Microsoft Holiday Support Center Helps Consumers Maximize Their Use of the Season’s Most Popular Gifts

REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 10, 2003 — ‘Tis the season for holiday traditions: trimming the tree, lighting the candles, hanging the mistletoe, baking cookies, or catching a performance of “The Nutcracker.” Not to mention, of course, decking the malls with receipts for just-the-right gifts for family and friends.

In keeping with the spirit of giving — and receiving — the perfect gift, Microsoft is upholding another holiday tradition, the Microsoft Holiday Support Center. Provided to customers for the fifth year, this online support resource — found at http://support.microsoft.com/holiday — offers consumers help at no charge if they have questions related to Microsoft consumer products and technologies. A convenient, one-stop portal, the site condenses the top questions likely to come up over the holidays for popular products and provides the resources needed to resolve them.

“We see more than 100-percent growth in support volume over the holiday season,” says Lori Moore, corporate vice president of Product Support Services at Microsoft, attributing the spike to the popularity of Microsoft consumer products as holiday gifts. “With the Holiday Support Center, we’ve brought together all of the great resources available to consumers in one easy–to–find place. We want to make sure customers have access to the right resources from Microsoft so we can get them up and enjoying their holiday gifts as quickly and easily as possible.”

In other words, if you unwrap an Xbox game system or the sci-fi game “Halo: Combat Evolved” and can’t wait to start playing with your new toy, nothing has to slow you down. Got a question about connecting the Xbox to your TV or VCR? You can click on the answer at this handy site. Need help installing a game controller? Step-by-step instructions are on tap. Want to get multiplayer gaming up and running so you and your friends can team up in battle on a mysterious alien ring-world? Start your engines here. And if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, the Holiday Support Center will serve up other resources available to provide the help that’s needed, such as a phone number to help you reach a support professional.

The site also has an area that consolidates downloads and updates to make Microsoft products work better, as well as links to additional resources and related sites.

All the Holiday How-To

To help consumers easily navigate to the information they seek, the Holiday Support Center’s home page is organized by product topics, including Xbox, games, hardware, Office 2003, home productivity software, Internet Explorer and Windows XP. For added convenience, content is highlighted for products released in time for the holidays. Direct links from the home page provide fast, intuitive access to a host of resources, including product highlights, how-to articles, step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting tips and frequently asked questions (FAQs) on specific products and technologies.

Consumers also have the option to search Microsoft’s Knowledge Base, a comprehensive database that contains more than 250,000 support articles and grows by approximately 10,000 new entries a year. Like the Knowledge Base, the Microsoft Holiday Support Center is updated regularly with added content, driven primarily by new products and customer demand.

“Site management is a daily process with our online support properties,” Moore explains. “We look at the search patterns of customers and take notice when they are searching on topics that we don’t yet have. . We also survey visitors and ask them if they found what they were looking for. If the answer is no, we work to fill those gaps. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive set of online support resources that take care of our customer’s needs.”

Let the Games Begin

As one might expect in the gift-giving season, the bulk of the inquiries at Microsoft’s Holiday Support Center site focus on installation issues. Topping the list of techno-toys that consumers itch to install are Xbox and games for Windows. When that’s the case, Moore says, the goal is to “get people set up, get them connected and get them gaming” as soon as possible.

“If people have a problem installing their product, the online resources can help them quickly troubleshoot that problem,” she says. “Or if they find that they need other kinds of software, like a version of DirectX that their operating system doesn’t have, we help them find that and get it installed quickly so the game will run properly.”

Microsoft maintains special FAQs at the Holiday Support Center for the latest and most popular consumer products. It is here where consumers can find clear, simple instructions for setting up an Xbox, including how to connect the console to their TV or VCR, how to install a game controller, how to set language, clock, sound, video and parental controls, and how to set up networking. Additional content delivers the inside scoop on the latest Xbox accessories and features, such as Music Mixer, which lets consumers record and play back karaoke performances, and XSN Sports, Microsoft’s virtual sports league.

Gamers stoked to find their stockings stuffed with Xbox Live, Microsoft’s subscription-based service for online gaming, can tap into resources available at the Holiday Support Center to help get online fast and start shaking their thumbsticks at any of half a million other Xbox Live subscribers worldwide. Imagine the thrill of competition in Xbox Live-enabled games such as “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3” “Project Gotham Racing 2,” “Counter-Strike,” “XIII,” “MechAssault” and “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.”

Sometimes games for Windows themselves provide reason to visit the Holiday Support Center, which has resources for an above-par game experience. For example, you can learn how to import aircraft (such as the Concorde) and aircraft gauges into “Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight,” how to save a personal-best game or capture a screen shot in “Age of Mythology,” or how to set up “Counter-Strike” for exciting team-based multiplayer action. You can also consult strategy guides that tell you how to play competitive games better from a strategic perspective. So the next time you fire up the award-winning sci-fi game “Halo: Combat Evolved,” for example, you’re more successful at uncovering Halo’s horrible secrets and destroying mankind’s sworn enemy, the Covenant.

Another helpful resource is the Windows XP Game Advisor ( http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/games/ ), a new Web-based tool that will help Windows XP users determine which games will run on their PC. In addition to allowing users to filter games by genre and age group, the Windows XP Game Advisor provides unbiased system checks that will aid shoppers in understanding which games will perform best on their computers — before they go to the store.

Online Support: Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Usage numbers indicate that Microsoft customers as a whole are getting more comfortable with the idea of help-yourself product support. Overall, support on www.microsoft.com is delivered in 35 languages to 76 regions worldwide, and averages 4.5 million page views per day and about a million unique users daily. The latter figure is double what it was only a year ago, and 10 times what it was four years ago.

“We’re seeing rapid growth and acceptance of the medium, which means people are increasingly willing to check out the resources available to solve problems on their own,” Moore says. “And, the amount of people who are successfully using the site continues to grow with the number of users.”

Moore points out that year over year, Microsoft has seen a substantial improvement in terms of customers who successfully find the answers they seek online. The company has also seen an improvement in terms of consumers who report that they are satisfied with their online product support experience.

Numbers like those suggest that the Holiday Support Center will see heavy traffic this season as gift-recipients get the goods they’ve been asking for. They also suggest a word of advice for gift-givers: If you’re buying a special someone an Xbox or a game this season, you can show you really care by tucking a message noting the Holiday Support Center URL in with the present.

Microsoft’s Holiday Support Center Web site will remain live and constantly refreshed through at least the end of January 2003. Microsoft also makes online product support available year-round at http://support.microsoft.com/ where consumers can search for information using the Knowledge Base or choose to go to a product support center to get the information they need. Phone support is also available. Check your product information or the support Web site for the appropriate phone numbers.

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Microsoft Holiday Support Center 2004 Fact Sheet

Provided to customers for the sixth year, the Microsoft Holiday Support Center is a convenient, one-stop portal filled with product resources, helpful tips and tricks, and answers to the most-asked questions about popular products offered this holiday season.