Well, I couldn’t fight the urge anymore. With as much work as I have on the table, I owe it to you, my loyal readers, to bring back the passion and frequency of my blog and what better way than to take potshots at one of the biggest and crappiest pseudo-monopolies out there? That’s right, it’s time to attack Microsoft once again!
No, XBox LIVE is not dead but, the way it has been running the past couple of weeks, it might as well be. If you have lived under a rock or are not really a gamer, you may have missed all the scandals regarding XBox LIVE customer horror stories and continued outages. I’m going to give you all a little grocery list of some of these horror stories:
- XBox LIVE customer support analysts actually laugh and hang up on customers.
- The ultimate solution for most problems plaguing XBox 360 seems to come down to buying a new system, creating a new account, or hearing “we can’t help you”.
- XBox 360 units are still experiencing random crashes (surprise), red rings, and other hardware failure.
- The magical XBox 360 warranty (which comes at an additional cost) does not include much at all; in fact, shipping and even boxes come at additional premiums in many cases!
- Prepaid XBox LIVE subscription cards are more trouble than they’re worth – some don’t even code with a code behind the silver coating, due to misprints (good luck getting anyone to give you credit or a full refund for that)!
- The most over-used line of any XBox LIVE customer support representative is “sorry, but that’s our policy”.
- No one on the XBox LIVE support team seem to speak English natively, nor do they understand the root cause of your issues and what the customer TRULY needs.
- It is not unlikely for random people to harass you, just for fun, and file false complaints against you which, ultimately, get you terminated. Since the XBox LIVE team doesn’t really understand English, they just go by “what’s in their system” and follow their scripted courses of action. A few strikes and you’re out. Good luck appealing.
If you’re like me, you may be looking at this list with great disgust. Anyone that knows me knows that poor customer service, unwarranted rudeness, and poor product “follow-through”/overall quality are things that I absolutely abhore. As a gamer and someone that happens to be an XBox 360 owner, I feel that Microsoft’s business tactics are completely unethical, to say the least. We shouldn’t be surprised since the XBox franchise is a microcosm of Microsoft’s track record in all other facets of their huge corporate monster.
You see, the greater issue here is that Microsoft treats XBox, especially XBox LIVE, like a red-headed stepchild (Oh, right, I remember: Microsoft is losing tons of money with XBox 360.. gotcha.. that means treat your customers like they don’t really matter – makes sense). The entire business unit exists almost completely overseas. There is little or no supervision and the people you speak to neither care about the customer nor their job. When you get a “supervisor” or “manager” on the phone, it’s usually just a Level I Analyst reading from a script and telling you the same thing, which ultimately boils down to the same answer: “sorry, but you’re screwed and we could care less. ” More times than not, a fortune cookie is more helpful than an XBL CSR. Terrible.
Microsoft is quite lucky that there is no competition for them in the console market. No one is doing online gaming the way they are so they can get away with murder since, for all intents and purposes, they are a monopoly. The Sony fanboys are probably eating this all up because their online service is FREE but, as I have experienced, it’s nothing compared to XBox Live (when it’s fully-functional, that is). Of course, as much as I love XBL, I will call Mirosoft out on their BS and this is all a whole load of BS, if you ask me.
Major Nelson, probably the only decent human being that is part of the XBox LIVE team, at least on the customer service/marketing side of things, says that it is all being worked on day and night. Last night, I was able to play some semi-decent games but it’s been well over a week now and we’re still paying for a full-rate subscription. Something is amiss here. Where are the Microsoft Points given as credits? One can only hope, right? Instead of seeing a live feed explaining why things are funky, the XBox 360 Dashboard has ads and the usual junk. I’m sorry but “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it, Microsoft – we need RESULTS.
Even once XBox LIVE is fixed, there are a whole slew of issues that all go back to one thing: terrible end-to-end customer support. Microsoft needs to start a serious damage control campaign. Some of their actions won’t even cost money. Here’s what *I* would do if it was my business and I really cared about my customers:
- Give all XBox LIVE customers affected by downtime 400 Microsoft Points (in addition to the rumored free XBL Arcade game they are giving out). No questions asked. They’ll need to spend their own money to get more credits and get the really good stuff but this would be a real nice vote of confidence and a token of appreciation.
- Create a new knowledgebase focusing on common support issues and customer service hiccups so that the customer can take more initiative and not have to rely on inept staff.
