The Microsoft solution? Ignore the customer

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By Christopher Elliott

Like other tech companies, Microsoft loves providing “solutions” to its customers. The one it offered Andy Smith was a solution in name only.

If you’re a regular reader, you probably remember our chief copy editor’s last effort to fix a problem with the help of our advocacy team. Unfortunately, this one didn’t fare much better. But Smith has generously allowed us to publish the results as a public service.

The takeaway? Sometimes, large companies can ignore even a perfectly valid case brought by a consumer advocate. The only recourse is a thorough public flogging of said company. Stay tuned for that.

Smith vs. Microsoft

In January 2017, Smith purchased a one-year Microsoft Answer desk subscription.

“In April 2017, I mistakenly purchased another one, which I immediately canceled,” he says. “However, apparently Microsoft canceled both of the subscriptions.”

Smith escalated the case to a manager at Microsoft.

“After considerable back-and-forth with the rep to whom he referred me, I ended up with a new subscription starting January 2018. I had to purchase that one, and then the rep immediately refunded it,” he explains.

So what’s the problem?

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In March, Smith received an email from Microsoft warning him that his subscription would be expiring Feb. 12 of that year. (Related: Why is my Windows copy ‘not genuine’?)

“I tried contacting the rep with whom I had been dealing,” he says. “When that didn’t work, I tried a manager using the contact database, but he never responded.”

Smith then reached out to higher-level managers. They never responded, either.

“All I want is written confirmation that I have an Answer Desk subscription that is valid until Jan. 2, 2019,” he says.

Our advocates … to the rescue?

This simple misunderstanding should have been easy to correct. Our advocacy team contacted Microsoft, which promised to review Smith’s case. But it never responded, despite repeated prompts. Not only did it ignore Smith, but it ignored our advocates, too. That’s the Microsoft solution.

Come on. (Related: I’m no pirate, so why is Microsoft treating me like one?)

Let’s pause for a moment to consider the absurdity of this situation.

First, Microsoft charges you for support. That’s not uncommon in the technology world, but imagine if other companies embraced the “pay extra” philosophy? (Related: Hey Groupon, what happened to my laptop computer?)

Asking you to pay more for support is wrong. A highly profitable company like Microsoft should be able to offer support for its expensive products. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

Ignoring the customer isn’t a Microsoft solution — or any solution

I’m disappointed that Microsoft has decided to ignore a good customer who went to great lengths to address a simple misunderstanding. That’s no Microsoft solution — it’s just corporate arrogance. And I’m not just saying that because Smith is one of our advocates. Charge-and-ignore is out of line for any company, even an airline.

Oh, I know, we like to pick on airlines here. But today it’s Microsoft’s turn.

Too bad Microsoft wouldn’t give Smith and my team a simple answer. Let the public flogging begin!

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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