Microsoft Beefs Up Online Support

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-10-18 Print this article Print

Company redesigns worldwide customer support site, adding new usability features and improved ways to find technical information.

Microsoft Corp. on Monday revealed a revamp of its online global support site. Executives said the changes were driven by direct customer feed-back about what was needed from the site and the company. The updated site provides more support options for customers, including a new solution center, which brings together in one place information and support options by product. The solution center also includes a new feature that allows customers to browse through content on Microsofts highest-volume products. Kurt Samuelson, Microsofts general manager for global service automation, said customer feedback was at the core of the support site redesign based on a customer research project the Redmond, Wash. company had undertaken around the globe.
"As a result of that customer research, this release represents several hundred hours of user interviews to understand what problem-solving resources they use when encountering issues with their technology, and usability studies to design effective and more-intuitive navigation for them," he told week in an interview.
Microsoft also improved the product-specific search option on the site to help users narrow their searches and track down the information they need more accurately. In addition, new personalization options include customizable views, he said. Hoping to counter recent Linux gains, Redmonds internal initiative known as "Mission Critical Microsoft" is expected to result in a new tech support and deployment program within the next year.Click here to read more. Other improvements include simplified, more user-friendly incident submission and improved data collection; and new tools to ease printing and document sharing. Samuelson said that 20 percent of its current worldwide customer support interactions are solved on the Web, and he hopes the site improvements will result in an even greater number handled over the coming year. Asked if the online site was designed to help solve the simpler customer problems rather than technical ones, Samuelson said the goal was "to provide users the best resources possible to accomplish their task". At the spring TechEd conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pointed proudly at Watson, the companys new automatic error reporting system. Read more here about his comments. "If we can assist them in resolving a problem with their technology via online self-help then that is a win for both the user and for Microsoft. However if they require further assistance from Microsoft for a more deep and technical issue, we have worked on more intuitive navigation and search capabilities that allow them to escalate to assisted services such as chat, e-mail or phone-based support," he said. Meanwhile, the updated global support site now automatically renders in the customers log-on language, allowing more customers the opportunity to use the resource. Providing a consistent experience to its customer base, which spans more than 70 countries and 33 different languages, has proven to be an ongoing challenge for Microsoft, Samuelson said. Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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