- Send out e-mail blasts and XBox 360 Dashboard updates pointing to a new knowledgebase addressing all major issues and current pitfalls proactively, rather than firefighting as they happen.
- Fire all the customer service people that suck. Hire ones that don’t.
- Retrain all customer service personnel with a focus on customer service, not mere technical details, and a MAJOR focus on the manners and respect portion of that service.
- Send some Americans overseas, pay them well, and have them oversee operations in these global offices so that there is some REAL management and supervision in place.
- Put into play some real quality checks both on the support and actual production sides of the XBox business.
- Stress-test all XBox 360 units put out into the marketplace and ship them out with checklists listing all system vitals including normal and peak operating temperatures, diagnostic tools used, issues encountered, and courses of action taken to remedy situations. Quantify, qualify, resolve. That was easy.
- Remember that the customer is always right. The customer is your business. Without customers, you have no business. Get it? Got it? Good!
- Fire anyone that laughs at item #9. Thanks for playing!
- Reward long-time customers with some sort of nifty perk. Free gamer pictures, a care package, neat swag, something… There’s always some sort of promotional stuff or trade items that can be given out and pennied away, rather than deemed as an incurred by the business. The folks that have been there all along are your soldiers, your biggest advocates, so make sure you treat them accordingly!
- Restructure the XBox LIVE fee scale so that buying bigger lots of time costs you less on a granular unit basis; that is, if you buy several months at once, each month is cheaper on it’s own. Makes sense, right?
- Include a little fact sheet with XBox LIVE prepaid cards or change the packaging so that there is a quick start guide that is not written in legalese and people do not do silly things like “double subscribing”.
- Make more features available for so-called XBox LIVE Silver subscribers. Remember that Sony and Nintendo will eventually copy the PC gaming market as well and actually compete with you guys, Microsoft.
Some folks out there will say that this is not realistic. It’ll cost Microsoft millions. BOO HOO. It’ll cost them a lot more if they lose the business of people that realize that XBox 360 is not the only Coca-Cola in the desert. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of customer support is customer retention and, of course, issue resolution – ideally, one call is all it should take to resolve an issue once and for all, where possible.
What I always find interesting is how PR comments always seems to differ from the actualities. Peter Moore, Vice President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business division, told WePlayXBox.com (and I am paraphrasing here) that the number of hardware failure does not matter as much as the number of satisfied customers – we agree wholeheartedly! Unfortunately, the work ethic of XBox LIVE support personnel does not really reflect this focus. I can speculate with little equivocation that about 95% of the people that have dealt with XBox LIVE support, especially recently, have not had an experience that made them feel appreciated. Ever since most (if not all) of the operations were moved overseas, the quality of service has certainly gone done the crap hole.
It’s not all bad news for Microsoft. They have a very promising franchise in the making. It just frustrates me that they fall short of so many expectations. Perhaps if Microsoft were able to manage customer expectations better, they wouldn’t be such an easy target. Sometimes, it feels as if some of their team members realize that they are in a position of proverbial monopoliziation and decide to show off their arrogance. I’ve felt, many times, that their customer support people taunt and mock their customers, myself included.
Whatever way you chop it all up, it all boils down to simple courtesies that every customer is entitled to. You can draw up all the policies and legalese in the world to avoid liability and accountability but, in the end, only the management fix it’s own problems. The cross of poor business management should not be the customer’s burden to bare.
How long can Microsoft make promises before they have to actually deliver on them? You can only tell a customer something is being worked on or apologize so much. Eventually, you have to actually show something tangible for it. If you ask me, Microsoft needs to make a big change. Just about every XBox 360 owner I know has been mostly unsatisfied though they are happy when things work the way they should. It’d be if nice issues were actually treated with great importance and escalated properly but, for most people, a support call is just another dead end. I am a firm believer that a product’s quality is only as good as the support provided for the product. In this case, the XBox 360 has the worst quality possible.
For the average customer, the sad truth is that they will allow themselves to be exploited in the hopes that their loyalty will pay off in the long-run. They tell themselves that the company is doing everything that they can and everyone criticizing them is just being “hater” or unreasonable. For those folks, reality will hit them hard soon enough.
