How long is 5 minutes in Microsoft Support time?

Four weeks ago tomorrow I contacted Microsoft about problems I was having with their OneCare product. I spent two hours on the phone (after trying to get it working for the previous two hours) with a Sam in tech support and we failed to get it working.

Sam had me uninstall Norton (which came installed on the computer but which I never setup). He had me download a tool to uninstall OneCare (!). I uninstalled and re-installed it 5-6 times during the call. Each uninstall or install requires a re-start of Vista, hence the length of the call.

Eventually Sam said he’d have to escalate the call and I’d be contacted by senior techs to get it resolved “within the hour”.

No-one called.

Until today that is, when Sam called back to see if everything had been resolved ok and could he close out the call!

After I told Sam that no-one had bothered calling back and the machine was still in the state we left it four weeks ago, he said sheepishly that he’d see what had happened and call me back “in 5 minutes”.

Well, we know that 1 hour in Microsoft Support time = at least 4 weeks in real time, so any bets on just how long their “5 minutes” really is?

66 thoughts on “How long is 5 minutes in Microsoft Support time?”

  1. That’s almost as good as Phillips. I received a call 2 weeks after telling them that I urgently needed new software for my backup drive as it wasn’t available on their Web site. I needed it to get at the stupid compressed files.

    The caller asked if I still wanted it posted out to me. So, what’s urgent with regard to restoring important files for a company?

  2. Thanks for the offer Ben.

    Don’t for now. It isn’t urgent for me. The machine is running Vista so I hardly use it.

    I’m curious to see long Support take to close calls.

  3. Tom, ‘Microsoft’ has just offered you support. The fact that it’s not a tech support person shouldn’t alter this. So, it would take them less time to close it if you permitted the company to react to your concern 😉

  4. … Ben is getting me Office software for my mac as a result of my status update on Facebook. Perhaps they’re doing more than embracing Web 2.0 stuff.

  5. Paul,

    Ben offered to help escalate this, not Microsoft.

    Ben does not work for Microsoft Support. I am curious to see how long it takes Microsoft to close a support ticket without interference.

    As I said, it is on my Vista machine so it isn’t urgent for me.

    3 hours and fifteen minutes later and they still haven’t called!

  6. Tom, Ben works for Microsoft. If I offer to help a partner, I see it as Segala (the company) 🙂

    Perhaps if you permitted Ben to help, you’d get your call and the support staff would learn a lesson…

  7. @Paul – You are missing the point – I’m more interested in seeing Microsoft’s typical turnaround time on a support call rather than getting the issue resolved urgently.

    @Jamie – ouch!

  8. Tom,

    Before I bought the new Dell (with Vista) I’d read all the hassles that you were having with it. Made the plunge anyway as Mac isn’t accepted in the corporate environment that I deal with and Linux wasn’t being shipped on Dell (yet).

    So far (touch wood) so good. I’m hoping that (the many) updates that Microsoft have released (thanks in part to Guinea pigs like yourself!) have made Vista more stable.


  9. I’m not missing the point. I’m not one for going to town on a company if they’re trying to help customers – it undermines the times when companies really deserve it. You don’t know it’s typical just because it’s happening to you.

  10. I’m not one for going to town on a company if they’re trying to help customers

    Neither am I Paul.

    The post is about Microsoft Support. Microsoft Support are not helping me. They keep promising they will. And they keep failing to deliver.

  11. Tom, I know you’re not one for going to town on companies (sorry if I implied that!).

    The reason you give in your last comment is exactly why I believe you should allow it to be escalated.

  12. But, if I allow it to be escalated Paul I
    1. won’t know how long someone without a blog (the majority of Microsoft’s clients) would have to wait to get an issue resolved and
    2. will jump the queue ahead of people who don’t have access to someone to escalate it for them.

  13. my humbel opnion!
    I feel for poor Sam, Think the problem here is that the lack of support for the support people, bear in mind that he could be dealing with upto 40 customers in one day, so if esclation dosent respond for sam, then he ultmally he gets the blame! it a lack of resources that microsoft has and a poor structure, that is the cause of this problem. Sam as the point of contact with microsoft get the blame, you shoud look to the manager, rather than the support guy on the end of the phone.

