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snopes 16 January 2008 09:14 AM

Microsoft takes 10 years to return support call
We've all sat by the phone waiting for technical support desks to return our call, but a US blogger claims it took Microsoft a staggering 10 years to follow up on a call he made in 1998.

snopes 17 January 2008 06:44 AM

10-year, tech-support 'hold' amuses the blogosphere
Did Microsoft Corp.'s technical support call back a customer -- 10 years later? Or is it a simple hoax injected with a sense of blog-based vérité?

hevach 17 January 2008 04:10 PM

Slashdot has a few good posts from people who are in Microsoft's tech support. Bic's blog did, too, but he deleted several. They all have basically the same story:

Microsoft tech support can leave a ticket open for callback, but they can't set a time or date for callback. All open tickets are reviewed each day - if a ticket has been open for a week, supervisors usually get involved and it's either closed, called back, or elevated to a higher level of support post haste. Since the oldest tickets sort to the top, this ticket would have been seen by hundreds of people every day for a decade.

Other considerations: Microsoft doesn't call back at 11 PM. All circa 1998 Microsoft software is no longer supported - even if the ticket was still open after 10 years, no callback would have been placed. It would have been closed and ignored, even if it weren't 10 years old. They don't use an autodialer, so somebody would have had to read the ticket and manually dial.

His "proof" is that he never paid for Microsoft's non-free tech support (which proves nothing, you pay even if the problem isn't resolved - indeed no bill corresponding to the original call would suggest it never happened) and that a bill from CDNow is missing from his records. What that has to do with anything, I don't know. All it proves is that he lost a 10 year old credit card statement.

Important points: He never talked to the people on the phone. On questioning, several bloggers have noted he can't produce the phone number. In light of independent stories from Microsoft tech support people (both in the 90's and currently), the way their system is set up, this simply couldn't happen. If they haven't called back within a week, somebody's probably already closed the ticket to cover their ass.

Disclaimer: I don't work for Microsoft tech support, but there's enough nigh-identical explanations of its workings around this story that I'm strongly inclined to believe them.

The guy's just trying to drum up pageviews on his new blog. Every so often, a blogger gets a bright idea like claiming Apple is suing him to get himself on Fark or Digg or Slashdot to try to drum up traffic. Most of them prove to be hoaxes, but by then the ruse has worked.

BluesScale 19 January 2008 11:54 AM

I do work for Microsoft and 10 years ago, I was an escalation engineer in tech support. I still handle escalations for technical support though I am no longer on the phones and tech support is more or less a background task these days. I spent the last two months preparing and delivering lectures. However, I know the tools and processes like the back of my hand.

A new call comes in and an SR (Service request) is created. It has a severity (A-D) and a priority (1-4) which doesn't mean much. It is dispatched to a queue - 10 years back, the customer would normally get their phone call transferred directly to a technician after they had been through call screening who would determine what technical area the call was in and route it to the right team - there are dozens of teams although not every country has every team. For, Developer support (for example) would have had teams for different programming languages and technologies and often a premier and non-premier team - Premier being contract support for large corporates. Even then, some of the calls would be handled by an outsource partner including most OS support. Now almost all of the operation is handled in Bangalore or China and we call you back rather than transferring you to a live technician most of the time.

Back in '98, there were two different applications for tracking calls, each with its own database - CITS and Manager. Both tools are long since retired and it replacement gets phased out soon. The databases that would have held the call are long gone and so is the team. The databases have been sanitised and migrated many times since '98. There are no products in support that were available in '98 although there have been a few cases where a customer had a critical problem with some legacy product and we have attempted to find some old timer who could remember the product in the hope of helping them out until they could migrate to something less obsolete.

I really don't see any way that it could have happened.

Oh, and we would sometimes contact customer at 11 at night if they said it was OK to do so. We are a 24 x 7 operation, 365 days a year in over 40 languages. For severity A cases, we work them continuously. I once pulled a 36 hour shift that way.


Henry F. Potter 23 January 2008 09:20 PM

I wonder what would happen if someone called up needing help with Microsoft Bob.

BluesScale 24 January 2008 12:51 AM

In practice, there would probably be some headscratching while they tried to find the product on the call coding system. It is not on any of the lists. Eventually, you would be referred to the support lifecycle webpage and told that it was unsupported.

I imagine that is duller than you expected :)


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