First, this post represents my personal and subjective opinion. It is by no means an official fact-based statement. Everything in this post should be taken as an opinion by a dissatisfied user and customer, nothing else.
OK, to the matter in question: Yesterday, I noticed a tweet by Barry Dorrans. What makes this tweet notable is that Mr. Dorran works for Microsoft, in a high enough position which has made him known enough to earn the coveted “blue dot of fame” in his Twitter profile. Here’s that tweet, and my response to it:
I am a huge @Microsoft, @Windows and @Office365 fanboy, administrating a few O365 tenants. However, I have totally given up with their support, it is below anything acceptable. I get more help by having a dram of good single malt, and browsing @TenForums. A shame, it is.
— Kari 🇫🇮 (@KariTheFinn) May 20, 2019
I have been disappointed in all official Microsoft support for a long time, be it phone or email support. This also applies to the official Microsoft Community (former Microsoft Answer) site. Let’s start with the Microsoft Community. It is mostly a joke, their system allowing so called voluntary moderators to mark their own replies as the best answer, and to close such threads. The problem is, most of these answers are copy & pasted from official Microsoft / Windows / Office documentation, and often do not provide a working solution to issues users have. Creative out-of-box thinking is missing.
The same seems to apply to Office 365 tenant support. As a global admin, when I create a service request, I will get an email response or a call-back. One of the issues I remember quite well was about OneDrive for Business extremely slow upload and download speeds I had on all my machines. The same issue recurred constantly, whichever connection I used. The issue was only on one tenant, testing other tenants everything was OK. At that point I had access to three different ISPs using three different lines, two ISPs using their own dedicated line and router plus a 4G fast mobile connection to third ISP over connection shared from my phone. In my service request, I clearly explained what I had tried. This included flushing and resetting network profiles, restarting routers and so on.
The first response was a call, from a very bad VoIP system I guess, judging by extremely bad call quality. I got instructions to reset the network settings and restart the router. When that call got disconnected, I received an email telling the same. I replied, explaining that as stated in my service request, I have already done those things multiple times. A day or two later, another email arrived, stating that they see no issues at their end and that I might want to call my ISP support because the issue most probably was ISP related. I guess the agent meant three different ISPs related. Case closed.
In the city where I live, I’ve assisted some users locally with their Windows issues. The latest case was a neighbour of mine, who wanted to move her Windows 10 Pro retail license to a new computer. As the release of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update came closer (released today, by the way!), she asked for my help in checking her 8+-years-old PC to see if it could be upgraded when the time came. It was apparent that an upgrade was not possible. Alas, her hardware was simply too old. I even tested it by first creating a Macrium system image, then upgrading from my MSDN ISO, and got “This computer cannot be upgraded to Windows 10“.
She decided to buy a new laptop, which came with Windows 10 Home version 1803. I had told her how to transfer her Pro retail licence to the new laptop, to change her edition to Pro. With a Microsoft account and digital licensing, that should have been a piece of cake. However, in her case, the licence transfer did not work, and she called me. Together, we called Microsoft support to try phone activation. We talked to an MS support agent, whose only advice was to try what we had done already. End the call, call again, hoping that we get another agent. The other agent simply told us that a Windows licence cannot be transferred to another computer, not having the faintest clue about digital licensing and rights to transfer retail licenses.
A friend back in my native Finland, a keen Windows Insider, emailed me about his problem, wherein the latest Insider Fast ring build suddenly lost its activation status. After trying everything I knew, I suggested he Skype me, put me on loudspeakers, and calls MS support putting also his mobile phone in hands-free mode so that I could participate in the call. We gave up after only a minute or so, when it was apparent that the support agent had no knowledge about what Insider versions of Windows 10 are, and refused to re-activate my friend’s device. “Only supported Windows versions released for general availability can be activated,” he asserted stoutly (and incorrectly).
I do not want to make this rant too long, so let’s finish with this: It is sad, that quite a lot of documentation online is for legacy Windows versions. When you are trying to find a Windows 10 specific solution to an issue, the only thing Bing brings up may be an old MS support article dated 2008 for Vista, instructing you to do something that is no longer possible. Do not take this wrong: I have great respect for Microsoft Docs, it is a huge effort to move old TechNet and other documentation. I do not envy the people who must do it, but why is the validity of those articles not checked when moving them?
I know that with products as big as Windows and Office, with the global reach both have, it is almost impossible to make all support 100% valid and working. I have no solution for that. In past few years, I have had contact with either Windows or Office support maybe 10 – 15 times. I’m very sorry to report that not a single one of these contacts has resulted in anything else than wasted time. It shouldn’t be like that. Microsoft: it’s really, really, really time for some changes!
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.