waiting for microsoft

20 11 2008

For anyone who’s ever had a horrible time with customer service here’s a story that might make you feel better about your experience. It involves my boyfriend, Bob, and an insane Sunday morning spent with XBOX Live’s customer service. Rather than re-tell it myself, I’ve cut and pasted the story from Bob’s Facebook page. 


This is a long story. I put it together to collect the whole story while it was fresh in my head — both to have a clear record of it for myself and to send it along to Microsoft as a complaint — but figured I’d throw it on my Facebook page for anyone interested in the story. The bullet-points: 4 hours, 8 different customer service reps, many acknowledgments of a problem, and zero results.

The story begins last night, November 15th, when I decided to renew my Xbox Live account. If you’re unfamiliar, Xbox Live is Microsoft’s online service, and the Gold account is the subscription service that allows online gameplay (the free Silver account, on the other hand, only allows access to Microsoft’s online store). My Gold account was due to expire by the end of the month, and I had recently purchased one of Microsoft’s 12+1 Month Prepaid Gold Subscription Cards from Amazon, for the usual $50 price. I opened the brand-new card from its plastic packaging, removed the security tab on the back of the card, and input the 25-digit code on my Xbox console. Xbox Live confirmed the subscription, and before logging off, I checked my account status, which informed me that my Gold account was now good through December 2009.

While checking my email later that night, I saw two emails from Microsoft. The first, date-stamped at 9:58 pm read “Renewal Confirmation for Xbox Live Prepaid 12 + 1 Month Gold Membership Card.” The second, date-stamped one minute later at 9:59 pm read “Confirmation of cancellation of Xbox Live Prepaid 12 + 1 Month Gold Membership Card.” Confused, I logged back onto Xbox Live and checked my account status, which now informed me that I only had a Silver account (the free account). I tried to find a solution on the Xbox homepage, could find nothing to help, and eventually called customer service. The automated service quickly told me that I’d have to call during regular business hours.

This morning, roughly 10:00 am. I call customer service and go through the automated menu again, and this time I’m put on hold for a customer service representative. After about ten minutes, an agent picks up. I provide my name and explain the problem. He’s stymied. He takes some more info — my Xbox Live screen name, the 25-digit prepaid code where I bought it — and I experience some utterly stupid conversation (“This code has already been redeemed.” “Yes, I redeemed it last night.” “Oh, right,” as well as “I bought it on Amazon.” “So…did you purchased it online?” “Um, yes, Amazon is an online retailer”). He checks my account and confirms that I did input a valid code and that my account was mysteriously canceled, assuring me that “this is very unusual,” so he’ll need to “find a supervisor.” He puts me on hold, then returns after ten minutes or so to assure me that he’s still looking for a supervisor and that I should not hang up. I then proceed to wait one hour and forty minutes. Let me reiterate that: I WAIT ONE HOUR AND FORTY MINUTES FOR A SUPERVISOR. 

The supervisor finally picks up and asks what he can do for me. Maintaining my patience as best I can, I firmly inform him that I’ve been on hold for an hour forty, and on the phone for two whole hours at this point (which is quickly consuming my Sunday afternoon), before once again explaining the problem, as he obviously has not received any information from the previous agent. He’s confused as to why I’ve been connected to him, and asks for a reference number. I explain that I was never given one, and so the supervisor goes on to ask for all the same info again: screen name, 25-digit prepaid code, where it was purchased. He puts me on hold, and returns after a few minutes to profusely apologize. To his credit, the supervisor plainly states that I’ve obviously done nothing wrong and that the mistake is clearly on their part, and even asks me to wait a moment more while he sees what he can do to compensate me for my time. Now, despite the two hours on the phone, I greatly appreciate his forthrightness, as well as his mea cupla of offering compensation for the inconvenience (and without any prodding from me — this is entirely his own idea). He comes back and tells me that he’ll need to put me on hold again while he transfers me to a billing specialist who will straighten everything out. He puts me on hold again. 

Five minutes or so pass, before a woman answers. She asks my name and what she can do for me. I grit my teeth, and do my best to stay calm as I explain everything that has occured to this point. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m just an agent. I don’t know why you were connected to me, but I’ll do my best to help. Can I have your reference number, please?” And of course, I still have not been given one (relieved with the supervisor’s apologetic attitude, I neglected to ask, thinking everything had been straightened out). She takes all the same information once again, but this time also asks for my phone number, address, last four digits of the credit card associated with my account, the last time I used Xbox Live, and the best time of day to call. We go through the whole problem one more time, and she says that she can’t help me, that I need to talk to a supervisor. I tell her I already waited an hour and forty minutes for a supervisor, and already talked to one. She recognizes my growing frustration, and apologizes, but says that a supervisor will take at least another half-hour if she tries to connect me herself, and so (and this seems very strange), she says that I need to take the reference number she’s created, hang up, then call right back so that I can get connected to a supervisor more quickly. She won’t explain why she can’t do this for me, but insists that this is the best course of action.

