Friday, February 19, 2016

Microsoft Customer Service = Unicorns



On 2/11/16, our Microsoft Surface 3 Wifi, would no longer boot. It also would not boot using a recovery USB drive. It was purchased new in November, 2015 and came with Windows 10.  A phone call to customer service resulted in what they call an Advanced Exchange where they send you a replacement unit and on receipt you return the defective unit. Pending completion of the exchange they place a hold on your credit card for the cost of the unit. If you don't return the defective unit within 14 days they charge your card.

What follows is a transcript of an online chat with Microsoft Customer service for Surface products on February 16. To be more specific their offshore service in the Philippines. Apparently you can't communicate with anyone in the U. S. in customer service. I confirmed that with a call to the Redmond, WA headquarters and was advised that there was no one I could speak with in the U.S. As I write this I still have no idea regards the status of the replacement Surface tablet.

I had made at least two calls prior to this and the voice conversation is just as difficult as was the written. I had another online chat yesterday which lasted two hours, and there has been no tracking number generated from the service center. They can't tell me when a replacement will ship. They can't tell me why it hasn't shipped. They can't cancel the order so the hold remains on my credit card only to be eliminated when they receive the non-working Surface after I receive the replacement. If you read the chat you will see they promised to get back to me which they have not done. It appears likely that Microsoft is out of stock although they haven’t told me that for certain. I have run across a post from another person with the same problem and he started on 2/3 and still doesn’t have a replacement.

I offer this as a warning to anyone thinking of purchasing a Surface. If I had had any inkling that this would be my experience I wouldn't have considered their products.

Please don’t comment about how great Apple is. I recognize they have a good reputation for customer service but knowing that does me no good and we have our reasons for using Windows PCs. Moreover, there are companies that sell Windows based computers that provide decent service. I had hoped that Microsoft would be one of them.

In my view, this is part of the ugly face of globalization. Wealthy American companies that outsource important aspects of their business resulting in a poor customer experience. It should be possible to get decent offshore customer service but perhaps not when you absolutely must save the most money possible. Unlike many cheap Windows PCs the Surface line carries Apple-like prices but provides third world service.


