Microsoft continues to tweak its tech support to deliver the best possible service. Since our last tech support showdown, the company has greatly expanded its video offering on its YouTube channel. Microsoft has also improved the Virtual Assistant, enabling it to handle many of the general questions that consumers typically ask.
|Microsoft Tech Support|
|Overall||Web Score||Phone Score||Avg Call Time||Phone Number||Web Support|
|Phone Hours (ET): 24/7|
And in case you want to speak to an actual human being, Microsoft has 10 worldwide call centers, including centers in the United States, Latin America, China and Europe. I decided to put Microsoft’s tech support through its paces by grabbing a Surface Go, making calls, and pinging social media accounts. I asked several questions, including how to disable the webcam, turn off or delay automatic Windows 10 updates, enable Cortana, and change pen shortcuts.
As expected, no one knows Windows 10 like Microsoft, but even they hit a few stumbling blocks along the road.
Web and Social (44/60)
Microsoft’s social media team is pretty fast on the draw. I pinged the @MicrosoftHelps Twitter account at 12:23 p.m.to ask how to disable the webcam on the Surface Go. I got my answer at 1:18 p.m.(a time lapse time of 55 minutes), pointing me to a Microsoft Support page that not only explained the three possible shooters installed on my device, but also how to give certain apps access or disable them completely. The Facebook team was even faster, taking only 20 minutes to point me to a page detailing how to change the Surface Pen’s shortcuts.
But if you’re averse to social media interactions, Microsoft has a vast wealth of web-based resources to tap into. The company has several YouTube channels, including one for general Microsoft Customer Support called Microsoft Helps, and more targeted channels for Windows, Office 365, Xbox and Microsoft Surface. The company has greatly expanded its video offerings on YouTube from last year, from 50 videos to more than 100. You can also use the company’s support website, which houses a number of helpful resources, including FAQs about your device’s most common problems.
Unfortunately, my pen and Cortana-related questions weren’t featured in the FAQs, which meant I had to dig a little deeper. I started searching for answers in the community forum; it took about 10 minutes of searching, but I found answers for each of my questions, complete with screenshots.
If you’d rather not have to pore through Microsoft’s extensive forum, you can hit the Contact Us button, which will summon the Virtual Assistant. An AI-controlled bot, the Assistant is the last resort before you actually speak to a person. Simply type in your problem and the bot will try to pull up the best relevant answer.
Results did vary, as the assistant quickly pulled up directions to enabling Cortana and turning off automatic updates and the webcam. However, the bot stumbled on how to set Pen shortcuts, asking me if I wanted to order new pen tips instead of addressing my issue. Still, the assistant managed to answer most of my inquiries correctly, which is a noticeable improvement from last year.
I brought my pen shortcut question to Arlene from the U.S./Canada call center, who was working the Live Chat line at 6:38 p.m. After hearing my question, she asked to take control of the Surface Go. I gave her permission, but the first app she wanted me to install wasn’t authorized by the Microsoft store, so we had to go with Quick Assist. I was a little worried because she mentioned updating drivers, but she managed to get to Settings and change my shortcut without any updates or system restarts. The entire experience took 7 minutes and 28 seconds.
Phone Support (20/40)
If you'd rather speak to a human being, there are several ways to reach out. You can call the general support number (1-800-642-7676) or take a more targeted approach via the Microsoft Support page. When the Virtual Assistant can’t answer your question, it will start the process that lets you speak to a person. You’ll get three choices: speak to a member of the community, schedule a call, or Live Chat with an Agent.
The ability to schedule calls needs to become an industry standard, no matter what kind of support you’re trying to reach. The three times I scheduled calls I was given an average wait time of 5 minutes, but rarely waited more than 2 minutes before my phone rang and I was being connected to a rep.
My first call took place with Carlos in Latin America at 6:39 p.m.; I asked how to change the Surface Pen’s shortcuts. After hearing my query, Carlos asked to remotely access my system. Once I gave my permission, he attempted to take control with the Quick Assist app, but couldn’t do so after several attempts. After the last try, he advised me to keep the system updated and said that should take care of any pen issues. He then helpfully informed me about the 5GB of free OneDrive storage that comes with the purchase of a Microsoft product. It was nice to know, but didn’t help with my pen problem. The call ended at 6:55 p.m., for a total of 16 minutes.
On my next call, I was connected with Ariel in Latin America, whom I asked how to disable the webcam. At first, he thought I was looking to restart the system, but some quick clarification put him on the right path. He then quickly and politely walked me through how to find the camera privacy setting. The total call took 8 minutes and 36 seconds.
My final call was the longest; I was put on hold, but it was also the shortest. As soon as the phone call connected at 11:01 a.m., I was put on hold for 8 minutes. When I finally spoke with Thomas, I asked if there was a way to stop forced updates. He informed me (erroneously) that it was impossible to do so and that I could only, at best, delay them for a few hours. My call ended at 11:13 a.m,. making the total call time 4 minutes and 21 seconds.
For Surface products and accessories, Microsoft offers a one-year limited warranty. If you need any kind of IT support, you can get it for free for 90 days from the date of purchase. The company doesn’t offer free accidental damage protection, but you can purchase Microsoft Complete, the company’s extended warranty, during your initial purchase or 45 days after. Complete gives you two years of warranty with up to two accidental damage claims that come with a $49 deductible.
Since the Surface doesn’t lend itself to being opened up and tinkered with, Microsoft will void your warranty if you attempt to do so. However, the company does pay for shipping if your Surface has to be sent in for repair.
True, Microsoft has expanded its Virtual Assistant’s capabilities and increased its YouTube library, but there’s still room for improvement. I would love to see more forum topics, videos and Virtual Assistant training for the Surface Pen, which is a vital component of the Surface experience.
Microsoft’s social media team is on the ball, providing correct answers in a relatively quick fashion. The phone teams need to be equally on the ball. As it stands, the phone reps were 1 for 3 on providing correct answers to relatively simple questions. But for what it’s worth, having the ability to schedule a call is an absolute godsend, as it keeps you from spending unmetered minutes of your precious time waiting to speak to someone.
Tech Support Showdown