Microsoft has been in business for almost five decades, but it still can’t seem to perfect its tech-support department. In last year’s Tech Support Showdown, Microsoft landed in fourth place, but this year, the Redmond-based tech giant tumbled down several spots due to its cowardly customer-service agents, lazy online tech support strategies and digital ghosting.
My investigation into Microsoft’s tech support started with a phone call — an awful one. A Microsoft phone agent, seemingly confused about my query, asked if he could put me on hold. As it turned out, it was all a ruse. The agent didn’t put me on hold — instead, he rudely hung up on me, leaving me with my jaw dropped, speechless and angered as the disconnect tone pierced the air.
This unfortunate experience set the tone for the rest of my investigation into Microsoft’s other customer-service avenues across Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other platforms. I pity anyone who has to reach out to Microsoft to resolve an issue; you’ll get more headaches than solutions. Microsoft isn’t all bad, though. There were times that I was connected with stellar support agents who’ve restored my faith in Microsoft. Armed with the Surface Pro X and the Surface Go 2, here’s how my tech-support experience with Microsoft played out.
Microsoft tech support
|Overall||Web Score||Mobile App Score||Social Media Score||Phone Score||Warranty Score||Avg. Call Time||Phone Number||Web Support|
|65/100||16/20||N/A||9/15||20/30||20/20||10:26||1-800-642-7676||Link (opens in new tab)|
|Overall||Web Score||Social Media Score||Phone Score||Avg. Call Time|
Phone Support: Microsoft Surface Pro X
Microsoft has a jaw-dropping number of call centers: 119 tech-support sites across 480 countries. Microsoft’s 24/7 customer-service number is 1-800-642-7676. Make sure that you have the serial number of your product readily available. You’ll also want to ensure that your Surface device is signed into your Microsoft account.
At 10:13 p.m. on a Tuesday, I dialed 1-800-642-7676. After fulfilling several prompts (e.g. typing in my Microsoft Surface Pro X’s serial number) and listening to hold music, it took about six minutes to get a hold of an agent. I spoke with a delightful, helpful woman located in the Philippines who helped me increase the sensitivity of the Pro X’s touchpad to boost my cursor speed. At first, she began spewing out the instructions a little too quickly, but after I advised her to slow down, she proceeded at a more leisurely pace. She guided me through the steps accurately and efficiently. I was impressed!
After I thanked her for helping me, the phone agent created a case number for the call should I ever need to reference it at a later date. She then advised me that if I ever need more information about my device (the serial number of my Pro X Surface Pen, for example), I could just navigate to the Surface app via the Windows search bar. The call lasted 16 minutes and 8 seconds.
My second phone call to Microsoft, however, left me with steam coming out of my ears. At 1:24 p.m. on a Wednesday, I dialed Microsoft’s customer service line. After I pressed a few numbers at the request of the automated assistant, I was connected to a phone agent almost immediately. I asked, “How do I connect my phone to my Microsoft Surface Pro X?” He then replied, “How do you want to connect it?” I told him that I’d like to be able to receive and send text messages on the device, which is possible via the Your Phone app.
The agent told me that in order to do that, I would need to be in possession of a Microsoft phone. Save for the Surface Duo, Microsoft hasn’t launched a phone in years. I was flabbergasted by the agent’s response, but I had a glimmer of hope that he could have a moment of redemption when told me that he would put me on hold to get more information concerning my question. Maybe — just maybe — the phone agent would get some guidance about my question from a more senior staff member.
Instead, the rude phone agent hung up on me. I was livid and I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to pull such a stunt! The infuriating call lasted 4 minutes and 43 seconds.
Social media support: Microsoft Surface Pro X
Microsoft offers tech support via three social media channels: Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. The Redmond-based tech giant’s primary method of handling social media tech support seems to be, “Eh, just throw links at ‘em.” Unless the customer is asking for a full-length guide, I don’t see why Microsoft agents can’t simply reply with a straightforward answer sans the links. It would behoove Microsoft to change its social media tech-support strategy; it’s too impersonal, cold and detached.
I reached out to Microsoft’s Surface Facebook page and I sent them a message at 12:21 PM on a Wednesday. I asked, “Is there a way to take a screenshot with my Surface Pen?” after explaining that I had just purchased a Surface Pro X. The answer to my question is simple: double-tap the top of the Surface Pen. That being said, 39 minutes later, an agent kindly replied with a link, adding “You can use your Surface pen to open Snip & Sketch as well as customize your pen shortcuts.”
