Tuesday, 08 March 2011

Microsoft fails the customer service test

After running a computer with a legal copy of Windows Vista Home Basic for three years, a message in large bold type suddenly appears on your screen. "Your copy of Windows is NOT GENUINE". 
This is what I was faced with just after 12:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Windows Security Essentials highlighted the error, informing me that it would stop working within 30 days if the problem was not resolved. There was a link to check the problem with Microsoft Genuine Advantage. The link did not work. 
I called the Microsoft help-desk. A few trials later I managed to connect to Microsoft. I had to get my copy of the installation DVD and the validation key. After three years, the key was showing signs of wear and not all the characters show that clearly. Luckily, I managed to decipher all of the characters. We then checked the version of Windows that was installed and that it was activated. 
Then it was time to transfer me to Microsoft Technical support. After a long wait, the help desk got back to me. All the technical staff were busy, and would get back to me within a few minutes. 
40 minutes went by, and at 1:40 p.m. I called again. The same call centre lady transfered me to the right person. Another set of questions and a set of options as to how to fix it. Technical support would have to put in a call to the Engineers. They would call me back in an hour.  
I was still talking to technical support when my cell phone rang. No matter what I did, I could not answer. An issue with my Nokia phone that has become ever more frequent. I restarted my phone and went out for a short time. 
When I got back, there was a message on my cell and on the landline. I had to call the engineer back. We tried first this, then that. Eventually we removed the key, restarted the key and activated the computer again. Now the message on the screen was gone, but Security Essentials still displayed the prominent warning.  
We tried to resolve, but experienced great difficulty. IE8 just kept going through to Bing when trying to run the Genuine Advantage software. We changed the DNS setting from auto to one that he gave me. 
We had to run it using Chrome. 
Then we restarted the machine and the messages and warnings were gone. It seemed that the problem was gone. It was now after 5:00 p.m.
I received another call this morning. Everything was fine except that I could not access any local sites and many international sites as well. 
Eventually I remembered the DNS setting and changed it back. Like magic everything worked perfectly. At last. 
Although the problem has been resolved, the resolution falls far short of a satisfactory solution. There never was a problem, and I should not have been "accused" in this most terrible way. Luckily, I did not have any clients with me at the time. What if it was on my laptop in front of a client? Thought ... "mmm, the consultant doesn't buy a genuine copy of Windows".  It could have cost me a deal and much more. It did lose me the entire afternoon! 
The client support staff were all friendly and helpful. I do not have a problem with them at all. My only issue is that this incident should never have happened. How can I regain the respect of friends or clients that may have seen this happening? How can I regain all that wasted time? 
As far as I am concerned, this is nothing short of customer abuse. 

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