I take the reference number and hang up. I check the call-timer on my phone; my first call lasted two hours and 17 minutes. I hit redial and the timer starts again. This time, the automated menu recognizes that I have an open case and immediately asks if I want to be connected to an agent. After a short wait, agent #3 picks up, and, for the forth time, I explain the whole situation. He asks for the reference number and then asks, again, for my screen name, phone number, address, credit card, and a few more things (I didn’t get it all jotted down). “I need to connect you to a supervisor.” Gee, thanks. I’m put on hold again.

The wait isn’t terrible this time, and finally, for the first time in the whole ordeal, the new person actually seems to have spoken to the last person. All the same, I once again have to explain the whole situation in my own words. And provide my screen name. And the 25-digit prepaid code. And where I bought it. And my phone number. And so on. Supervisor #2 puts me on hold, comes back, and says that he needs to transfer me to a billing specialist, and finally, after three hours on the phone, I start making demands. I tell him that the last supervisor told me the same thing, but sent me to the wrong person. I remind him that the last supervisor already acknowledged — an hour ago — that the mistake is on Microsoft’s part, and yet I’m still being bounced from person to person. I ask what exactly the compensation that the previous supervisor promised was going to be. He has no answers, and insists that I need to discuss all that with a billing specialist, because she will have the answers. He insists that she will have the answers. He also gives me a new reference number for some reason.

I’m transferred to the billing specialist, who has a vague understanding of my story, but I need to run through it again nonetheless. And she needs all the info that I’ve given to the five others with whom I’ve already spoken: screen name, 25-digit code, phone number, address, credit card, best time of day to call, etc. This time, she informs me that it may take up to 72 hours for them to “find a replacement code” to renew my subscription. Please appreciate this: not only can Microsoft not activate one of their own accounts, they don’t even have access to their own prepaid subscription cards to replace it. “I’m sorry,” she says in response to my disbelief, “we’ll try to see what we can do, but it may take up to 72 hours is we don’t have a replacement code available.” I’m put on hold again. She returns and eventually tells me that she, in fact, cannot solve my problem (despite the last person’s assurances to the contrary), and that I need to speak with someone from the Xbox Live Technical Department. She transfers me to person #7.

Technical Department Guy knows the basic story, but needs me to explain it again (go figure) and needs my screen name, phone number, 25-digit prepaid code, where I bought it, best time to call. He puts me on hold. Returns. More info. On hold. Returns. Tech guy repeatedly tells me that “this is a very different problem,” which I believe is supposed to mean that it’s a very unusual problem, though I can’t be sure. But he’s very adament that this is a “different” problem. “It’s just..it’s…it’s, um…it’s really just a very different problem.” And so he needs to transfer me to his supervisor. Of course.

I’m transferred to person #8 (and supervisor #3, though possibly a different level of supervisor than the last two — I’m not clear on this). He needs the story again, and all the info: screen name, prepaid code, where I bought it, phone number, address, last four of my credit card number, best time to call. I’m now informed that NO ONE AT THE SERVICE CENTER IS QUALIFIED TO RESOLVE MY PROBLEM, and that it will now take five to seven days for someone to get back to me. I ask why Microsoft is unable to find one of their own prepaid subscription cards; why someone can’t just punch something into a computer and reactivate my account; why, despite someone acknowledging two hours ago that this is Microsoft’s error, I’m still being given the runaround; why the billing specialist said it would take three days (tops) yet he says five to seven days; and what exactly the “compensation” promised by supervisor #1 will be, yet supervisor #3 cannot tell me anything, and proceeds to give me yet another reference number and instructs me to wait five to seven days for someone to call. 

He then politely asks if there’s anything else he can do for me. “Anything else,” as though anyone had done anything in the first place.

As I hang up, I check my call timer. The second call lasted one hour and thirty minutes exactly, for a grand total of THREE HOURS AND FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES on the phone with Microsoft customer service, culminating in “we’ll get back to you in five to seven days.” Three hours and forty-seven minutes on the phone to be told that no one has any idea what to do, and that Microsoft is unable re-activate one of their own accounts (although I could simply spend another $50 to do it myself).

Now please excuse me while I shoot myself.