info: at 15:53:46
Thank you for choosing Microsoft Surface. An Answer Tech will be with you shortly.
info: at 15:55:46
All Answer Techs are currently assisting others. Thank you for your patience. An Answer Tech will
be with you shortly. You are currently '1' in the queue.
info: at 15:56:55
Privacy Statement
You are now chatting with 'Lhan'.
Lhan: at 15:57:16
Hi Jim! Thank you for Contacting Surface North America support. My name is Lhan. I would be
more than happy to assist you with your Surface concerns today.
Jim: at 15:58:37
This is in reference to service request number xxxxxxxxxxx. This was initiated on 2/11/16. So far I
have no email with tracking information. A little while ago I received an email from Microsoft
customer service advising they were considering this request closed. What is the problem?
Lhan: at 15:59:08
Thank you so much for letting me know of what's going on. I would be more than happy and willing
to answer all your inquiries for today regarding with the advance exchange replacement status.
Lhan: at 16:00:27
Can I please have your best callback number so that I can call you back in case the chat gets
Jim: at 16:00:40
Lhan: at 16:01:36
Thank you so much.
Lhan: at 16:02:40
Upon checking the service request number xxxxxxxxxx the status is Open.
Lhan: at 16:03:27
Let me check on everything so that I can provide you much more information.
Jim: at 16:03:39
OK. The email I received on 2/11/16 advised I would receive an email with tracking information in
24­-48 hours. We are well past that.
Lhan: at 16:05:23
The reason why you haven't receive the email is that means the device was not given to Fed ex yet.
Jim: at 16:05:49
I suspected that was the case. When will it?
Lhan: at 16:06:00
For the advance exchange the process will be 3 to 5 business days.
Lhan: at 16:06:34
Since it was process feb 12 that means you need to wait up until Feb 19
Jim: at 16:06:58
Is that 3-­5 days to be turned over to FedEx or 3-­5 days for me to receive the package?
Lhan: at 16:07:11
If you have not received the device up until feb 20 call us back so that we can already tag it as a delay
Lhan: at 16:07:28
It is 3 to 5 business day.
Lhan: at 16:07:44
Sat and Sun is not included even holidays.
Jim: at 16:07:49
Again, to be in FedEx hands or to be in my hands?
Lhan: at 16:08:39
The whole process the date that we process the advance exchange
Lhan: at 16:09:02
That was Feb 12
Jim: at 16:09:28
OK. so, the problem with waiting till the 20th is that is a Saturday. But more importantly based on
Microsofts email I should have the tracking number now.
Jim: at 16:09:54
Can this exchange be canceled and set something up to be handled at a Microsoft Store?
Lhan: at 16:10:33
To be honest that means the device was not yet release to our service center.
Jim: at 16:10:52
Can this exchanged be canceled and set something up to be handled at a Microsoft Store?
Lhan: at 16:11:41
Jim let me just confirm that if it is possible.
Lhan: at 16:12:25
There is a possibility that Fed Ex already have the device and they have not yet updated there system.
Jim: at 16:12:55
Does that mean I may not receive a tracking number?
Jim: at 16:14:40
I am confused. You said earlier. "To be honest that means the device was not yet release to our
service center." and now you say FedEx might already have it. How would you know?
Lhan: at 16:15:34
I'll be honest possible it depends when will they update there system in fed ex Normally once fed ex
get the device on our service center they need to wait within 24 to 48 hours for the tracking number.
Lhan: at 16:16:01
I'm sorry for the confusion.
Jim: at 16:16:21
Are you saying that you don't know whether the device is at your service center or in the hands of
Lhan: at 16:17:45
To make it simple if we will follow the process since you have not yet received the any tracking
number that means Fed Ex doesn't have the device.
Jim: at 16:18:01
Can this exchange be canceled and set something up to be handled at a Microsoft Store?
Lhan: at 16:19:44
I do apologize but we cannot cancel the advance exchange anymore.
Jim: at 16:20:14
Please provide me with contact phone and/or email for someone in the United States who can help
me with this issue.
Lhan: at 16:22:27
Sure no problem that will be our for our voice department. Regarding with the issue that you have
you need to wait up until Feb 20.
Jim: at 16:23:21
Sorry, I don't understand what you just said. Are you saying that I must wait until 2/20/16 to be given
the information I just asked for?
Jim: at 16:24:05
Are you refusing to provide the contact information?
Lhan: at 16:24:39
No Jim I'm already getting the number
Lhan: at 16:25:19
Just to make thing clear the process for advance exchange is you need to wait for 3 to 5 business
Jim: at 16:25:34
That has been made painfully clear many times.
Lhan: at 16:27:55
Jim: at 16:28:13
Who does that put me in contact with?
Lhan: at 16:29:00
Is it okay if I will call you?
Jim: at 16:29:15
When and about what?
Lhan: at 16:30:14
So that I can make things clear on your end so that you will not be confused.
Jim: at 16:31:21
To be honest I have several conversations with people on your end and at this point I want a written
record of our conversation.
Lhan: at 16:31:59
No problem.
Jim: at 16:32:16
I just tried the number you provided and reached someone in the Phillippines. I asked for a contact
with customer service in the United States who can help me with this issue. Are you going to provide
Lhan: at 16:32:24
Would you like me to send it to you thru email?
Jim: at 16:32:38
That would be fine. Please answer my question.
Lhan: at 16:33:58
Please check the email that I have send on top normally calls are being routed to different country.
Lhan: at 16:34:23
Do you have skype account?
Jim: at 16:35:47
The device that is being shipped, I assume, is somewhere here in the U.S. I want to speak with
someone who can provide me with accurate information about this exchange. I do not have a skype
account but still want contact information for someone who can resolve this issue in the U.S.
Lhan: at 16:37:30
