Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Me and Microsoft support

I’m considering upgrading to Microsoft’s new Office 365, but as the way it works is so different from its predecessors, I did some research and found an issue I needed clearing up before I could download the trial.  Slightly technical, but I would expect sales staff to know the answer, just as I would expect a car dealer to know whether a car used diesel, petrol or LPG, or an estate agent to know how the central heating in a house works. I would have asked it in the forum, but inexplicably Microsoft won’t allow you to post without registering the software first.

So I browse the Office 365 website and find the link for live chat.  Below is a paraphrased account of the exchange, with names changed to protect the guilty.




15 minutes later I’m pretty sure that the help desk is manned by a solitary chap in Pondicherry who’s popped out for a cup of tea.


Fred: Hi, I’m Fred.  Do you mind if I take a moment to review your problem?

Me: Please do!  There’s little I hate more than having to type in my question twice during live chats.  Knock yourself out.  I’ll carry on with my knitting.

Some minutes pass. Fred, it seems, is a slow reader.

Fred: I understand you’re having technical problems with your Office 365 web space setup.

Blimey, is it my English that’s dodgy, or is his?  My question is about Outlook.

Me: No, I don’t own the product yet.  I’m considering updating and need to understand if Outlook 2013 can be configured to collect mail in the same way that Outlook 2007 did, without going through Microsoft servers.

Fred sends a link to the German technical support page.

Me: This is a pre-sales question and I don’t need German technical support.  I don’t speak German.

Fred sends a link to the Office 365 web site.  The same site I researched thoroughly and which contains the link to the live chat I’m using now.  Patronising? Insulting my intelligence? Taking the piss?

Fred: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: Well, you could answer the question.


Me: Is there anybody else there who might be able to help? It’s not really a technical issue.


Me: Are you ill? If you can get to your keyboard, let me know where you are and I’ll try to get an ambulance to you.

Fred realises I’m not going to give up.

Fred: There’s nobody else here who can help you, and I can’t help you because you’re in Germany.

What? Microsoft provides a link for live chat on a globally accessible site, without any reference to restrictions, but they can’t help you if you’re in Germany?  I think this might be more a case of won’t because I have a feeling Fred can’t (won’t?) admit that he just doesn’t know the answer.

Fred: The German technical support team all speak fluent English.

Ah, now I know Fred isn’t in Pondicherry because he’s clearly not on this planet if he thinks German help desks all use fluent English speakers.  Anyway, the German technical support site is in German, so I’d have to find the right page and link before being able to contact them.

Fred: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: [censored]

In the spirit of research, I find the right page on the German site and send an e-mail.  They respond in fluent English with a toll-free telephone number.  Which doesn’t work.  A little more research tells me that that toll-free number is in the United States.  Would they answer my questions?  After all, I am in Germany.

On the German technical pages there’s information (in German!) about an English-language support number.  I call it, press 2 for English, get a whole raft of German information and requests for choices, and then a German operator.  To her credit she puts me through to a nice Irish lady who can’t answer my question but does give me toll free numbers for Denmark, the UK and Ireland in the hope of finding somebody who speaks English and knows how Outlook 2013 works.

The result is that I’m none the wiser and Microsoft are not likely to get my custom at the moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I rarely have reason to need Microsoft technical support because their products mostly just work, and when I have needed it, most of the time it’s been fine.  But in a global world, without borders (especially online), you can’t corral your customers into pens labeled “Germany” or anywhere else, and refuse service or restrict services in one language to users in one region.

Maybe I’ll give Denmark a call. You never know …

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Global Gateways

After spending a lot of time and effort creating multilingual websites with local pages, most companies then treat the gateway to their sites as an afterthought. Global gateways need to be created with care and common sense.  Read more in my blog post here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Time to Open Up and Tell All!

It's time for posts to open up and tell people outside their countries how to use their systems.  My new blog post here

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I've been a little remiss in updating this blog as most of my posts are currently going onto other sites.  Here's what you may have missed in the past few months:

Validate ... Intelligently looks at how address validation needs to be applied sensibly and not just installed and then forgotten about.

In Size does Matter I investigate how long an address (and the elements within it) can be - and you may be surprised by the answer.

A couple of posts look at the differences between cultures and address systems on either side of a border.  First there's Borderlands, looking at the differences on either side of the Dutch/German border. Then there's Borderlands - the address conundrum, looking at how German addresses are structured.

Humbug? looks at the dangers of making assumption about the holidays and calendars used by people around the world.