Microsoft Raises The Bar(n) For Hugh

    March 6, 2006

Last Friday, I wrote about a different model of customer support.

I intimated the days of pushing a customer through Level 1-2-3 support were numbered. In place of that model was a different approach: the suggestion that a customer would raise an issue, members of a community (both internal and external to the vendor) would swarm around it, and people would work together until the issue was resolved. It’s a belief that customer support has the possibility to be human, informal, and ad-hoc, and should be handled by the people with the skills and passion to solve a customer’s needs.

Here’s a case study.

On March 4th, Hugh posted on gapingvoid that he was having issues with his Tablet PC.

“All I wanted was to get the wifi on my Tablet PC to work properly. But of course, it doesn’t. It can’t go 24 hours without something going wrong. And the reason is Microsoft software. Of course it is. It always is.

Robert Scoble likes to say that Job One at Microsoft is to thrill customers. OK, fair enough. Get my wifi to work properly and I might start taking that idea seriously.

Any wifi mavens out there fancy trying to help me out?”

After a lot of discussion, but no action, he escalated on March 5th. (This is how “escalation” works in this model. The customer does it, not the vendor.)

“Could somebody from Redmond [I know a few of you will be reading this] please help me get my wifi working?

I spent FOUR HOURS last week at the software place trying to get this fixed and it’s still taking the piss. I. Am. Not. A. Happy. Camper.

You want to thrill customers? Fine; you can start by thrilling me. Let’s see if it’s more than just talk.

You guys like to make a big deal about the power of blogs to connect with customers, and transform your image and busines model. Again, fine, let’s see if it’s more than just talk.

Your move.”

On March 6th, they did. Hugh:

“Yesterday I posted how I was having trouble with my wifi.

Within a couple of hours I had received a personal e-mail from a Microsoft employee in Texas, a certain Keith Combs. Turns out my post had made it on to the internal Microsoft message boards, and was being passed around.

He called me up last night via Skype, and guided me through everything…

Once we had eliminated all the other possibilities, it turns out there was a problem with the router, which was easily fixed by resetting it and adjusting a few settings on the Tablet.

Et Voila! I’m happy to say, my Tablet PC’s wifi now works fine.”

Hugh is a disproportionate case; his blog is widely read. Not everyone has that luxury. But the architectural pieces for the infrastructure needed to do this are already starting to fall into place. For example, what if instead of trying to take on eBay and Craigslist, edgeio searched for customer issues and bubbled them out into the open so they could been identified and resolved by a community?

I think the swarming/barn raising model of support is going to be increasingly prevalent. Adam disagrees, feeling that bad support is perhaps more simply a symptom of bad management and complacent customers.

What do you think?

Add to | DiggThis | Yahoo! My Web


Christopher Carfi, CEO and co-founder of Cerado, looks at sales, marketing, and the business experience from the customers point of view. He currently is focused on understanding how emerging social technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking are enabling the creation of new types of customer-driven communities. He is the author of the Social Customer Manifesto weblog, and has been occasionally told that he drives and snowboards just a little too quickly.