I do understand Jim, Just setting your expectation they will provide you the same solution to wait
within 3 to 5 businessdays.
Jim: at 16:40:24
So far, just over 2 business days have elapsed since I spoke with customer service on 2/11/16. I was
supposed to receive an email with tracking in 24-­48 hours and have not. If I wait till 5 days that
would be 2/18/16. Are you suggesting that I wait till then just for a tracking number? Since no
tracking number means it hasn't even begun shipping and yet you won't let me cancel the order.
Lhan: at 16:45:22
I understand how feel that you have not receive any updated or tracking number. Let me rectify
everything for you I just confirm everything. If you have not receive the tracking number that means
Fed Ex have not received the device anymore.
Lhan: at 16:46:24
Sorry for the word anymore it is "yet"
Lhan: at 16:48:19
I'm really sorry Jim for the confusion I just really wanted to help you.
Jim: at 16:48:24
You're simply repeating what we have already been over again and again. I am again asking for
contact information for someone who runs the customer service department for Microsoft in the
United States can you provide or not and, if not, why?
TL Luis: at 16:49:01
Hi Jim, this is Luis, Lhan, superiors, let me check this order for you
TL Luis: at 16:49:14
I'm sorry for tall the confusion this may have caused you
TL Luis: at 16:49:20
I'm tracking this for you now
TL Luis: at 16:50:25
Just to veirfy, this is with regard to your Surface 3
Jim: at 16:50:32
TL Luis: at 16:50:32
Is that right?
TL Luis: at 16:52:51
Thanks Jim, It also shows here that the order was created since 12th of Feb given the turn around
time that we quote when the order was created it should be the 3rd working day today since we write
the job order, is this right?
Jim: at 16:56:19
That would be correct. However, this process was initiated the day before on 2/11. The email sent to
me advised that a tracking number would be emailed within 24­-48 hours and none has been received.
This wouldn't be such an issue but I explained on the 11th that I am traveling and was only to be at
the shipping address in California for approximately a week. Given what is happening now it doesn't
appear likely that I will receive it before we are to leave. If that is the case I have asked both on the
phone and here to cancel the exchange and set up an appointment at a Microsoft store nearby if it can
be done there.
TL Luis: at 17:02:20
I understand your point Jim, by the way, when are you gonna be leaving?
Jim: at 17:03:01
We were actually leaving tomorrow but I am trying to see if they will allow me to extend my stay.
TL Luis: at 17:04:36
Cool, I'm hoping that you can stay few more days, are you staying for business or pleasure?
Jim: at 17:04:45
Jim: at 17:05:07
Where does this leave us?
TL Luis: at 17:06:12
Right now I'm still checking for options Jim. I'm communicating with the offline team as we speak
TL Luis: at 17:06:33
If you don't mind me asking, where are you actually from?
Jim: at 17:06:50
My home address is in XXXXXXXXXX.
Jim: at 17:09:09
Where will the replacement Surface 3 ship from?
TL Luis: at 17:10:42
I'm still waiting feedback from our offline team. Right now we cannot visit a store while there's an
open order here on our system as we cannot control if it will be shipped out or not even if we cancel
the order. I know that you have other errands to run apart from chatting with us, would you like me to
just send you an email follow up with in the day once I receive the feedback from online team Jim?
Jim: at 17:11:46
Yes, but first let me ask this. What do I do if I am not able to extend my stay at the shipping location
I provided?
TL Luis: at 17:14:11
Good question Jim, there are two things that can happen if you can't extend your stay and the device
replacement still
TL Luis: at 17:15:40
I mean was still sent to your address the parcel must be declined so that the hold amount will be
released, 2nd option is what I'm working right now is to have the parcel be intercepted and the order
be cancelled by the offline team so that you can visit the store.
Jim: at 17:17:07
If that can't be accomplished and an appointment set up to happen tomorrow we may as well wait
leave it to ship.
TL Luis: at 17:17:12
On the occasion that your extension will be approved I believe you should be able to receive the
device bnefore you go back to FL.
TL Luis: at 17:17:54
Got it Jim, I'll will provide you feedback within the day regarding this
Jim: at 17:18:16
Once it ships how long should it take to reach me? Where will it ship from.
Jim: at 17:18:41
Is there any reason that it won't ship by tomorrow?
TL Luis: at 17:23:23
Once it ships you can allow atlest 24-­48 hours at the minimum for you to get the replacement. It will
be coming in from McAllen, TX. The only reason why a device wouldn't be shipped from the quoted
turn around time that we provided is because of the inventory in the warehouse which I'm also
communicating with center right now to get more details.
Jim: at 17:24:44
OK. The closest Microsoft Store to our current location is San Diego, California. If we end up with
that option how do I make an appointment?
TL Luis: at 17:26:30
Alright, if we end up with that option I will personally setup an appointment for you with them. Just
for refrerrence, you can also visit this link to call them :­
Jim: at 17:27:14
OK. So, do I wait on contact from you?
TL Luis: at 17:31:53
Yes, I will shoot you an email on that address linked to your Microsoft account
Jim: at 17:33:21
OK. If we are going with the MS Store option I will need to know that by 11:00 AM Pacific Standard
Time tomorrow Feb. 17th and will need an appointment with them for tomorrow as well.
TL Luis: at 17:34:36
Alright, I'll make sure to follow up with you as soon as I hear feedback from the oflline team.
TL Luis: at 17:35:40
It's been a pleasure working with you today Jim, I'll communicate with you offline. THank you for
contacting Surface Support. Have a great day!
Jim: at 17:35:46
OK. I realize that both you and Lhan have tried to help in this matter and I appreciate that.