I clicked the link that launched an article titled “How to use your Surface Pen.” (opens in new tab) Although I found the section that describes how to open Snip & Sketch via double tapping, Microsoft needs to be aware that some customers may not know that Snip & Sketch is a screenshot utility (this is not explained in the article). Folks who are unfamiliar with Snip & Sketch may have difficulties finding the answer to their screenshot query on the page. Seeing if I can get the agent to offer a straightforward solution, I asked them, once again, how I can take a screenshot with my Surface Pen.
I waited four hours for a reply and the agent threw another link at me: “Learn how to take a screenshot with your Surface Pen here (opens in new tab).” The link led me to a Microsoft Community page with a user asking, “How do I make the Surface Pen screenshot to not go automatically to ‘recent notes’ in One Note?” Although this is somewhat related to my question, it’s not my exact query, so I was confused as to why the agent sent me this URL. However, on that same page, I spotted a user asking, “My Windows Pen doesn't take screenshots anymore. It worked till yesterday (double klick on the top of the pen) but now it just doesn't want to do it. What can I do?” By reading the poster’s question, you can discern that “double klicking” — albeit misspelled — is how one can take screenshots with the Surface Pen. Still, it shouldn’t require this much perusing to find the answer to such an easy question. I’m baffled as to why the Facebook support agent didn’t simply say, “Hey, just double click the top of your Surface Pen!” instead of throwing two links at me over a time span of five hours
Microsoft’s handle for its Twitter tech support is @MicrosoftHelps. I sent a direct message to @MicrosoftHelps at 4:31 a.m. on a Friday. Seconds later, I received an automated reply asking which topic my question fell under: Microsoft Account, Xbox, Microsoft Subscription, Refunds, Pre-Orders, Billing/Redeem a Code and Other. I chose “Other” as my question was, “How can I change the default folder my webcam photos are saved in?”
Unfortunately, Microsoft’s Twitter support wasn’t working properly. Typically, after you click a topic, you should receive a message acknowledging your selection such as “Got it! Let me transfer you to a Live Agent who can assist you. In the meantime, let me know how we can help you today.” In my experience, nothing happened. I refreshed Twitter, was presented with the same seven topics and clicked Other a second time. Again, nothing happened.
At this point, I was spamming Microsoft’s inbox with the word “Other,” so I sent a message apologizing for bombardment and explained that the automated system seemed to be down. Nine hours and 3 minutes later, a Live Agent got back to me and replied “No worries!” The Live Agent gave me a list of numbered instructions (thank goodness it wasn’t a link!). Unfortunately, when I followed them, it didn’t help to change the default location of my webcam photos. I re-asked my question and a new Live Agent appeared about an hour later. This time, I received a satisfactory set of instructions that helped me change the default save folder for the Surface Pro X’s webcam photos.
The next day at 6:45 p.m., Microsoft sent a follow up message asking if I found the instructions to be helpful, which I appreciated. “We hope that the steps we shared to change the default location of the folder helped and that your issue has been resolved,” the message said. “Thank you for contacting our social media support team. Have a nice day!”
Microsoft claims it has a dedicated team that answers support questions on Reddit, but don’t bother posting questions the traditional way. You’ll get an alert that says, “This post is currently awaiting approval by the moderators of r/microsoft before it can appear in the subreddit.” It’s not waiting for approval — it’ll get thrown out to the wayside because it’s against the rules to ask support questions via “Create Post.” Instead, all support questions should be posted within a pinned thread called “Microsoft: Official Support Thread.”
On the Support Thread, I asked for guidance on how to collaborate remotely on the Whiteboard app using my Surface Pro X at 2:41 p.m. on a Wednesday. To this day, I have not received an answer.
Web support: Surface Pro X
When you navigate to Microsoft’s Contact Us page, you won’t find any numbers nor emails. Instead, you’ll be goaded into using the company’s virtual-chat app to air any grievances and concerns. At 9:11 p.m. on a Wednesday, I decided to give Microsoft virtual-chat app, called Get Help, a shot to see how well Microsoft’s web support fares compared to the other customer-service avenues.
Before I began my inquiry, the Get Help app sent an automated message with a link: “In case our session gets unexpectedly disconnected, you may click the link in order to rejoin the discussion.” I appreciated this gesture; Microsoft has precautionary measures in place to curb inconvenience should anything go awry. I was then prompted to select the product and topic that corresponds to my question, but I received an error message: “Something went wrong during device selection. Don't worry, you can still talk to a person using the options below.” It took about two minutes for me to connect to a live agent.
