Microsoft Introduces “Ask Maxwell” to Personal Online Support

REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 16, 1999 — Sometimes the hardest part about searching for information online is determining what symbols and key words will return the most accurate results. Use the wrong combination, and you could easily end up with a long list of answers far different from what you were seeking.

To help consumers more easily find answers using its Personal Online Support site, Microsoft has implemented
“Ask Maxwell,”
a new online question-and-answer service. Ask Maxwell is designed to help consumers take the guesswork out of finding the most appropriate Microsoft technical support answer.

Ask Maxwell, which utilizes Ask Jeeves’ Corporate Question Answering Service, allows consumers to ask questions as if they were speaking to a real person. No technology lingo or strategic keywords are needed. Instead, customers simply ask a question typed in plain English, such as
“How do I install programs using Windows 98?”

Once a customer submits a question, Ask Maxwell compares the question to an existing knowledge base of questions and answers, then returns a list of questions that most closely resembles the inquiry. The consumer simply clicks on the best match and Ask Maxwell guides them to the appropriate answer. This service helps customers navigate quickly and easily through the Microsoft knowledge base of more than 200,000 articles, said Denise Rundle, director of Microsoft Online Support.

“Our goal is to help consumers achieve the greatest success with Microsoft products,”
Rundle said.
“With Ask Maxwell, customers can ask questions as if they are speaking to a human being, a service especially helpful to novice users. This service puts consumers just two clicks away from the right information.”

Ask Maxwell currently provides answers to questions about the Windows 98 operating system and the majority of Microsoft’s consumer products, including games, hardware, reference tools and children’s products. Additional products — including the Outlook messaging and collaboration client, Outlook Express, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer browser software and the FrontPage Web site creation and management tool — will be added to Ask Maxwell during the next few months.

“Customer satisfaction is our No. 1 priority,”
Rundle said.
“Listening and acting on customer feedback is an important part of what makes our online support services successful.”

Customer feedback led Microsoft to first implement Ask Maxwell as a pilot program in May 1999. The Automated Personal Support Assistant provided customers with an easy way to find product support information exclusively for the Microsoft Windows 98 operating system, Rundle said. The success of the pilot, along with overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers, led to the decision to expand the service, she said.

In addition to its question answering function, Ask Maxwell analyzes frequently asked questions and delivers that data to Microsoft through a regular reporting function. This feature will allow Microsoft to better understand and serve its online customers while improving the site in direct response to users’ needs, Rundle said.

Microsoft Product Support Services will continue to look for ways to simplify the online support experience for customers, Rundle said. In the meantime, Ask Maxwell is now available to assist consumers in their quest for the perfect technical support answer — no .gifs, LANs or BUS about it.

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