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You Can't Get No Satisfaction: Readers on Microsoft's Low Rating

Last week, in a rather innocuous RCPU entry, we linked to a study put out by the school of business at the University of Michigan that suggests that Microsoft's rating for customer satisfaction is getting worse. We wanted to get your take on that and how it affects partners.

Let's just say that we touched a nerve. RCPU's inbox quickly filled with e-mails about dissatisfaction with Microsoft -- although not all of them were as angry as you might think. Here's the best of what we received, edited in some cases a bit for length. (And, lest you think we've lost our grammar skills, yes, the headline of this entry is an allusion to the classic Rolling Stones song. We hope you knew that already, though.)

Ken, whose thoughts fall more on the angry side, writes from Australia to say that if folks are dissatisfied with Microsoft, it might just be because Redmond has lost its focus on the "little guy" in terms of both partners and customers.

"I am a small business IT consultant in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. For 30 years now I have sold and serviced computers to the SOHO marketplace and have worked as a contractor for large businesses, as well. In that time, I have been happy and grateful to sell and service Microsoft products, but in recent years people like me have become less and less relevant to Microsoft and we are feeling the pinch.

"Clearly I cannot compete with IBM or the multinational IT big boys, and I am not even going to try. But Microsoft seems nowadays to ONLY care about them, and that ticks me off a lot -- as, although I am not a big player, I have been a regular unpaid representative of Microsoft/Intel products for 30-plus years and cannot even get the common courtesy of a return phone call or even e-mail replies nowadays. I provide feedback to Microsoft on beta products but my views as an end user and reseller are ALWAYS met with silence, giving me the perception I do not matter at all.

"Vista is a classic case in point -- it provides everything Microsoft wants but not much of what clients want. The PC has become more like a mainframe computer with all the inherent inflexibilities and associated costs; [Vista] suffers grossly from appallingly slow speed, software and driver incompatibilities and code bloat, and, in my opinion, it is a step backward from XP SP2.

"Office has features many of us will never use -- or ever understand why they are there to be used -- so it's a waste. Unfortunately, corporate greed means we may never get an operating system that is really tight, super-fast and reliable, as that might kill off the cash cow that is Microsoft.

"[We] little guys are now saying, tough luck, Microsoft. You won't support us; we are no longer supporting you. We are sticking with XP, refusing to sell or recommend Vista and no longer offering our time and interest for free. I think Microsoft underestimates and undervalues the impact we have on a lot of people, but eventually they will find out they are going to have to rethink the attitude and do a lot more to help us help them again."

Netfali chimes in, too, saying that Microsoft has become more about hype and product bloat than about quality:

"Rather than relying on the quality of their products and services to back up their sales, they have to create this excitement, which is by now starting to backfire. It is backfiring because customers are tired of it. It brings nothing but confusion and more spending because they know that by the turn of the corner there is a new product to replace what came out yesterday or to add to it. Rather than developing an overall strategy and spending enough time to develop a sound product, they act like high school kids with the eagerness to just be first and beat the competition. This, I think, adds to the perceived disconnection in their products. Not only does the customer have to buy item No. 1, but now they have to buy item 2 and 3 and, tomorrow, item No. 4, a new product altogether. [Microsoft] need[s] someone from a sound company to come in and teach them business basics."

Ian, employing something of a sarcastic (and entertaining) tone, noted that Redmond's technological goofs don't help, either:

"On a recent SBS 2003 R2 implementation (where I was upgrading from a mixture of legacy servers), WSUS caused the previously infrequently patched but running A-OK workstations to run like snails and be unusable for 20 minutes each morning.

"What a great idea -- an automatic security protection system that manifests itself in the worst denial of service the customer ever experienced! (After spending a great deal of time convincing them of the benefits, I must have forgotten to tell them about the added benefit of 100 percent CPU usage.)

"Great customer feel-good factor for a 20K upgrade. I am still struggling with a few workstations. Nice."

Not so nice, Ian. But Bob, on the somewhat softer, less angry side of things, says that the problem isn't so much with products as it is with activation, registration and a bunch of other stuff (although we sense that there are some problems with the products, as well):

"I believe Microsoft software is better than it has ever been. It is priced pretty decently and is a fair value for the money. Microsoft is less buggy than most business-class software. What the customers hate are all the processes that go with registration, activation, reactivation, multiple choices for the same product, reactivation, checking for authenticity over and over, failed reactivation, 30-minute waits on the phone to reactivate...you get the idea. The dissatisfaction isn't with the product; it's with everything that rides along with it. I understand Microsoft's need to protect its intellectual property, but it is costing multiple millions, if not billions, of dollars in lost productivity to businesses.

"Then there was Vista, the fastest-selling OS of all time [or so Redmond says --L.P.]. I don't know one person who likes it. The aggravation mentioned above is far worse; peripherals became obsolete, vendor drivers are buggy or nonexistent, the product is confusing and unfamiliar and the security is far too intrusive (see the associated Apple commercial). But, oh, how we love Office 2007. That's sweet! Everyone knows that someday they will find their way around the ribbon and be far more productive than ever before. No, I don't believe for one minute that the dissatisfaction with Microsoft is from the software. People think they are dissatisfied with the product when the product really isn't their issue."

For her part, Mary wants to help Redmond out of its customer-satisfaction jam by offering Microsoft a little gift:

"A book I brought back in 1998 called Great Customer Service was dusted off and put into position. I'm thinking my gift list is going to be long this year."

Apparently Redmond can use all the help it can get right now.

Many thanks to everybody who responded, and don't forget that you can continue this conversation here or by dropping me a line at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 05/22/2007 at 1:20 PM


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