Now relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the sun setting over Mission Bay….



  1. I am so confused I have no idea what you are or are not getting. I would be taking more than a big deep breath.

  2. I am disappointed that you chose to share the chat from "Lhan" when the one that followed with the customer service agent by the name of "Mellow" was so much more "cool." From the textbook titled, "You can't make this stuff up!"

  3. I'm disgusted with the Surface 3 I bought. The rear camera is fixed focus, the battery charger and the power cord have been recalled, and every "upgrade" of the firmware messes something up. Microsoft should not be in the computer business. The only thing they do well is the operating system. All their bloatware and lame apps are poorly executed and weak imitations of industry leaders. I'd sell this thing if I didn't feel guilty passing it on to some other unsuspecting soul.

  4. Send a letter / priority or express / to the CEO of Microsoft. Include these transcripts and a link to your blog. I did this when I had problems with Sprint and received a call, within days, from someone that specifically handles problems. Post this on Facebook and tag Microsoft. Why not demand a refund. I just returned a Kindle Fire, it never worked right, they told me I needed to power it off to reset it. Got tired of that. It was beyond the return date, I told them, do not send me a refurbished replacement, send a full refund - and they did.

  5. Exhausting, yet, like a train wreck I just couldn't turn away! We just finished getting a brand new Dell de-bugged through Microsoft support. They did all the work by shadowing the laptop, and then helping reload all the software - it took 19 hours total. Also exhausting, but at least it's done :-)

  6. I wish I could say how shocked I am. Microsoft's service has been crap for some time and so are their products including their software. I am not a Mac person and totally agree with you about Globalization and all those "alliances" and "agreements" being at the root of it all. It's nothing but pure greed. I still have a working well 8 year old Dell laptop which was "the business" model just so I could be permitted to pay extra for 24/7 on site support with a guaranteed American technician. Ridiculous that it should cost me more. Really hope this works out for you. Sadly Microsoft doesn't care whether you are satisfied or not. Keep us posted.