contact PSS to look on the case. Right. Like I want to spend money to get *your* bugs fixed.

    The problem is that Microsoft cares very little about the problems people have with their programs and is very ignorant of use cases outside of the MSDN examples. Of course you SAY that you do, but the truth is far from it.

  8. Almost all of my direct contact with MS has been through blogs, and almost all of it is excellent. That’s why the occasional bad experience stands out in my mind.

    Along with the IE blog situation I already mentioned, I did remember another instance where the response was noticeably poor. This blog post http://weblogs.asp.net/BCLTeam/archive/2004/12/21/328585.aspx?Pending=true

    specifically said "feel free to post additional questions or comments on this blog entry", but when I actually did post some questions, nobody ever answered. Ever.

    I think it’s fine to not answer every comment on your blog posts, but if you *specifically* ask people to submit questions in the form of comments, you’re taking on a responsibility to at least check and see if there have been any and provide some kind of indication that you’re listening.

  9. Mike says:

    I’d heartily second Stuart Ballard’s point re standards support in general, and IE’s stonewalling of web standards in particular. In fact I think MS‘s image on issues like this is rather worse than he describes – the impression given out isn’t so much "we don’t really care about web standards" as "we care very much about web standards; we hate them and want them to die".

    I’ve had the odd gripe in other areas (e.g. a C++ compliance bug report on MSDN product feedback got the response "yes, we don’t comply to the standard, but we aren’t going to fix it because it might inconvenience people who don’t care about the standard") but these have been much milder and the exception rather than the rule. IE really does stand out in this regard. You would not believe how frustrating and squalid it is to have to spend a day kludging together some client-side-script monstrosity just because the 3-line CSS2-rule solution doesn’t work in IE. I have many gripes with MS dev tools, but I think this is the only area I can think of where they’ve deliberately gone out of their way to make development hard.

    Couple of other points:

    We got some training a couple of years back as part of some MS partnership package. The guys doing it (techies) were mostly fine, but a couple of times they veered off into negative marketing. ("Y’know, Java really sucks here…") and it really didn’t come off well. I’m no fan of Java, but if I want marketing I’ll go to http://www.microsoft.com.

    Lastly: many MS people seem to have a curiously boolean view of development – there’s the Microsoft Way, and there’s Everyone Else, and if you’re Microsoft you’re 100% Microsoft, no ifs, no buts. I made some point (again, at the training) about limitations of the freebie command-line .NET tools, and the response was a puzzled/sarcastic "yeah, like anyone’s going to be doing a real project in Notepad". As if Visual Studio and Notepad were the only two games in town. I suppose this is a point about interop, but at the time it was more of a "what planet are these guys from?" reaction.

  10. > I’m more interested in examples where the

    > person responding was someone who’s full

    > time job was not to talk to customers.

    In that case I’d estimate 90% of the responses were good and 10% were bad. In fact unofficial responses have often been more polite than my writing (likely because unofficial responders have themselves been officially treated far better than I, and they haven’t developed the same degree of cynicism).

    Official responses are nearly the opposite, around 80% bad and 20% good. Some recent cases involve Windows Update refusing to download security patches, Microsoft Support refusing to provide the free support that the Windows Update site says is available for Windows Update failures, and Microsoft Support giving incorrect answers (things like instructions to run programs that don’t exist in the failing Windows versions) and then no answers at all on followup. Some past cases I’ve already mentioned. Official reneging on officially stated warranties is still running at 100%.

  11. lou brown says:

    I work in education for a Non-Profit organisation which represents all the Independent Schools in our state. My original contact with MS was about three years ago, and was to do with the Microsoft LRN system at the eLearning page. The examples provided by Microsoft used third party components which would not work with the latest version of Microsoft’s VB. This got no response. Later the third party products included in the example expired.

    Recently I went to the eLearning site and found nothing about LRN (there is now another company using this name in the education space). When I tried to find any info on Microsoft’s support for developing educational products for SCORM standard I found nothing. When I search for Open Source Educational projects in .Net for Learning Management Systems I find zero. While there are atleast 12 Java and about 11 PHP and one Cold Fusion, there are none from Microsoft.

    When I provided this information to Microsoft, they did not respond. If I look on MSDN, for developer and elearning, I only get Microsoft elearning courses for Microsoft products.

    We evalutated, Encarta Class Server and its successor, Microsofts Course Management Server and found them lacking. So which source example do we use, Java, PHP, or Cold Fusion?

    This is appalling, appaerntly NO ONE AT MICROSOFT is comcerned. I think it goes up the heirarchy and the stops because there is no one to handle it.

    If you do a search on Google for SCORM and Microsoft, there is nothing other than Microsoft products (word, excel, powerpoint) used for the document, or references to LRN which doesn’t exist.

    Even MSN search produces heaps of hits on Microsfts LRN, even a link back to Microsoft, where you find nothing.

    I’ve been burnt heaps by MS, MediaViewer, The original MSN, then Blackbird, now LRN.

  12. Mat Hall says:

    On the whole I’ve found non-official MSFT feedback channels to be pretty good — the Raymond Chens, Larry Ostermans and Eric Lipperts of the world show how it should be done. However, there are a handful of people (like Scoble, for instance) who seem completely oblivious to the real world, do nothing but repeat the official MSFT party line, and come across as asshats desperately in need of a beating with the clue stick. (Scoble is a particularly bad offender, especially as his actual job revolves around communicating with customers. If he worked for me I’d have fired him a long time ago!)

    The worst of the worst in the world of unhelpful responses, though, have been those revolving around the whole VB6 to VB.NET fiasco. The list of boneheaded, blinkered, arrogant, or just plain ungelpful responses would probably fill a book, but these two are a pretty fair example:

    Ari Bixhorn: "We didn’t break the language, we enhanced it!"

    Bill Storage: "Drop backward compatibility altogether. Do us a favor; haven’t you guys learned the lesson of DOS? Backward compatibility cost us so much money over the years. Break my code. Force me into getting rid of my old code if I want to add VB7 features into my product."

    This is the first time that MSFT released a new product that didn’t silently and painlessly open things created in a previous version, and we were given the impression we were supposed to be happy about it, and that wasting years plodding through the mess that the conversion wizard produces (essentially nothing more than a bunch of "This doesn’t work!" comments), potentially introducing bugs, etc., was something that VB shops were going to embrace with open arms.

    (Bitter? Me? Never!)

  13. lou brown says:

    The next biggest problem is broken links to MS pages. I experienced this when I tried to find out how to use SQL server stored procedures to dynamically provide data to an Excel Spreadsheet. With all the talk about using Stored Procedures as the preferrred method of accessing data from SQL Server, and their is no example I could find anywhere. We HAD to put SQL Script into the Query space.

    No one at MS could find any info, and the Google searches went to heaps of MS pages which nolonger existed.