REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 9, 1999 — For many people, one of the most stressful situations is speaking in public. Another is contacting a computer company for product support.
Microsoft has been working hard to change that and, according to its peers in the industry, it has succeeded. The company has received the coveted STAR Award from the major industry group — the Software Support Professionals Association (SSPA) — for its electronic support services. It’s the second time Microsoft has been recognized by the group, which has already honored the company with a top award for the most outstanding overall software support and customer satisfaction.
The latest honors, announced this week at an industry conference in Monterey, Calif., singled out Microsoft for boosting customer satisfaction through a variety of self-help services, information and updates. It’s the first time the SSPA has recognized a technology company for electronic support services.
“With an extensive menu of online support services available, Microsoft users can choose from among a wide variety of resources including the Microsoft Knowledge Base, troubleshooting wizards and newsgroups to have their support problems resolved,” said Bill Rose, founder and executive director of the SSPA. “Microsoft delivers exceptional electronic support and is truly deserving of the 1999 STAR Award in the ‘Electronic Support’ category.”
Microsoft has made an unprecedented investment in its online support services during the past year, recognizing that many customers prefer to find answers on their own, while others want encyclopedic support resources available to them during all hours of the day and night. The result is a series of offerings customized for specific groups — including consumers, developers, information technology professionals and computer resellers and consultants — all available at http://www.microsoft.com/support . The resources have been so popular that Microsoft Online Support now attracts more than a quarter of a million people every day, said Denise Rundle, director of online support for Microsoft.
“Online support is great for customers who want fast, inexpensive support at any hour of the day or night,” Rundle said. “But if online support only offers support after a customer has a problem, it is only providing part of the solution. The other part — with potentially the biggest benefit to customers — is to help them address problems before they occur.”
That might seem to require magic — or at least ESP — but Microsoft this year added a new feature to its online services called “Microsoft Support WebCasts,” a unique, interactive resource for consumers. Hosted by Microsoft support professionals, WebCasts are live presentations about Microsoft products that any customer can see and hear over the Internet. The presentations are followed by question-and-answer sessions during which consumers can submit questions directly to Microsoft over the Web for immediate response. The WebCasts — including session transcripts and PowerPoint presentations — are quickly posted to the Web and are always available for customers to download and review.
“The key is to give customers great information so they can solve their own problems more quickly, and perhaps avoid problems altogether,” said Heidi Moeller, WebCast content program manager. “The topics are always current because they’re chosen by the support professionals themselves, based on the types of calls and e-mails they get from consumers.”
Presentations run anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour long, based on the issue being discussed, and are tailored to meet the needs of Microsoft’s different customer groups. Moeller has overseen more than 60 WebCasts for Microsoft since July, and is producing at least two new WebCasts for each customer group every month. The WebCasts, which rely on Microsoft streaming media technology, can be viewed with a standard Windows Media Player and Internet connection. Upcoming consumer WebCasts include the following:
Microsoft Money 2000: Setting Up and Troubleshooting Online Services; Thursday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. Pacific time
Microsoft Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings Product Overview; Tuesday, Dec.14, 10 a.m. Pacific time
Word 2000: Introduction to Word Usability; Tuesday, Jan. 4, 10 a.m. Pacific time
Connecting Your Windows CE Mobile Device to an Internet Service Provider; Tuesday, Jan. 11, 10 a.m. Pacific time
Microsoft Office 2000: Basic Setup Usage; Thursday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. Pacific time
Consumers can join these WebCasts live, or review the archives of past WebCasts by visiting the Microsoft WebCast site at http://support.microsoft.com/support/webcasts/personal_webcasts.asp.
“Product support incidents can be stressful for consumers,” said Moeller. “With the knowledge that consumers gain in a 15-minute WebCast, they can enhance their computing experience, minimize the need for support incidents and reap the benefits of their investment many times over.”