- Overwhelmed support call centres that leave frustrated users on hold. Service packs that come with their own contingent of bugs, forcing users to find antidotes for the cure they have been given.
That's what users say about Microsoft's customer service efforts, which - while improving - are still not where they would like or need them to be.
So users said it was welcome news recently when Microsoft said it was building up its service for the corporate enterprise customer. That effort will include pumping in an additional $US200 million for technical support, creating a new business division by merging the enterprise and service units and adding more support personnel before the release of Windows NT 5.0.
Randall Kennedy, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group, said that with NT 5.0 reportedly having more than 40 million lines of code, there are bound to be bugs. Microsoft needs to be prepared to handle them.
"They need to put into place a very aggressive program," he said. "Users are more concerned that Microsoft be there to fix those breaks than to expect them to not have bugs at all."
Kevin Johnson, vice president of product support services at Microsoft, said beefing up support personnel and services before the release of NT 5.0 is one of his major objectives.
But Kennedy said users have been burned over the years and will only believe such promises when they see them.
"Leaving customers to address these problems on their own, Microsoft has dug its own grave with some of these accounts," he said. "Their service pack program has a bad reputation as being a form of bad support. They've left customers feeling like they can't trust the next code build from Microsoft."
This new customer support push isn't just about NT, but NT is in the spotlight when it comes to Microsoft's plans to extend its desktop hegemony back through the server to the database.
And Microsoft executives said improving support and keeping users happy with their software is a big step in building up that enterprise reign. They are hoping that taking care of bugs on-site, having enough operators taking support calls and fostering field-test teams in major companies will get them more company-wide work.
"Although the philosophy is maturing, Microsoft needs to act by plowing back more of its resources into delivering on that promise at the field level," said Nada Harris, deputy assistant secretary for the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Harris, like many other enterprise-level customers, said she plans to eventually migrate to Windows NT 5.0 when it is shipped, probably sometime next year. But she hopes that Microsoft has brought in customer service reinforcements by then to deal with what many expect to be a deluge of assistance requests.