Finally, I had the opportunity to ask my question: Is there a way to collaborate remotely on Whiteboard with my Surface Pro X? If so, how do I do it? The live agent asked me to wait a moment while they searched for a solution. Two minutes later, the live agent returned with step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish the task. The virtual-chat interaction lasted only 8 minutes; it was quick, brief and accurate. In my personal experience, the Get Help app was the most efficient way to get an answer to my questions.
I was also able to find the answer to my question by using the search function on Microsoft’s official website. I found an article titled “Collaborate on a Whiteboard,” (opens in new tab) which offers lengthy, wide-ranging instructions on how to remotely join forces with a collaborator on the app.
|Overall||Web Score||Social Media Score||Phone Score||Avg. Call Time||Warranty Score|
Phone Support: Microsoft Surface Go 2
You won’t find Microsoft’s support number anywhere on its official website (though you can find it with a quick Google search). I believe Microsoft makes its customer service phone number tricky to find because, in my opinion, it wants to steer its customers toward its online support pipeline. After my awful phone experience with the Surface Pro X, I understood why Microsoft preferred to tuck its phone number away from its Support Page. Thankfully, my phone experience with the Surface Go 2 was smoother sailing.
At 6:42 p.m. on a Thursday, I called Microsoft pretending to be in urgent need of enabling a battery limit feature on my new tablet. The woman has a sweet, kindhearted phone agent from Nicaragua who told me that a volcano recently erupted in her area. I always appreciate it when a phone agent sprinkles a personal tale into the conversation — it humanizes the contrived voice on the phone.
After I explained to the Nicaraguan-based phone agent that I wanted to prolong my Surface Go 2’s battery lifespan by limiting the total charge to 50%, she asked my permission to remotely access my tablet. I said, “Sure, go ahead!” However, because I didn’t yet sign into my Microsoft account, she could not initiate the remote-support process. As such, she patiently waited until I logged in and she offered guidance on how to register my Surface Go 2 device. Still, she had trouble accessing my tablet remotely.
No worries, though. She decided to help me the traditional way and offered step-by-step instructions. She provided crisp and clear guidance on how to access the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (the Surface Go 2’s version of BIOS) and enable the battery-limit feature. Between our conversations about explosive volcanoes and troubles with remote access, the call took 26 minutes and 45 seconds. Despite the length of the call and technical difficulties, I had a pleasant experience.
My second phone call reached a Microsoft call center in South Asia. Ten minutes after midnight on a Friday (don’t judge me; I’m a night owl), I called Microsoft in desperate need of a way to increase the sensitivity of my touchpad. The gentleman faltered at first, telling me that after pressing the Windows logo and the letter “I,” I should find the Settings option. I told him, “No, all I see are search results leading to Internet Explorer.” After realizing his flub, he told me to hit the Windows Logo again, but this time, click on the cog wheel icon to access the Settings app. He then accurately helped me reach the Touchpad section to increase the trackpad’s sensitivity. The call lasted 8 minutes and 39 seconds.
Social media support: Microsoft Surface Go 2
As mentioned, Microsoft offers social-media support on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Although I’ve had a Microsoft phone agent hang up on me, I’d much rather dial in and speak to someone than converse with a lifeless Microsoft Surface avatar. Microsoft’s social media support feels very impersonal, detached and nonhuman with its “here’s a link, bye!” tactic.
My Microsoft tech support experience on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform matches Facebook’s imminent fate: short lived. At 1:45 p.m. on Friday, I fired up a message on Microsoft Surface’s Facebook account and asked, “How do I enable Hibernation on the Surface Go 2?”
Forty-five minutes later, a Microsoft agent messaged me with — surprise, surprise — a link. I couldn’t tell if I was talking to a bot that spits out URLs or an actual person. To be clear, I don’t expect a “How may I serve you, ma’am?” tech support experience, but it’d be nice if social-media agents could be a little more sedulous. Instead of sending a URL and being done with it, they can send easy-to-follow steps so that questioners needn’t sift through wordy paragraphs on a webpage. I can’t help but detect cheeky “Google is your friend” vibes from Microsoft every time they slap a link at my face.
At 1:40 a.m. on a Friday, I reached out to @MicrosoftHelps to ask its tech support team about how to access the Battery Report on my Surface Go 2. I reached out to Microsoft at the wee hours in the morning, so I didn’t expect a rapid response. At 5:52 a.m., a tech support agent responded — without a URL! However, I don’t think a Microsoft tech support agent would be able to send me a link on my query even if they wanted to — the company doesn’t have a “how to” article for accessing the Battery Report.
I received numbered instructions on how to generate the Battery Report, which was a breath of fresh air from the “here’s a link, now leave us alone!” experience I’ve often dealt with.