  14. Pat, you are absoolutely correct – it is not Sam’s fault at all, I’m sure (although he was quite cavalier on the phone and tried his best for the two hours to get rid of me before the issue was resolved).

    I have worked as a call centre operative and know full well what it is like to be a Sam.

    No, it is Microsoft Support the organisation I blame, not Sam the individual.

  15. I disagree. One of my roles at AOL during the mid 90’s involved up-training the tech support people and the trainer (I started in support myself). I also trained customer support reps on telephone ‘techniques’, so I know what it’s like on each end as well understanding/appreciating the business process. I’m not accounting for how well AOL did after 1998 🙂

    The process improvement element is vital and I can’t help but feel that Ben demonstrated how Microsoft quickly picked up on this even though you never escalated it. That is to say, that Microsoft picked up and was willing to escalate this issue even though you never tried to do it yourself.

    It’s likely that Ben ended up on this blog via me a while ago but what does it matter where/how companies find out this information. The fact that we’re all having this conversation demonstrates how some organisations are evolving, just as we would like.

    The problem in my opinion is not with the ‘company’, it’s likely to be the individual not following the process. This is why I believe in working with those who volunteer to help. That demonstrates that the ‘company’ is open to change/improvements by taking part in the ‘conversation’ that we so much like to talk about…

  16. I’m sorry Paul but that’s bo***cks and you know it.

    Ben is from Microsoft not Microsoft Support. They are different organisations with different aims and objectives.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that Sam followed the process and escalated the call 4 weeks ago.

    I suspect that 2nd line tech either don’t know how to fix it or are snowed under in similar calls (OneCare is a POS as I have said previously).

    Ben’s offer to escalate is a red herring in this. He doesn’t work for Microsoft Support.

  17. How can you promote the importance of Web 2.0 stuff, namely blogging, in order for organisations to get involved in the conversation to make continuous improvements and then, when the company (they all work for Bill Gates so it’s one company with various groups) refuse help from an employee for the sake of using a stop watch with one individual.

    By allowing Ben to escalate the problem as he kindly offered, you are more likely to get the support manager to subscribe to your blog and possibly learn to appreciate the importance of everyone’s opinion. He is more likely to also provide training to his staff and/or team leaders to ensure this doesn’t happen with jo public moving forward.

    It’s the process you should focus on, not an individual. This is especially important if you haven’t tried to help management better understand the problem. If they’re not aware of it, how are they supposed to make improvements for everyone else.

    When the manager asks how your food is in a restaurant, you don’t say it’s ok if it’s shit. Otherwise he’ll never know to inform the chef.

  18. Tom my good friend 🙂 let’s agree to disagree. Life would be too boring if we all agreed on everything. It would be an even worse state of affairs if we disagreed and pretended to agree.

  19. My guess is that they are still trying and failing to find a support script for “user has installed one anti-virus product on top of another one”. You may be the first person to ever attempt that 🙂

    The support I received for OneCare was a touch slow but very accurate and I received multiple follow-ups to make sure all was ok.

    Still an utterly mediocre product sadly. Not even remotely tempted to try new V2.0 beta. Will revert to AVG Free with stock XP firewall pretty soon.

  20. I hope in V2 they’ll add a check for other AV products. In the current release they just warn you to make sure all other AV products are uninstalled first……….

  21. Guys – interesting debate, Tom with regards to your suggestion that we work for different organisations I’m not sure I completely agree. I think in the past MS has suffered from a silo’d mentality which means that there was a tendency to do exactly as you’ve suggested. “This is not in my objectives so it’s not my problem etc.” and as a large organisation it’s easy to do this. BUT if everyone adopts this attitude frankly nothing ever gets done and no one ever improves. As an organisation this is something we’re trying to change. From an MS perspective I fundamentally believe support is everyone’s responsibility regardless of whether it’s a specific objective or part of your focus area.
    My offer is still there BTW.

  22. Gets even better… Microsoft support would charge you nowadays $100 before even knowing what the problem is (and as it happens most of the time it’s typically because of a Microsoft bug in first place!).

