Commentary First World Problems Tech

Microsoft keeps trying to help me

This is the state of my Lync problem as of today.

Yes, I changed the background. The rest looks the same. Bounce, bounce, login, crash.

I never stopped to think about this before, but if you’re Microsoft, people obviously blame you for everything wrong with their computer. Dodgy hardware crashes Windows? Microsoft sucks! A pirated copy of Windows ME got pwn3d by a script kiddie? Microsoft sucks! Office doesn’t have fancy typography? Microsoft sucks!

It’s no surprise, then, that Microsoft has somewhat insulated itself from its users. Microsoft online support doesn’t have any categories for “my program crashes”; all of the categories are of the sort “I can’t accomplish this task.” In other words, you can find things like “I can’t login to the Exchange server”, or “I can’t place a video call”.

There’s no category for “I can’t even run the program,” because that’s not really supposed to happen. Big software companies devote tons of resources to ensure that their programs are written correctly and tested under most sane (and many, many insane) scenarios. The program crashing on launch is ludicrous, and frankly, almost unbelievable.

Except, obviously, that it is the exact problem I’m having.

When my previous post got retweeted by one of the good people at Ars Technica, it’s no surprise that two Microsoft employees contacted me directly and wanted to help. Let’s call them E and M. One of them went so far as to send me a voucher that would let me use Microsoft’s Pro technical support to get actual professional help with my issue.

So I called the number on the voucher. “Hi, this is Microsoft tech support! Oh? Voucher? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Anyway, I don’t support that product. Let me forward you…”

Long story short, after four calls and communicating with *at least* six different Microsoft Tech Support departments, the following truths were self-evident:

1. Lync for Mac is an obscure product.

2. Lync for Mac is, and is not, part of Office for Mac.

3. You can not get support for Lync for Mac if your workplace licensed it for you. Someone else has to get the support for you.

4. Microsoft support people will tell you they are transferring you and then hang up on you. This happened at least three times.

5. No one at Microsoft knows about the free tech support vouchers.

This wasn’t just me – when M from Microsoft tried to call and pretended to be a customer, they hung up on him, too.

In the end, I wasted about three hours chasing down different support leads. No one was able to provide me with support, because I didn’t have my employer’s Partner ID, and I wasn’t using an Office 365 version of Lync. I actually have an Office 365 license, which I pay for out of my own pocket, for devices at home, but that’s another story. Reflecting back on it, I should’ve just lied.

In the end, an email to E, who contacted me thanks to @Lee_Ars’ original retweet, got traction. He sent the video linked above to someone internally, and that someone sent me a patch-in-testing that fixed the problem.

I can Lync again, for which I’m very grateful. We use it quite extensively with my team at work. It works great. We even bought one of Polycom’s 360 video conferencing systems for Lync (Microsoft used to sell them directly), and it’s fantastic. It can track a speaker all around the room and keep them in focus with good audio. Great stuff.

It took me three days to track down the problem, tweeting, writing a funny and reasonably articulate piece, being able to capture program logs, knowing some of the best tech writers on the planet, getting my frustration amplified, the personal dedication of the wonderful people on Microsoft’s Mac team, and some luck.

Sorry, Microsoft, but as good as some of your products are, that’s just horrible customer service. Your employees are fiercely proud of their company and willing to reach out to an end user to fix a problem. They deserve better from your support organization.