How Microsoft Failed With These Customer Service Mistakes

8th November 2016Change Management

Even the biggest businesses on the planet can make the most basic customer service mistakes.

“We’re sorry this sounds like it has been an absolute nightmare”

Microsoft UK Facebook Message

Microsoft’s stated mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

Individuals and businesses around the globe rely on its products and services to communicate, collaborate and complete work 24/7.

But what happens if the products develop a “glitch” or hang-up completely? You may be unlucky enough to experience something like the following “nightmare”.

1. You raise a ticket for a synchronisation problem and a technical support engineer then needlessly removes your software suite and completes a fresh re-installation, thereby causing you much greater problems.

2. The escalation team call back 48 hours later and are unable to fix the problem, so you are referred to another team. After a further 6 hours on the phone, your system is finally back up and running with some data gaps that you must now take the time to identify and resolve

3. You ask to speak to someone in customer services, but are told that this is impossible. As far as Microsoft are concerned the technical problem is now solved – job done.

Even in the fast-moving world of tech, customer experience can make or break a brand, even one as powerful as Microsoft’s.

What are the customer service lessons for Microsoft?

What are the lessons you can take from Microsoft’s shortcomings? They are surprisingly simple:

1. Listen to your customers

2. Take ownership of their problems

3. Provide the correct solution to the problem

4. Keep your promises

5. Understand that fixing technical issues does not equate to satisfying your customer

Let’s look at these in detail:

Listen to the customer

Customer service issues and complaints are not something to be avoided at all costs. They are pure gold for companies who strive to improve their products and services.  

Ironically, it was Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates who stated:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

And yet, my deeply unsatisfactory experience left me wondering whether anyone at Microsoft was really listening to me or indeed, any of their customers.

Listening to your customer can be done in many different ways. For example, by:

  • The use of open questions and “active listening” by trained telephone advisors.
  • Employing a “feelings before facts” approach to recognise that in a human to human interaction, emotional connection leads to better calls and the resolution of problems
  • Using AI to scan calls and carry out sentiment analysis. Pick out calls with negative keywords. Then, use your QA Department to listen and act on them
  • Ensure senior staff spend time listening to live and recorded calls. This is to make sure  the voice of the customer is heard loud and clear as far up the organisation as the C-Suite. In reality, this is the only way to ensure that Customer Experience is given the focus that it deserves.

Take ownership of your customer’s problems

Often, customer service advisors do listen to customers but are not empowered to help. Whilst it is important to have processes, controls and scripting, this should not prevent them from taking ownership by:

  • Using positive action-orientated language
  • Being proactive and finding resolutions on the call
  • Where this is not possible to escalate and call back

Provide the correct solution to the problem

Without active listening, it is easy to jump to the wrong conclusion and offer an inappropriate resolution, just like when Microsoft needlessly uninstalled my OneDrive.

Offering the correct solution requires advisors to have:

  • Appropriate product knowledge and technical skills
  • Fact and fault-finding tools to pinpoint the most likely issues first
  • Support from a second-line team to diagnose difficult or unusual problems
  • Where this is not possible, to escalate and call back

Keep your promises

“Under promise and over deliver”

This is a much-cited mantra.

Unfortunately, many companies contrive to do the exact opposite. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Underestimating the difficulty of finding a solution
  • Not knowing the timescales of response offered by back-office teams
  • Offering to do something out of the ordinary, which cannot easily be achieved
  • Not following through on the promise due to unforeseen issues – such as absence

So, the Golden Rule here is for your customer service advisors only to make promises that they know are within their own power to keep. If they need to involve others to check first what can be delivered and when.

Understand that fixing technical issues is not the same as providing customer service

The good news at the end of my sorry saga was that Microsoft did indeed resolve my technical issue.

Finally, they were able to close their “service ticket”.

However, they had failed to understand that customers are not “service tickets”. We are also not “support cases”” or “technical issues”. In fact, we are emotional human beings.

As such, we respond well when we are heard, our needs are met, and we are treated as individuals rather than being processed as part of an SLA to be met.

The crazy mistakes of my nightmare experience with Microsoft could have been avoided if this simple truth had been applied from the moment of first contact.

Therefore, the final lesson is quite simply this. Being human is good business.

Ps: I am saddened to have written negatively about Microsoft. I admire Bill Gates as a businessman and a philanthropist and believe that the current CEO Satya Nadella is doing a fantastic job in further developing Microsoft as a business.