    So it’s interesting how Microsoft “hides” hot fixes addressing known Microsoft problems, by making those not available for public download. Microsoft is then encouraging the customer to contact MS Support in order to get it. That’s when the $100 bill hits you… Quite clever if you ask me; Simply create a problem in the product, then ask people to call support to get the patch, and finally just bill them $100 each time they do so. No wonder they are getting filthy rich out there…

  23. Tom – just catching the back end of this threa and will leave Ben and Paul to debate the pros and cons of support routes. What I’m interested in are the issues you have with Vista. If you’re still running it on the Vaio (same as me) then I’d love to hear more. Your comments about SP2 are intriguing but only constructive if there is detail we can feed back and prove to you that things are improving. All software has bugs IMHO as they’re written by humans so finding a bug after 10 mins though disappointing isn’t altogether surprising. What I’d like to prove to you is that this organisation has ears and people who care about fixing this stuff.

    love to hear more of the detail if you have time for it and hopefully catch up on London for Breakfast Bites

  24. The comment system seemed to miss the bit where there as expletive tags in front of me saying I agree with Paul. I think it was momentus enough to have naughty words

  25. My comment seemed to disappear – I was saying it would interest me more to know how long it takes MS Support to sort this out without outside interference – Ben, it’s great to know you’re willing to sort this out, but we don’t all have access to your influence!

    Paul, I don’t agree with your restaurant analogy – to me this is more like Tom is a food critic. He goes into a restaurant and is waiting aaaaages for his dinner. The manager, recognising the food critic, comes over and says he’ll sort it out. Now the critics review will never be able to contain how long it would have taken for a normal joe to get served…

    C’mon people, how long can we keep this analogy going…? 😛

  26. My God, did I just read that Damien agreed with me 🙂

    I’m opening up an office in Wimbledon so a little practice is always nice.

  27. WillyK – whilst it makes a good story to suggest that we engineer bugs in to products to make money it neither good business or in fact true.

    It’s incredibly difficult to offer indefinite free support and I don’t know of any other business that does this.

    On the “charging for bugs” charge you will see it quite clearly laid out at that we charge will be refunded in the event of a fix.

    It may also be worth checking out;en;1410&WS=hotfix which details the process for access to hotfixes

    I hope this helps to clarify things

  28. @ Conor – the Vaio came from Microsoft with both Norton and OneCare installed!

    @ Ben – thanks I do appreciate the offer but let’s see how long support take unprovoked.

    @ WillyK – 🙂

    @Steve – Yup still running Vista on the Vaio but not as my primary machine because it is too slow and unstable. Those are the two main issues – speed, esp. wrt startup times and apps and the OS freezing/crashing. I run browsers on it now which save their session state so as not to lose too much.

    @ Damien – really? I’m surprised that you’d be in favour of using influence to jump the queue

    whilst it makes a good story to suggest that we engineer bugs in to products to make money it neither good business or in fact true

    Not sure about that Steve. As long as Microsoft are selling OneCare it definitely makes good business sense to release a buggy OS

  29. Tom – I can’t honestly believe you think we put a buggy OS out of the door purposely.

    sorry to hear the Vaio is to slow – needless to say, I’m very happy with mine and use sleep to have a fast startup. I did have some session issues with IE7 myself but after disabling most of the wretched toolbar add-ons this has pretty much disappeared.

  30. @ Steve – I didn’t say I believe you are doing it purposely. However as long as you are selling OneCare, it is in your business interest to do so.

  31. @Steve – on the Vaio – the restarts are because any change seems to require a re-start not because I am unaware of Sleep and Hibernate.

  32. I was saying it would interest me more to know how long it takes MS Support to sort this out without outside interference

    Tom has been a blogging evangelist and an evangelist for enterprises to pay attention to blogs and react to blog comments. MS reacted and offered help. The support isn’t working, this is obvious, maybe they’ll rectify this, but it takes time. In the meantime, help is offered and is declined for what reason? To rub Microsoft’s nose in it more?

    Also, if Tom didn’t want interference, why blog about it and bring attention to it? It’s the quantum physics thing. By observing you change what you observe. Blogging about an issue interferes with the natural process you are blogging about.

  33. @ Damien – really? I’m surprised that you’d be in favour of using influence to jump the queue

    Tom I’m surprised you’d use such a passive aggressive line to try and bolster your argument.

  34. help is offered and is declined for what reason? To rub Microsoft’s nose in it more?