If you have an urgent question, avoid Reddit at all costs. As mentioned, you’re required to post your question on a pinned thread called “Microsoft Official Support Thread.” Your inquiry can easily get lost in the massive sea of questions that flood the page. I still haven’t received an answer for my Surface Pro X question, but for my Surface Go 2 inquiry, a Microsoft moderator finally replied.
At 1:34 p.m. on a Friday, I asked, “How do I enable the Battery Limit on my Surface Go?” On Saturday at 11:46 a.m., a Microsoft moderator told me to “check my PM” for an answer to my question. When I checked my inbox, I found a message from a Microsoft rep that featured three links (shocker) concerning the Battery Limit feature. The first two gave information on what the Battery Limit feature is and how to enable it; a third offered instructions on the best way to care for one’s Surface battery.
Again, I’m not a big fan of Microsoft’s “just read our URLs” online tech-support method, but the links were admittedly helpful. Still, I would have preferred numbered or bulleted step-by-step instructions on how to enable the Surface Go 2’s Battery Limit feature. It took 22 hours and 12 minutes to get a response from Microsoft on Reddit.
Web Support: Microsoft Surface Go 2
I have no qualms about tech support folks copying and pasting instructions. However, you have to make sure that what you’re copying and pasting isn’t riddled with illegible and unnecessary content, which is a problem I’ve encountered during my web chat experience with Microsoft.
Truth be told, I noticed a minor copy-and-paste flub (i.e. double paragraphs) during my first web chat experience when I asked a question about the Surface Pro X, but I didn’t think it was worth pointing out. However, this particular blunder requires acknowledgment.
At 5:45 p.m. on a Saturday, I asked the virtual chat the following question: “How do I pair my Surface Slim Pen with my Surface Go 2?” The live agent asked me if I had issues pairing my Surface Pen with my Surface Go 2, but I clarified that I didn’t know how to pair the stylus with my tablet to begin with.
Here are the first set of instructions I was given: “〈ol type=1〉〈li〉〈p〉1. Go to Start > Settings > Devices > Add Bluetooth or other device > Bluetooth .〈br〉〈/p〉〈/li〉〈li〉〈/li〉〈/ol〉〈br class=Apple-interchange-newline〉〈br〉”
Not quite sure why this dizzying message was riddled with HTML language, but you can spot the instructions being sandwiched between the code. I’m sure it was just a copy-and-pasting error on the agent’s end. Mistakes happen, but I wished the agent would have acknowledged the gaffe and resent the instructions HTML code-free.
This wasn’t the first time things got lost in translation. After I thanked the agent for helping me pair my Surface Pen with my Surface Go 2, he replied, “Oh my placer you have a wonderful pen over there as well as a beautiful surface.” It took a while for it to click as I sat there dumbfounded by a few seconds, but I realized the agent simply meant to say, “Oh my pleasure!” Though the writer side of me flinched, I couldn’t help but smile at the phonetic spelling. Overall, chatting with the live agent was a placer! The chat lasted 17 minutes.
I used Microsoft’s search function to look for an article that answered my query about how to pair my Surface Pen with my Surface Go 2. I didn’t find an article that was tailor-made for my query, but an article titled “How to use your Surface Pen” (opens in new tab) contained a section that offered instructions on how to pair one’s Surface Pen to a Surface device, which was good enough for me.
New Surface devices come with a one-year limited warranty and 90 days of tech support. Microsoft pays for shipping both ways for all devices. However, this doesn’t apply to accidental damage unless you purchase Microsoft Complete, which provides extended coverage and support for up to four years on Surface plans. Microsoft Complete has you covered for blunders such as drops, spills and cracked screens. You can add Microsoft Complete up to 45 days after purchase.
The Surface App, available from the Microsoft Store, provides customers with access to warranty information so you can easily check your device’s coverage status.
Microsoft has been in the game for too long to offer such mediocre tech support service, which is what makes this customer-service experience so disheartening. I’m still fuming over the rude phone agent who hung up on me, I’m suffering from URL fatigue, and I’m pissed at the Reddit Microsoft mods for ignoring my Surface Pro X question. However, there were some standout moments that saved Microsoft from plummeting to last place, such as the Nicaraguan-based phone agent who was friendly, sociable and offered accurate instructions. Aside from some copy-and-pasting flubs, my chat app experience was decent, too.
My advice for Microsoft is to make the social media tech support experience warmer and more human. Something as simple as giving customers straightforward responses (as opposed to spitting out URLs) could make a big difference in coming across more personable and less bot-like.