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Microsoft Beefs Up Vista Support

As businesses start to kick the tires on Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, and consumers get ready to gear up for Vista in particular, Microsoft understandably is preparing for the inevitable onslaught of support calls.

The company recently provided a summary of what it has been doing to prepare for that mayhem. Over the past year, Microsoft’s Customer Service and Support organization has revamped its infrastructure and processes, tailored support information to better meet customers’ needs, improved its online support options and expanded its global availability, according to statements posted online.

Even before Vista came along, CSS was already providing support of one sort or another to more than half a billion customers around the world each year, the company said.

During the Vista beta program itself, CSS provided support to more than 20,000 customers and analyzed and submitted thousands of customer suggestions to product development teams. That effort helped the company’s support engineers, as well as the product developers, prepare for the real thing.

When customers contact Microsoft with Vista questions and problems, information will be available online through a new Windows Vista Product Support Center on support.microsoft.com. Additionally, other solutions will be available through the customer service interactive voice response system.

Meanwhile, when users access Vista Help and Support from the Start menu on their computers, they will be presented with help topics, tips and tricks and most frequently asked questions, according to Kathleen Hogan, corporate vice president of worldwide customer service, support and customer and partner experience.

Microsoft has also improved on capabilities it already had in place. For instance, to help with assisted support scenarios, the company created Easy Assist, a product based on Microsoft Office Live Meeting that lets a support engineer remotely connect to the customer’s machine, diagnose the problem and help the customer correct it. Though such capabilities were available in the past, they often ran into trouble getting through corporate firewalls. Easy Assist, the company says, solves that issue.

In addition, the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool provides a new tool in Vista to enable customers to run local diagnostics specified by a CSS engineer and to upload results online to CSS for fast analysis. "CSS engineers remotely send the customer a manifest, which, when activated by the customer, automatically downloads problem-specific utilities that will gather a specific set of information about a customer’s PC to help diagnose and ultimately solve the problem," Hogan said. Again, while this capability existed previously, improvements make the process more transparent for the users.

Since many Exchange problems in the past turned out to be related to configuration issues, CSS and the Exchange product team developed the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer tool. Based on further implementation analysis, the Exchange Risk Assessment Program was created.

Finally, in preparing for Vista’s roll out, thousands of support engineers attended training sessions that ranged from a week to up to a month. Advanced training will start after release.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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