    No, to see how long it typically takes to get support (i.e. if you don’t have a blog)

    I’m surprised you’d use such a passive aggressive line to try and bolster your argument

    I wasn’t using it to bolster my argument – I was pointing it out as another negative effect of using influence to get support ahead of time.

  35. Steve (Dayton), let me make it clear that “hot fix” patches designed to post-eliminate bugs or flaws in already released products (i.e. bugs which shouldn’t have been there in first place), are hardly any flavour of a “free customer support” as you put it. Actually, I believe you should have been rather apologetic that such occur in the magnitude characteristic for Microsoft products compared with other products since you’re mentioning that too. Let me add to this that I use a number of products that have never needed any patches or maybe only 1-2 in the very beginning, and that several of these products are much more complex and advanced than the MS software in general.
    For the rest, I’d advise you to publish your tips to each fo the non-disclosed “hot fixes” instead of advising people there to get in touch with MS Support wasting both their and your time.
    Finally, I don’t see your rationale behind enforcing the overhead logistics for “hot fixes” (i.e. by deliberately redirecting “hot fix” customers to MS Support) where you first have to pay and then someone maybe will your money some time later on… Of course, no one will ever cover customer’s time wasted in the process. Perhaps you can explain the logic here?

  36. Wily(K) – okay, I apologise for the bugs in our products. I don’t think I suggested that hot fixed were a form of free support – i was merely pointing out that your suggestion that we engineer bugs in to build revenue stream is wrong.

    I honeslty don’t know the rationale so rather than guess I’ll ask more informed colleagues though.


  37. I have to agree with Tom here. He is trying to findout how long MSFT tech support would “normally” take to respond. Of course being a prominent blogger who MSFT are courting means he is on radar and therefore will never find out. By now Steve Clayton will have pinged the Director or Tech Support (if he hasn’t I’ll be amazed) and by tomorrow a priority call will be made to Tom to ensure that the problem is fixed.

    The bigger problem I agree once again with Tom, how can MSFT justify charging for OneCare and sell the OS? The problem is MSFT support don’t care given their huge profits and if Tom was not so well known he would have proved it … because the clock would have still been ticking.

  38. Sam – prepare to be amazed. I’ve already mentioned that I have chosen to stay out of the support element of this as I know Tom is keen to see how long it takes.

  39. “By now Steve Clayton will have pinged the Director or Tech Support (if he hasn’t I’ll be amazed) and by tomorrow a priority call will be made to Tom to ensure that the problem is fixed.”

    I am absolutely amazed. How the hell can we expect to gain respect within the blogshere from large corporations when we hold out one hand of support and then slap them with the other when they accept?!

    On one hand ‘we’ give presentations, give talks, chair conferences and provide advice with the goal of encouraging companies to take note of what bloggers say and to react accordingly. Then, when a large corporation responds in a positive way (as we advise!), thereby demonstrating their appreciation for ‘taking part in the conversation’, you go to town on them.

    Either you want to encourage large corporations to get involved in the conversation or you don’t.

    Waiting for a response from *1* individual who works for a company with more than 70,000 employees is *not* necessarily going to achieve a “normal” response! If I had been on Steve/Ben’s side whilst at AOL and was involved in this conversation, I think I would have given up a long time ago.

    We should never make assumptions about how/why people end up reading our blogs. For all you know, I could have emailed Steve Clayton about this thread – i.e. he wasn’t following the blog and therefore reacted in a way that we encourage when giving presentations.

  40. Waiting for a response from *1* individual who works for a company with more than 70,000 employees is *not* necessarily going to achieve a “normal” response!

    Er… when it’s that *1* persons job to get back to you, I would consider it normal to expect the call…

  41. @Sam – I posted this last Wednesday. At that point the call had been made by me to Microsoft almost 4 weeks earlier. It is now Monday morning and the 5 mins later call still hasn’t come through.

    Of course a sample size of 1 tells us lots and lots.

    Absolutely Conor. That’s why I posted this on the blog – to get a larger sample size. In the same way I posted about Hotmail and Western Digital – the posts themselves were just my opinion but the discussion generated by the post showed there were lots of other people with similar issues.

    @Paul – Way to “agree to disagree”
    Why do you keep bringing it back to one individual Paul? I have said numerous times in the comments that this post is aimed at Microsoft Support not any one individual. The title of the post contains the term Microsoft Support, the post is tagged Microsoft Support.

