Broken Cords: An Experience with Microsoft

AN UPDATE (10/21/2016): Within about 4 hours of publishing this post, I got this response from Microsoft:

Hi Robert ,

I just came back from my day off. I will process and order for you and send you prepaid shipping label you can use to send the defective power supply back to us.  Please go to verifyme.com and provide me the code(good for 30 minutes) . Also, please include the shipping address you have in the US.

I’ll be checking my email within 30 minutes for the code so I can send you the prepaid shipping label via emal.

Thanks!

It was a bit frustrating because I can go days without hearing from support and when they do respond, I have a 30 minute window. Nevermind that it arrived at almost 10:00pm at night, my time and I was already in bed. The e-mail also serves as a further illustration of the lack of care and quality in that I was asked to provide my shipping address. This is something I had already done earlier in the process in order to streamline it.
Admittedly after seeing the response, I waited almost all day to respond (it was about 5pm on Monday or so my time when I responded) and informed them that I already spent the $80 to purchase a new power cord (almost $90 when you factor in shipping!) and was having someone work on the old one in hopes they could fix it. If not, it would be disposed of.
I delayed partly because at this point I felt defeated and decided they probably weren’t going to follow through and help me. I can only conclude from the lack of a response that there is no intention of ever making this right and they must have concluded my own actions and money spent resolved the problem and it’s not worth their effort anymore (especially since I told them I would be disposing of the power cord, because I am sure they wouldn’t want it back after someone else disassembles it).
It only affirms my previous decision to switch my product allegiance to Apple . . . which may be happening sooner than I expected because our backup computer is also giving us problems (We aren’t too surprised with this because it is getting a bit older and in need of replacement).
The Experience of Quality & Service
If I had to single out the most important characteristic of a business that determines my loyalty to them, it would be customer service, both the quality of it and the ease of it. Not only am I more likely to be loyal, I am often willing to spend more if the service is of high quality. That’s why my recent experience with Microsoft tech support was so noteworthy. The experience has caused me to consider both the quality of the product and the ease of interaction with customer service.
Being a biblically-oriented site, you may be asking, “Why share a review of the experience you had with Microsoft here?” That is a valid question and I give you three answers:
  1. Admittedly, I am frustrated and with Microsoft seeming to be unresponsive, sharing a review here is my the only recourse for action that I have (and for that reason am sharing the entirety of the situation). However, this is not my only reason, nor is it my primary one (if it were, then I would have no business writing this article).
  2. Scripture indicates the tight relationship that believers should have with one another edifying one another and causing each other to grow (cf. Proverbs 17; Matthew 18; Ephesians 5 are some examples). It is important to be helping and guiding to our fellow believers in whatever way we can. With technology being so integral to daily life, sharing experiences about quality of products can aide others.
  3. Quality and excellence are attitudes that should be dictated by our biblical worldview, and the continuing degradation of both points to an increasingly secular world.
We are both the benefactors and bestowers of customer service. It makes up a great part of our ongoing interaction in society. Because of its prevalence then, we should be informed from a biblical worldview.
The Experience of Quality & Service with Microsoft
Before merely discussing the good and bad of the Microsoft experience, let me give you some background. On July 14th of 2015, I decided to plunge into the world of Microsoft’s Surface and bought a Surface 3 (not the pro version) I was quite excited. On July 17th of this year (just two days over the one year anniversary of having my product) the Surface died. I can’t get it to do anything. Being overseas in a country that doesn’t use the Surface, there was no way to have anyone look at it. Fairly pleased despite some quirks, I decided I would upgrade to the Surface Pro 4 with a ton of memory. We were fortunate to have someone coming down to visit us in August, so we had that friend bring it down and I officially started using it on August 23rd. On October 6th the power cord quit working on that . . . a mere six weeks after I started using it. Thus began the saga of dealing with Microsoft support.
That evening I troubleshooted with them knowing that it would need to be replaced. Sure enough, that was the diagnosis. There are some things to understand here. I live in a foreign country and know that Microsoft doesn’t ship or have a store here. Therefore I was taking a risk that if I had problems it would be more difficult to get issues taken care of. Usually I keep spare pieces on hand both for convenience and to have a backup on hand (although I had not yet bought a backup power supply). Microsoft has a policy that they won’t ship directly to me and also that they will not send a replacement until they receive the defective part. Additionally, although I have tried to be respectful while voicing my frustration, I know full well that I am not without sin and certainly my attitude at times is not always the best.
