Microsoft Beefs Up Online Support

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.

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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".

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"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.

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