Tech support tales – Microsoft Store support

Last week my beloved out of warranty, Surface 2 died.  I’m surprised you couldn’t hear the wails of despair coming out of Toronto. It has been lugged all over the city on service calls, espresso breaks, sitting on my bed reading newspapers, watching Netflix, reading books, listening to radio – it was rarely off.  I LOVED MY SURFACE…. yea, a bit sad and nerdy but the tablet did everything I needed in a portable device. The big bonus has always been the inclusion of Office.  All my invoices were quick and easy to use, Word to peck away at and OneNote. I’ve become a OneNote power user by the way.  It’s like carting a big ass binder around, without the hassles of paper falling all over the place.

Anyone who knows me, also knows my legendary and epic tales of disastrous tech support calls I’ve encountered. I’m a computer consultant (fancy schmancy way of saying “I go to the customers and fix what needs fixing) for home and SOHOs, and often have to call companies on tech issues.  I tend to avoid contacting companies  because I can often resolve the problem long before I move past “Please wait, your business is important” phase  or get overly frustrated with the level of knowledge. Too often staff is reading from a script and can’t vary from it or worse still are so unresponsive, you spend a month trying to find out why they haven’t fixed a tablet (hint, hint ASUS). I girded myself for the usual bullshit, fired up my laptop and contacted Microsoft support via their on line chat. Well, I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback. No, no…wait … it’s not a tale of horror. I was kind of gobsmacked actually – support was efficient and helpful. I nearly fell off my chair. The fellow on the other end of the chat went through a number of steps and suggested it will likely need replacement or a new battery and after chatting, suggested it would be far faster to take it directly to the Microsoft Store here in Toronto.  He sent me a follow up email to use in case I was unhappy with the service at the store, just incase.

Next day, I trotted down the Microsoft Store in the Eaton Centre (downtown) and waylaid the first staffer I saw, a young man called Jacob.  He sat down with me and went through a number of troubleshooting steps and we chatted while he worked. We talked about Windows 10, tablets, laptops and more. It took quite a bit of time to check out the device, in the meantime, he showed me some great features on Windows 10, and a couple of laptops that would be perfect for a few of my customers and showed me some things about Surface tablets I’d been oblivious to.  Not only that, he showed me some seminars that might help my customers (some free, some paid) and told me about their in store support such as free virus removal. So, the morning was actually … er … um … kinda fun. Yea, yea, my Surface was DOA and I was heartbroken, yada yada yada, but it had to have been one of the most hassle free tech calls I’ve ever experienced. Let me tell you, I’ve dealt with some epically stupid tech support people in my day (the one that comes to mind is “go to the basement and find the main circuit breaker and shut off all the power. When you turn it back on your email will work”) so, this was exciting. Tech support without the ritual gnashing of teeth and head banging on desk.  Novel.

Oh and they will do tech support on any windows machine, no matter where you purchased it. Remember that…

And yes, Microsoft did make a deal on a replacement, that was above and beyond. so I walked out of the store happy. I also walked out armed with a ton of info for customers, which I’ve already started passing along to them.  I really wished I had it in my budget to take them up on their offer to upgrade to a Surface 3, but that just wasn’t possible this month. However, I had my tablet, I was back at work with it that afternoon. So, happy endings.

If you are interested in any of the seminars they run, look up the nearest store here and click in-store events. Some are free, some you pay for.  If you are still struggling with Win 8.1, check out their Windows 8.1: Fundamentals workshop. You can also go to the Word 2013: Fundamentals workshop to get up to speed on the changes in Word.  But the one I’d recommend, if you don’t have handy tech support you can rely on is their PC TuneUp in a Snap seminar. It will help the average user tune-up and speedup their computer. This means fewer hassles, faster computers and fewer trips to the repair shop. Do yourself a favour – go.

Ok, gushing is over, move along. I’ll be back to my crabby tech support self tomorrow.

Update on Microsoft’s store clean up

In August, Microsoft announced it was going to clean up it’s app Store – at last

For anyone who has suffered through the chaos there, not to mention out and out scamming, this was welcome news. The Store was riddled with crap, blindingly obvious scams and people who were padding reviews. What Microsoft’s thinking was, in leaving the mess for so long, is mystifying. It seriously damaged the Store’s credibility and frightened off potential developers.  It also made selling Surface tablets more difficult – one of the first things asked would be “How are the apps”. When I would shrug, customers were a bit put off from the purchase.  I had to be honest, and one of the big selling points of tablets is functional and fun apps. If a company can’t deliver, they are hamstringing their sales.

By the time MS made their announcement, over 1,500 apps had already been purged and a shakeup was underway. This is all good, but the question remains about why MS dropped the ball so badly on their Store oversite. It was real amateur hour.  App developers were throwing up garbage that didn’t even have the pretense of being a functioning app, inserting stellar reviews that weren’t just misleading, but out and out lies, and putting their crap into every unrelated category under the sun.  Finding anything useful was painful. Some apps even had adware attached or led to their websites where you would be prompted to purchase something instead. But what killed me, were the number of apps that had NO features – zip, nada, nothing. They were ads encased in an app and did absolutely nothing. I got into a pissing match with one such scammer, let’s just say, I’m fairely sure the paint peeled off his walls during the exchange. I stopped using the store for quite a while because it took so long to weed through the garbage.

The restructuring and clean up has resulted in a much more useable store. They have a long way to go, either that or MS needs to create a category called CrapApps. MS is also tackling the contentious issue of reviews. The abuse of this area has been pretty egregious. People leaving 5 star reviews – no reason for it or a quick “Best app ever” comment. When you flip through 5 or 6 identical comments saying “Good App” you quickly get the feeling the developer’s friends have been busy little boys and girls. The other sticking point was the lack of response from developers when an issue or bad review was posted. Ignoring complaints about non functioning software is not a good business practice. Microsoft has revamped their store agreement, in an effort to push developers to address complaints. I won’t hold my breath on this one, given the level of arrogance I’ve encountered with some app developers. But the new certification process and updated agreement should help encourage a better feedback process and make it easier to weed out the scumware developers.

As I said earlier, the store has improved. I suspect Microsoft has weeded out many more dodgy apps and inserted a lot more structure in the categories. The restructuring to date, is a welcome relief.