Seeing the unique situation, the person I was dealing with said she would take the issue to someone higher up (Tier 3 Support as she called it) and see if there was something that could be done either to ship to us in another country or to ship a replacement first knowing I wouldn’t ship the defective one until later. I appreciate that very much, but the end result is that as you are reading this today, I have gone 12 days and there is still no resolution and the whole conversation has been characterized by contradictory statements and poor communication and I can sum up my experience with Microsoft with these three statements: Poor quality, poor service, and poor communication.
Poor Quality
Other than the battery not lasting near as long as they claim (usually mine lasted me about 3.5 – 4 hours before needing to be recharged) I have enjoyed my Surface. It has its quirks that don’t always work as they should, which unfortunately I think most people have come to expect and simply adjust. That’s what I did. So I was excited to invest in an upgraded version. The fact that the first one died after being 368 days old is troublesome (this Surface is in transit to a professional in the States to hopefully be repaired and used as a backup). Yet to have problems with my second one in less than seven weeks of use is horrendous and unacceptable. There are a couple of things with this. Power cords can be easy to bend and sometimes break so perhaps I did something to break it and I would accept the fault for that with the exception of two points here. First, knowing that they can be delicate (and especially feeling that with this one) I tried to be cautious. Second is that I have done nothing with this cord except to move it from my office to my bedroom, which is simply a matter of going upstairs in my home. I hadn’t even had the opportunity to travel with the cord or take it out side of the walls of my home to be more rough on it. This really comes down to the quality of the product.
Poor Communication
The whole conversation with Microsoft has been tainted by tech support’s inability to communicate. First is simply the delay in communication. It routinely takes support at least 36 hours to communicate and twice now I have waited in excess of 72 hours (once it was 5 days and occurred only after I contacted them!).
Of the communication I have received it is tainted by issues (once the e-mail was cutoff in mid-sentence and never finished). The reason communication has been necessary is that per the tech support person I was working with she was going to talk with the Tier 3 Support about being able to ship a new power supply overseas AND about the possibility of shipping a new one before receiving the defective one. It was 8 days before a response was finally received and the response I was told was no they would not be willing to ship overseas. I expected this and responded by asking what about shipping the new before they received the defective one to which tech support gave me several paragraphs about how yes they could do this. They would simply place a charge on my credit card as a hold which would only go through if they didn’t receive the defective one within 15 days (an impossible feat when sending from another country!) . . . upon further reading I discovered she was talking about replacing the whole Surface Pro 4! In other words, she never answered my question and provided a solution that didn’t even address the issue. So I responded yet again and said that didn’t answer the question. This time the communication was direct in that they would not do that. Again, not unexpected, but tech support while saying I would need to send in the old one never provided instructions about how to send it in and where to. In fact, four times I have now asked, “What are the next steps we need to take to get this resolved?” Three times that question has been ignored. The last time I was very specific in asking, “What do I need to do? Where does this need to be sent? How does this need to be sent?” Three days later I am still awaiting a response. While telling me I need to send in the defective product, they have never once told me how they want me to do that.
I understand Microsoft is unwilling to break normal protocol in these circumstances. I am OK with that and understand these are their policis. I am more upset that the quality of their product is so bad that I am in this situation only seven weeks after opening the product from a new box. But I will add to that and say it should never have taken 8 days to tell me that they wouldn’t go outside of their normal protocol, nor should I be sitting here 12 days later with an unresolved issue. It should be a matter of telling me what needs to be done and them fulfilling their part after I follow through with their instructions. So far no instructions have been given.
Poor Service
Communication and quality culminate together to impact the overall service, which thus far has been poor. The service was further made worse by tech support’s seemingly lack of ability in basics.
Before contacting them, I was walked through several steps to try, which I did. When finally connected with support, we spent nearly two hours together and several instances during that suggests inability to fulfill their job (aside from not being able to communicate well):
  1. After connecting, I explained my issues with the power supply and was very specific, telling her that when I connected the charger to the Surface the light on the part that connects to the Surface only flashed and the Surface would not charge. 1.5 hours later she asked me “When you refer to the light, are you referring to the Surface Unit itself?” If there was any confusion this should have been cleared up long ago. However, not only was I clear in stating the issue, but she had control of my unit to see that my Surface Unit functioned fine and that it was simply not charging. This also suggests she doesn’t know basics about the products they provide.
  2. Towards the end of our two hour session, she kept asking me to wait while they discussed the issue. By this point, my Surface was telling me I had about 20 minutes of power left (because she had been connected to it and working on it from her end and that drained the battery) and I informed her of this because we would get cutoff without a resolution . Our time had together drained my battery and left me without a way to charge it. I mention this because after we ended she sent me a list of instructions to try, but they required me to start the Surface Unit. Logic would say that there is an issue charging the battery and we just drained the batter, so I have know way of powering up my unit.
