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For Want of Good Customer Service

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I have had a lot of game consoles in my day. I remember the Atari system with its joystick with the red button in the corner. Sometimes if you were curious enough, you would take apart that controller and look at how the contacts worked and thought that it was the coolest thing ever. From that time, I have had Nintendos, the Dreamcast, an Xbox, an Xbox360, and both the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation 3. We have come a long way from the Atari, and technology has become more and more sophisticated, but what hasn’t needed a whole lot of change is good old customer service. The playing field has changed; where the “customer was always right”, and people stood behind their products has changed to maximizing profit margins and having an acceptable amount of failure in a product launch. I hope that in some way, this article will echo the frustration of other Xbox 360 owners who have also encountered the maze of phone prompts, the inept customer service person, the even more inept customer service supervisor and finally the guy who calls you after you send an email to the corporate officers at Microsoft. Here is my story:

Two years ago I was amazed by the Xbox 360. It was the first “next gen” console and I knew that I just would have to have one. It was hard to find, because it was the first year that it was released, but if you looked hard enough, and were willing to pay enough, you could get one. After almost $600, the box arrived on my doorstep. It took me all of about 3 seconds to get it out of the packaging and up on the entertainment system to fire it up. I had a great time with the console….for a while. Rumors began to swirl about how the new Xbox 360s had a tendency to overheat. Then there was talk about how people started getting flashing red lights around the power button. Microsoft had stated that this was an isolated issue, so I wasn’t concerned. Then the freezing began, shortly followed by the red…ring…of…death. I did some research on the Internet and found out that I was not alone in this situation, but I realized that Microsoft was aware of the issue and handling the situations pretty well. I have had a lot of experience with Microsoft products, so I figured everything was well. I called customer support about the situation and sure enough, they were going to fix it. I did have to pay for the shipping, but they would fix it and send it back within 14 days.

I received my “repaired” Xbox 360 console in the mail about 14 days give or take and was happy to see that everything appeared to work ok. I was excited that I would be able to play some of the new games that were coming out like Halo 3 and Bioshock. But as the year progressed, it seemed that the console was freezing again, and it would come up with ridiculous errors like, “Please enter this CD into an Xbox 360.” I thought I had an Xbox 360. I, of course, went to the internet to find some information, and sure enough, Microsoft had their help section which leaned more towards the error being a problem with the disc than the console. Besides, the problem wasn’t consistent. Little by little though, games wouldn’t load, or would begin to load and then come up with “cannot read” errors and DVDs would freeze. And then the unit would fail to read anything at all. It looked like another call to Microsoft customer support was in order. I called and spoke to the customer service rep who told me that unfortunately they would not be able to repair the console under their warranty, but would be happy to take care of the issue for a mere $100. I thought to myself that I must have heard the representative on the line incorrectly. They wanted to charge me $100 to fix a unit that they had fixed before, within a year of getting it back. The lady kindly stated that they were happy to fix the red light issue, but could only warranty their work for an additional 90 days. After some conversation, with that representative and a supervisor later, I got a clear message that Microsoft was not going to back up their system. After having the conversation with Microsoft, I did some research on the net about the “cannot read error.” In fact it seemed that this issue was just as prevalent as the red ring of death. But having had enough of Microsoft, I decided to give up the fight, and trade in the broken system at a severe discount for a PlayStation 3. One would think that this would be the end of the story, and it would have been until I received a phone call on June 3rd, 2008.

I received a message on my voice mail from Microsoft customer support on June 3rd, asking for an updated address so they could send me a repair box to get my Xbox 360 fixed. I could not help but laugh. Surely I had heard the message incorrectly, but in playing it back again, I had heard correctly. Eight months after my call to customer support, Microsoft was now contacting me to get the console fixed. Being a naturally curious person, I decided to call Microsoft back and inquire into the phone call. Again, I was routed through the maze of customer service options and began speaking with yet another customer service representative. I was getting quick at playing the game and after explaining the situation to her simply asked for the supervisor. I told her that I appreciated her help, but she wasn’t going to be able to handle my situation. Then I spoke to the supervisor. I explained to him everything that I had outlined so far in this article and after I was finished, he told me that he was very sorry about the situation and that IF I STILL HAD MY CONSOLE, HE WOULD BE HAPPY TO TAKE CARE OF ME. It occurred to me how convenient it was for him to say that to me. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have been so bothered by the phone call, if he hadn’t said that. He could have said, “I’m sorry, the person accidentally called you, it was another customer we meant to contact,” or something along that line. Instead, the supervisor made clear the fact that although it was impossible for them to repair the console for free eight months ago, they were more than willing to do it now…after he knows I don’t have the console any longer.

So I told him that I had a pretty clear understanding about how Microsoft does business, and decided to explain the situation to the executives of Microsoft. I found the email addresses of several MS execs on the internet, and decided to email them all. I explained all of the hurdles and hoops I had gone through so far. I told them how disappointed I was in their customer service. I told them that I wouldn’t have gotten rid of the 360 if I had just been taken care of initially. And I told them that I would write an article to all of the gamer sites if I didn’t receive an acceptable resolution to the issue. Sure enough, I received a phone call from another Microsoft customer service representative. He had researched all of my previous tickets and said that he was sorry that they could not help me. They would have been happy to repair the console if I still had it, but since I don’t, there was nothing that they could do. This was essentially what I expected from them, and my perception of their customer service standards did not change. The sad thing is: all of this could have been resolved by simply providing good customer service to begin with. Now, he and I did get in an argument about one thing which I am hoping will help a lot of people who read this. There is an act called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This is essentially a “lemon law” for consumer goods. I think that if you read the act, you will find that it holds the manufacturer of a product responsible for a new replacement or full refund if they are unable to repair the product after several attempts. After reading a lot of the posts on various forums, I think that it should be used and advertised.

Like I said, I am the happy owner of a Playstation 3. Would I turn down a Xbox 360 if Microsoft offered it. Are you kidding me? I would take it in a heartbeat, because I still like the games. My hope is that this covers the frustration many owners are feeling, and I have provided a resour
ce to help.

David Bolton
Ex-Xbox 360 Owner and Proud Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 Owner

Submitted On June 05, 2008Console SystemsI have had a lot of game consoles in my day. I remember the Atari system with its joystick with the red button in the corner. Sometimes if you were curious enough, you would take apart that controller and look at how the contacts worked and thought…Xbox,360,microsoft,console,gamer,playstation 3,customer service

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