Microsoft should look at Sony to see how arrogance has paid them off. The PS3 is bombing, no matter what sort of marketing or fanboy spins you try to put on their situations. We’re seeing growing sales and production for the PS2, as if that were their next-gen system. Sony isn’t rewarding their console loyalists (fanboys) beyond giving them more of the same old content. Soon, this content will no longer be exclusive to Sony and they will lose almost all of their weapons. Their greatest weapons right now are the facts that some people love Blu-Ray (PS3 is apparently a good movie player, if nothing else) and some people hate Microsoft with a passion (they’d adopt an Atari system WAY before even considering anything Microsoft puts their stamp on). Choose the lesser of the greatest evils, right? I suppose that works.
The lesson to be learned from Sony is that, if you’re not going up, you’re going down. There needs to be progress and improvement on a constant basis. You need let your customers know, without a doubt, that you are bringing them what they really want, not merely what you know is more profitable. Customers need to know that they will not be left high and dry. It’s all about long-term end-to-end support. That is what truly defines product quality. Everything breaks or falls shorts of expectations on the tech side, but delivery, support, marketing, and customer service all help bring additional value at the point of purchase and beyond, for the product’s entire lifetime.
Mr. Moore essentially said that failure doesn’t matter so long as support is prompt and complete. If the customer is taken care of, a fe hiccups here and there are understandable. The case is such that hiccups are just the feather on the metaphorical heap of problems plaguing the XBox 360. You’d think with a headstart on the next-gen movement they’d have things in better order by now. I guess even that is too much to expect right now.
The simple fact of the matter is that people are shelling out big bucks for their gaming experience. It’s not just about buying a system and a game. There are all the hidden costs and service fees as well. You’re talking about people paying over $500 to have a good gaming experience. If you’re going to charge for XBox LIVE, there is an assumption that it will be up and fully functional (not laggy), as opposed to free services that are provided as-is. Why is it, then, that there are gaming servers out there that are totally free to the gamer and run way better than XBox LIVE? Sounds like bad business on Microsoft’s part. You can bet your bottom dollar that Sony and their loyalists will exploit these issues endlessly.
“Haha.. I am laughing at you, funny customer!”
(Photo provided courtesy of CMRus.com.)
All that good stuff being said, I am considering starting an initiative which will rally my press contacts, fellow gamers, and other people in position of power so that we can put some pressure on Microsoft and get them to do the right thing. This can only happen if we all sound off. Share your comments. Let’s not look at this as a next-gen console war (I have used and own just about all the gaming consoles ever released, to be honest, so it’s not about that – I could care less about brand loyalty when it comes to gaming, personally). The greater issue here is that Sony, Microsoft, and many large corporations do not appreciate their customers enough to go the extra mile for them. This needs to stop now. Support the Red X Campaign and let’s cancel out poor customer service across-the-board! One of our primary campaign objectives will be to identify all businesses that engage in funny business – Microsoft is one of many!
For related XBox 360 horror stories, check back often and be sure to submit any good tidbits, fact checks, interviews, photos, petitions, and other supporting material. I’ll be adding links and resources to the end of this article here and there so bookmark this XBox 360 article share it with others, blog about it, discuss on forums, and spread the word. Eventually, we can do banner exchanges, linktrains, and all that good stuff to unite against poor business practice! In the coming months, I will almost exclusively Digg and bolster related articles to give these issues the most visibility possible. BIG thanks to Joystiq, Kotaku, Magical Pudding, BuzzFocus, YouNewb (hope you guys return soon), and all ther other sites spreading the uninhibited word to all the people of the world!
- Microsoft, still trying to fix XBox LIVE.
- Microsoft claims XBox LIVE is “up and running”.
- XBox LIVE CSR tells customer he is laughing at him.
- Laughing XBox LIVE CSR – FULL STORY!
- A magical pudding XBox 360 horror story.
- Yet another XBox 360 horror story.
- Microsoft now repairing XBox 360 units overseas??!
- More XBox LIVE support horror stories – customer service gets a fat “F”.
- Major Nelson says, “This is unacceptable. We are working day and night!” (Suuurrrre you are, buddy.)
- Microsoft confirms a FREE XBox LIVE Arcade game is in store for everyone, due to outages.
…I’d also like to thank the XBox LIVE customer service folks that also laughed at me when I told them that I am an industry professional with many contacts. When I told the “manager”, Carlos, that I was going to find my own way of escalating my issue, he just regurgitated the same scripts and policies over, in a very mocking manner. Needless to say, this is going to bite them back in the arse.. HARD!