  3. I asked for instructions on how to contact customer service or provide feedback about my frustrations with the quality of the product. I was informed that a manager from tech support would be sending me a message as follow-up to the response from Tier 3 support and I could respond with concerns to that. No manager ever contacted me and to date, I have not been provided with information on how to contact Microsoft about the ongoing issues.
To Microsoft’s credit, I made a comment via Twitter and cited Microsoft directly. The next day they did contact me via that post to ask what the problem was and what could be done. However, I informed them I had already been in touch with tech support and it was being worked on . . . I didn’t expect that 10 days after that contact I still wouldn’t have a resolution. Kudos to them reaching out to my post and I guess I should have continued discussions with them in hopes of getting a resolution by working two fronts.
The process has been miserable and time consuming. Throughout it all I was asked to “Kindly wait patiently until we got some answers and they would respond to me.” Perhaps I am alone in this opinion, but nearly two weeks and still with no resolution for what should be a very simplistic issue seems fairly patient. The end result is that I have given up on Microsoft and their tech support team. I have taken it upon myself to rectify this situation by appropriately disposing of my power cord and ordering a new one for someone to bring to me when they visit in just a few weeks. Not only am I frustrated by this, but I even more angry that the end result is that Microsoft doesn’t seem to be willing to see this through to the end so far and I am having to spend more money on an already expensive product to get this resolved.
Thankfully I have a backup computer, but what if I didn’t. I would be stuck and everything that I have to do would have to stop. Deadlines would be missed and responsibilities would go unfulfilled.
I have had issues with Microsoft products and service in the past, but never enough to warrant the decision that I finally made for my family. I can’t keep expending the amount of money we are putting out for an inferior product, especially when it seems I can’t count on customer service to help me when there are issues, so we decided that as we need to replace our computers, which some of them will need very soon, we will be switching over to Apple products. Certainly this will make little difference to Microsoft because while our technological expenses every year are substantial, they make little impact on the bottom line of a large corporation like Microsoft. However, sales were in hand and didn’t require work to recruit. It would have been much easier to spend $50 or so to make the customer happy and keep their business long-term rather than saving a tiny bit of money and losing future business.
The Experience & Quality of Service From Scripture
So what does an experience have to say about quality and excellence from a biblical worldview? In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we read, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or what you do, do everything for God’s glory.” Paul writes these words in the midst of discussions about Christian liberty, in particular in regards to eating meat sacrificed for idols. These words convey a forceful principle for the Christian life. Whatever is done, is to be done with regards to how it impacts God’s glory. Even more, what is done is to be done for God’s glory. Life is not merely about doing the best you can do then, it’s about doing the best that God can do through you. The principle is reaffirmed, and defined more, in Colossians 3:17 noting that it should all be done in the name of Jesus Christ. There is a true story of a Swiss watchmaker from years ago (whose name unfortunately escapes me). Today you can see this watchmaker’s former products in museums that teach the history of the watch and in that context tour guides will often point out that he was a Christian. Why would they do this? Because the product that was produced was far superior to any other watch and the reason for that was the watchmaker’s insistence on quality, recognizing that the work he did was ultimately for the Lord.
I lament how little pride people seem to take in their work these days. Few seem to care about putting forth quality product or service. While perhaps not the sole cause, I believe a major contributing factor is the secularization of society. Post modernism has done much to elevate self and an elevation of one thing (or person) necessitates the minimization of another. In terms of quality, and in particular to customer service, the elevation of self immediately displaces God first. There is little regard for the expectations of quality that God has. It also displaces the customer. Because those providing the service are so enthralled with their own well-being, they care little about how their lack of service impacts the lives of others. I suspect then, that as selfishness increases, customer service and quality will diminish.
As a Christian who finds customer service and quality to be waning, this whole process not only supports my fears, but has been miserable. The lack of quality on the part of Microsoft has affected the quality of my work as well. That touches on an aspect of practicality that must also be considered. The excellence and quality with which we do our work (or don’t do it) can impact the next person’s ability to fulfill 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Excellence is not about pursuing your own pride. Instead it resonates from a deep conviction and concern for God and God’s people. Being a Christian should not only affect the work we do, but how well we do it.