    I will say it again – this post is aimed at Microsoft Support not any one individual – unless there is only one person working in Microsoft Support(!). That would certainly explain the delay!

  42. “Er… when it’s that *1* persons job to get back to you, I would consider it normal to expect the call…”

    Can’t argue with that. But it’s not what I said 🙂 What I meant is that it’s unfair to measure a company’s performance on 1 person’s ability to follow a process and do their job properly. It would be different if you wanted to test the process and made say, 10 calls to work out an average.

  43. At least when I took the piss out of Hosting365 it was because we found *all* of their technical staff over a long period, to be a total disaster.

    I didn’t refuse help from it’s marketing director (Ed). I embraced it. However, ‘the company’ continued to be a disaster so I’ve decided to take my custom elsewhere.

    You’ve made your point and in the process, managed to get the attention of some very well connected Microsoftians. If you’re more interested in clock watching than helping a company to make change, then continue with the conversation. If however, you want to demonstrate your expertise in this field, then move on 🙂

  44. What I meant is that it’s unfair to measure a company’s performance on 1 person’s ability to follow a process and do their job properly

    Sorry Paul but that is just bull and you know it. The people who work in call centre’s have everything they do measured and analysed – the number of calls per day, call length, time to close calls, etc.
    This call has been open now for almost five weeks. It is not the guy I was dealing with who is to blame for that. Why aren’t the managers monitoring the length of time to close calls in MS Support?

  45. @Sam – I’ve not escalated this either…Although to be perfectly honest I’ve thought about this a couple of times over the last couple of days.
    The reason I haven’t done this is simple, Tom wan’t to test how long it takes “MS Support” to respond to his query. As I don’t work in what’s “officially labelled” support I’m happy to back off and not muddy the water. As per my post above – I don’t agree 100% with some of the views on what constitutes “MS the organisation” and who’s in fact resposnible for support but respect completely what Tom’s trying to prove here.

  46. @Tom – you’re talking bull. I’ve put in place process improvement initiatives for one of Ireland biggest call centres so I know what I’m talking about! You measure individual’s performance based on their call times etc. but you don’t just listen to 1 call! Just as you shouldn’t measure an entire company based on 1 person.

  47. @Paul – management is about putting processes in place to handle day-to-day stuff and then managing exceptions as they arise.

    Microsoft Support either:
    1. doesn’t have processes which highlight exceptions (not good) or
    2. don’t consider a call being open for 5 weeks as being exceptional (also not good)

  48. Tom, you’ll never know how Microsoft will handle this from a management point of view (i.e. process) because you’ve declined their help 🙂

  49. I haven’t declined Microsoft Support’s help Paul. It hasn’t been offered.

    Microsoft Support has a management structure one presumes. If not, it may explain why this call is outstanding so long!

  50. Jaysus Tom (sorry for the continue Tennis Damien), you’ve been offered help by someone in Microsoft. They’re not going to get in touch with the person who you dealt with. They’re likely to get in touch with the person(s) responsible for that person *and* the process. So, that’s likely to improve the overall process for other customers. Isn’t that what you want? Or are you now so far gone that there’s no turning back 🙂

  51. This discussion really isn’t going anywhere. Seems like an interesting divide in opinionns all the same though.

    I still think, Paul, that if this issue is left to resolve itself (rather than having someone interfere now to get it resolved) those offering help now will still be aware of the issue and can go back to Support to try and figure out what went wrong.

    Waiting to see how it pans out first, surely is not mutually exclusive with having someone with influence raise it as an issue later?

    I think most here agree that the issue is not the ticket that is open, it’s the issues with processing that ticket.

  52. So 65 comments in and we have a sample size of 2: One unhappy (Tom) and 1 reasonably happy (me).

    Given your readership Tom, the lack of other similar stories in the comments would indicate that the support problem is an unfortunate glitch and not exactly a Dell Hell.

  53. And we both agree on the product!

    As a beta-tester I got it for €19.95 for a 3-pc licence. That is ok value given its problems. Then I saw it for over €70 in Tesco the other day! I’d be steaming if I’d handed over that sort of money for something which just loves the term “100% CPU usage”.

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