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Microsoft "Realigns" Customer Service

In a move the company says aims to improve how it responds to users' needs, Microsoft announced a recent restructuring of its Customer Service organization that merges it with the venerable Product Support Services unit.

The new combined unit will be named Customer Service and Support, or CSS.

"Overall, we're recognizing that customers need and are asking for a relationship with Microsoft beyond the traditional function that technical support provides...They not only expect our products to work well, but also expect to easily connect with us to receive information and get their questions answered when they need help," said Todd Parsons, general manager of Customer Service, in a statement.

This trend in customer demands reflects the ever more sophisticated and changing nature of the complex relationship between users and technology vendors.

Whereas in earlier times, as much as 90 percent of calls to Microsoft call centers were related to technical support issues or were seeking information about products, now half of all calls are service related and come from both Microsoft industry partners as well as customers.

That includes calls for sales information, product licensing questions and inquiries regarding Microsoft programs and service offerings. Other topics, such as event registration and partner lookups, are also on the upswing. "They want simpler options for contacting us, they want help 24x7, and they expect our agents to know the details of previous interactions," Parsons' statement said.

The recent restructuring encompassed changes aimed at aligning the company's customer services organizations in 43 companies all under the same aegis -- which includes a common technology underpinning as well. "We're currently deploying a single contact center tracking application across our contact centers worldwide that will enable us to do a better job of capturing the information we need when a customer calls in order to build a comprehensive profile for them in the system," Parson's continued.

Besides providing an agent with historical information on the customer's past calls, the common profile system will yield business intelligence to let Microsoft find patterns in why people are contacting them and what kinds of resources do or don't meet their needs -- in the name of providing better service overall.

On the partner front, Microsoft has instituted a single number for partners to call in each region for customer service, pre-sales information, licensing questions, technical support and other needs.

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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