Is Microsoft Customer Service Good? 2017 Rating
Last year, Microsoft made its debut on Laptop Mag's Tech Support Showdown and had a fine first showing, finishing in second place behind only Apple. Since then, Microsoft has added a new virtual agent to its website, which attempts to be an initial avenue of support before customers talk to a real person.
|Microsoft Tech Support|
|Overall||Web Score||Phone Score||Avg Call Time||Phone Number||Web Support|
|Phone Hours (ET): 24/7|
One characteristic that separates Microsoft from some of its competitors is its willingness to tackle both hardware and OS problems. Many original equipment manufacturers refuse to answer Windows 10 questions, but because Microsoft makes the operating system, its company reps are happy to talk about it.
To test Microsoft's support prowess, I used a Surface Book and asked three different questions across three channels: phone, web and social media: how to change the Surface Pen to left-handed mode, how to change what the pen buttons do and how to stop my computer from asking for a password when it wakes from sleep.
Web and Social
First up was social media. There are two main places where Surface Pro and Surface Book owners can contact the company’s support team via social media: Microsoft's @SurfaceSupport Twitter account, and Microsoft's verified Surface page on Facebook. There is a more general Facebook page for Microsoft as a whole, but you can't send the company direct messages there.
The @SurfaceSupport team on Twitter was fairly responsive when answering my question about switching the Surface Pen to left-handed mode. The company replied in less than 3 hours with a succinct, two-part tweet featuring accurate and easy-to-follow instructions. While it wasn't the lighting-fast 15-minute response time we got in 2015/2016, in our eyes, the relatively quick turnaround and simple instructions were more than sufficient.
On Facebook, I sent the Surface team a question over Messenger asking how to change what the Surface Pen buttons do at 3:30 p.m. ET. After waiting nearly 24 hours, I sent a second message, and a few hours later, the company sent me a link to a post on Windows Central (a site that isn't affiliated with Microsoft) with pertinent instructions on how to resolve our issue.
In the end, we got our answers, but the bigger kudos should probably go to Windows Central for helping Microsoft's support do its job.
Web and Chat Support
If you prefer to solve tech issues by going straight to the source, you can always head over to Microsoft.com and click the big Support tab at the top of the page. This will bring you to a page where you can search for answers for Microsoft's ever-growing portfolio of products. However, using this tool, I found an answer to only one of my questions pertaining to changing the Surface Pen button actions.
Moreover, Microsoft’s AI was unable to answer any of my three test questions, no matter how many times I rephrased the queries. Often, the virtual agent would respond with topics that were somewhat related but not actually helpful in resolving my issue. Thankfully, right or wrong, every response from the AI was also accompanied by a link asking if I wanted to talk to a real person, which made it quite easy to transition from automated to live support.
After clicking the link to switch to live support, I was instantly connected to a tech support rep named Moumon P., located in the Philippines. Moumon then proceeded to check out my earlier query to the virtual assistant. He attempted to answer my question about turning off the password login screen after coming back from the screensaver.
The first thing Moumon did was ask if he could access my computer remotely. After I declined, he paused for 5 minutes to look up an answer before providing me with a quick set of instructions, which was missing a critical step. After I described my difficulties, Moumon sent me a more detailed procedure that put me on the right track, and after a few short minutes, I was able to turn off the nagging password login without a problem. The chat took 20 minutes in total.
There are two ways to contact Microsoft support: filling out a web form to get a call back, or dialing Sales and Partner Information at 800-936-3500.
After I called the 800 number, I was connected to a rep named Dayvis, also in the Philippines. I asked Dayvis how to disable the password prompt from appearing when my computer wakes up. After taking over my desktop, he almost nailed it right away by opening the Windows 10 settings menu and navigating to the Lock-Screen Options menu. Unfortunately, from there, he opened the Screen Timeout Settings instead of the Screensaver Settings, leading to a dead end.
Next, Dayvis started over from the beginning, and after a couple more minutes of trying various options, he found his way back to the screensaver settings. It could have ended there, but instead, when the computer would not go to sleep (because of the remote access software he was running), he decided to perform a series of unrelated and unhelpful tasks, including turning on system-wide BitLocker encryption, disabling password sign-on for all user accounts and changing what the power button does. After 45 minutes, I suggested that the remote-access software could be the problem, and after he logged off of my Surface Book, the system did go to sleep.
After that mess, my second call went much more smoothly. This time, I went through Microsoft's support page, filled out important info, and provided my phone number and a quick description about what kind of problem I was having. (This time, I was looking to set the Surface Pen to left-handed mode.)
A robot dialer called me back almost immediately, though I had to wait 6 minutes for a rep, named Ivy, to pick up. Though I denied her request to log in to my machine, it took almost no time for her to talk me through the steps to find the correct settings, and within 11 minutes from the start of the call, we were done.
For my third and final call, I went through Microsoft's support website during the evening. Once again, I was called back immediately, but this time, I didn't have wait to be connected to a support agent. After confirming my problem, he expertly instructed me to search for the Surface app in the search box, and helped me find where I needed to go to adjust which apps get opened when I press buttons on my Surface Pen. Then, he ran through the steps again just to make sure I knew the proper steps, and in less than 10 minutes, the call was over.
For U.S. buyers, Microsoft’s products come with a standard one-year warranty that includes tech support and covers the costs for return shipping in the case of a broken or defective part. Customers can also purchase additional coverage, including 1-on-1 training and accidental damage protection, through Microsoft Complete ($149), which covers your device from things like drops or spills for two years from the date of purchase.
However, because the Surface Pro and the Surface Book are not designed to be serviced by customers, you will void your warranty if you replace parts, such as the solid-state drive.
Although my 45-minute call wasn't the best experience and raised Microsoft's average call time from 15:30 in 2016 to 21:20 in 2017, every time I reached out to Microsoft for support, the company's support representative came back with correct answers. And when I talked with support agents in real time, most even went so far as to run through the steps multiple times to make sure things were all set, even though that did end up causing issues during my first call.
The new virtual assistant is a nice idea, but its inability to recognize questions and come back with relevant solutions makes it relatively useless. Overall, Microsoft's Twitter, web and phone support channels will benefit the company’s customers, as support reps there delivered accurate responses every time we tested them. And if Microsoft can continue to expand its services and improve its virtual assistant, there's a clear path for even better support in the future.