Here's the third installment of our "guest" posts from the Product Quality & Online blog. Learn how they're helping to evolve our customer service! Like last Thursday's post, this also is written by the PQO General Manager. Once again - here are the open roles in PQO right now:

  1. Operations Engineer (job code 258633)
  2. Operations Engineer (job code 255508)
  3. Program Manager (job code 257467)
  4. Project Manager (job code 257468)

And today I'm excited to announce that you can reach us more efficiently and easily with the following email address:

Let us know when you're interested in a role we talk about and we'll make sure it gets into the right hands. Have questions about other opportunities? Let us know! Have feedback about what we post? Let us know!


Lessening customer dissatisfaction vs. increasing customer satisfaction


Nestor Portillo, from the MVP team, and I were talking today about the important difference between lessening dissatisfaction and increasing satisfaction, and how both apply to the PQO strategy.  The difference, IMHO, is reactive vs. proactive. 


When you get in a car and turn it on you expect it to start.  If it doesn’t start you have a problem and you are dissatisfied.  The fact that the car maker or dealer that sold you the car provides you with fast, free roadside assistance (with a quick phone call someone shows up and fixes your car) may lessen the amount of dissatisfaction, but the mere fact that the car did not start when you expected it to led you to a state of dissatisfaction regardless of the great service you got resolving the issue.  However, imagine that you get in your car and start the car and a message is provided to you that tells you that 10 days from now your car is not going to start and that the car has already contacted the local repair shop to notify them of the problem and that as long as you get your car to the repair shop within the next 10 days all will be well.  You would rightfully be impressed and your level of satisfaction with your car would likely climb.  Now, imagine the situation where you have had a car for 10 years and every single time you tried to start the car it started and everything always worked.  That would certainly cause me to brag about what a great car I had to every person I know and the next time I want a new car, I would go buy another one of those because the one that I had was great!


Apply that to software and software services and you will understand what we are trying to accomplish.  We want to gain the loyalty that comes from consistently meeting or exceeding expectations (it runs 100% of the time) AND we want to provide the proactive health services to avoid failures (advanced notice of failures to allow time to take action and avoid) AND we want to provide the best break/fix support, “roadside assistance”, possible.



Search and Online Submission vs. Customer Support Workflow


Today, we have created an environment for our customers where when they have issues with our products and services they “search” for help by browsing for information, or using a search engine to try to find information, or contacting someone who may know what to do.  If unwilling to try or unsuccessful with this “search”  we provide the ability to “submit a case” to us online and have us call them back or to call us directly.  We can, and should, continue to make this experience better by doing a great job at search engine optimization and a great user experience on both the site and with online submission.  We will also continue to make the discoverable assets better so that as customers find those assets they have a much higher satisfaction with them.


All the above improvements are important, however, that’s not the ultimate experience that we are after.  We have to have a cohesive, connected, engaging experience that quickly gets a customer from an issue, which could be a problem or a need for information, to a successful resolution while serving up and leveraging all solution assets that are relevant for that customer. 


When preparing for my last all hands call with my team I was building my Powerpoint deck.  A core element to my PPT was highlighting successes within the team, so I wanted to play some “celebration” music across all of my recognition slides.  I assumed that you could do this in Powerpoint, but I did not know how to do it.  Given that it was the night before the call, this was a priority 1 issue for me, I needed help now.  I started with the product help and entered my “search query”.  That brought me to a list of potential relevant topics.  I found the relevant topic in the help file on the 2nd try, however, the help file didn’t help me.  It told me to choose a menu item that I could not find, so I went back to the help topics and tried a few others, but couldn’t find anything else.  I then tried an internet search and tried a few hits but ended up back at the same help topic, which was not helpful.  After about 90 minutes of trying everything that I could think of, I called my oldest daughter at college.  She is a whiz at anything graphics related and she told me how to do it immediately.


Now, imagine the above scenario with a few changes…

I open the PPT and add the audio file to the first slide that I want the music playing on.  I open the audio properties and look at a number of the various options without choosing any.  At this point,  the help system recognizes that I have been messing around with the audio properties and provides a link to go directly to the help with audio in PPTs.  When I click the link, it opens directly to the audio section of help, any ask I input is now already “targeted” within the “audio in a PPT” section.  I find the topic, but can’t find the suggested menu item.  I can now ask for “more help” and the information that the help system has already gathered is used to formulate a Live Search for me which provides some additional information.  This still doesn’t help me and I am now presented with a list of “experts” who are currently online and available to answer my question.  That list of experts are “badged” with credentials provided by Microsoft, e.g., MVP, or by other people who have rated the persons helpfulness.  I choose someone and the information from the help system and the query can be provided to the “expert” as context.  The online expert IMs me with the way to surface the missing menu and life is good, I now have music across multiple Powerpoint slides and my daughter’s homework time has not been interrupted by a call from Mom.


If that same problem were a failure of the s/w then diagnostics come into play to determine the cause of the failure so that remedies can be identified and steps can be taken either via automation or manual action.  Regardless of how the customer enters the workflow and where the leave the workflow with a success, it’s important that there is a continuous flow of steps that make sense, build on one another, engage the user, and lead them to the assets that can most likely address the need as quickly as possible.  If at the end of the workflow the customer wishes to connect with Microsoft technical support, then, we need to package up all of the intelligence that has been gathered throughout the workflow and provide it to the support engineer prior to them engaging with the customer, so that our support engineers provide the best and fastest “roadside assistance” possible.

When we successfully implement our end-to-end customer support workflow and we are fully embedded with the product and service experiences, we can begin to eliminate search from the workflow, at least from the start of the workflow.  This is a good thing for our customers because it means we have context of where they came from to inform the choices of items served up through the workflow.  It’s also a good thing for Microsoft because today a high percentage of our traffic comes from Google search and reducing the usage of Google search should be everyone at Microsoft’s goal because usage is what drives value for search companies.