I had felt that Microsoft's dominance in the game console market would be their rock in these stormy times. I was sure the XBox 360 and associated services were the software giant's shining light, applying the best practices in automation and customer service. I could not be more wrong.
My trouble started when my son wanted to renew his Xbox Live subscription for his birthday. We found a good deal and bought a pre-paid one year XBox Live subscription card. When he went to enter the code we got a "can't retrieve information from xbox live. please try again later. Status code: 80169D3A" error. We tried entering the code from the XBox, we tried entering the code from the xbox.com web site. We tried google and even a little voodoo.
The Xbox.com website was a mess. Broken links and indecipherable error messages such as "Oops, you have found a glitch in the system" and "information not available" were the most helpful things we could read on the web site. After a lot of this insanity, I found a phone number indicating I can cancel my service by calling it. Hoping for the best, I called the number.
I was told via auto-menu hell that there were a lot of phone calls ahead of me and that the web site was more helpful than calling the phone number. Thinking it was impossible to have my time more wasted by sitting on the phone than reading broken link error messages, I remained on hold. I was informed I would need the "gamertag", phone number, email address, home address and credit card information used to activate the account a year ago "so they could help me".
While I tried in vain to find the information I was sure they would need a human answered my call. While I tried to explain my situation the nice Canadian gentleman interrupted my statements with "yes", "go ahead", "uh-huh", "ok" and so fourth. At one point his responses were so close together that I stopped talking to see if he would notice. As my frustration peaked to the point where I tried to "sith choke" him through the phone, he directed me to the web site to give him the information he required to verify me on the phone. I told him I didn't know any of the crap he wanted to know and tried to give him my email address and my son's email address to see if he could look us up. After wrangling with the phonetic alphabet and his ability to interrupt you with affirmative statements, he managed to misspell "Gmail.com" a few times and finally look our account up.
Come to find out, we could not use the prepaid card to renew the subscription because our account had unpaid charges for the auto-renewal of the subscription which was charged to an expired credit card. Praise the living God I didn't get a bill for $60 on my card unexpectedly!
After my joy at their inability to suck money from my pocket subsided I said "Well, why can't I use the prepaid card to renew the subscription."
"Well, your account is suspended because you have an unpaid balance."
"Well, I don't want to pay that balance as I want to use the prepaid card."
"Well, I am not sure what you want me to do."
"Well, let's get rid of the auto-renewal balance and unlock my account so I can use the prepaid card."
"Ok, I can do that."
So, after several hours of attempting to use a purchased item, searching the web, calling support, sitting on hold and then dealing with a crazy person on the phone I was finally able to successfully give Microsoft money. I had to work several hours to give THEM money.
The number one rule of business is to not make it hard for customers to give you money! If you had a great boutique at the other end of the "Wipeout Zone", you might not get that many customers (and the ones you did get would be wet and pissed off.) There is nothing that says "open for business" at Microsoft right now. They don't work hard enough for my money, I end up with all the work. I load the patches, I deal with the crashes, I have to scour the web to figure things out, I have to sit on hold while they sit back and expect prompt payment. Why?
Look at the Nintento Wii. Do I have to jump through these hoops to buy and download games? Nope, it just works.
Look at the Apple App store or iTunes. When you don't have a valid credit card on file can you still add money from a gift card? Yes!
Xbox??? --And I can't wait until the "Windows Marketplace" is where I have to go to buy applications for Windows 8. I'd bet there is some "Windows Live" subscription I will have to have just to change my wallpaper.
I want Microsoft to be successful, but maybe they don't. I wonder how many Microsoft-ies have their money in Apple, Google and Nintendo stocks?