Underwhelmed by Windows Live support

I love the new Windows Live Essentials apps and services, but their support? Not so much.

Over at ZDNet, I’ve outlined just how disorganized the Windows Live support options are. This post is about my personal experience trying to get a problem resolved.

I created my Windows Live home page in early December. Within a day or two of creating the page and accepting a flurry of invitations from other early adopters, I noticed that the status message at the top of the page was telling me I had additional invitations to review. It’s still there, as you can see:


Except when I clicked that link, I was told that, no, there were no network invitations waiting for me.


So I got in touch with Windows Live support, opening a ticket via https://support.live.com/. That page is nearly impossible to find via any Windows Live page. You have to read an online Help topic, then click the Get More Help link in the lower corner of the topic, and then click a small, boldface Get Support link in the middle of the page. That’s a usability fail, big time.

Here’s what happened next:

December 6: Automated message from Support acknowledging receipt of ticket.

December 6: E-mail from (apparently) live support tech, “Alvin,” asking for permission to access my account. I reply with permission.

December 7: Alvin writes back with word that he is “escalating [my] e-mail to our product specialists for further investigation.”

December 12: After a five-day delay, I hear from “Therese,” who identifies herself as a Subject Matter expert within the Windows Live Profile department. She asks for details about the issue and wants to see screen shots. I use the Windows Screen Clipping tool to capture snippets like those shown above and send them in the body of an e-mail. My message goes out minutes after I receive the request from Therese.

December 15: Therese writes back to say that she can’t open PNG files and I need to recapture the screen shots using the JPG format. I shoot two more screens and send them as file attachments. Again, my response goes out within minutes after receipt of the request.

Four hours later, I get another note from Therese show says, with no further explanation, that she’s off the case:

Ed, I will be forwarding this case to our product team, who will then engage additional resources to further investigate this matter. They will be getting back to you once an update becomes available. Thank you for your patience.

And that’s the last I’ve heard from Windows Live Support. It’s been nearly two weeks since I opened the ticket, and it doesn’t appear that anyone has done more than look at the details and pass it to someone else.


19 thoughts on “Underwhelmed by Windows Live support

  1. Sounds like every other I.T. department on Earth I’ve ever dealt with…

    Where I work I have a laptop waiting to be deployed that we’ve had since April, and there are no signs it will be deployed anytime soon because it keeps getting put on the shelf for “bigger” issues… and my ticket to have a my firewall not log me out of our Plesk system (a firewall issue because it only happens in the network) has been getting passed to different people since May, and still isn’t fixed!

    If your issue gets resolved at all then I think MS is probably better than 90% of the IT departments out there!

    Good luck 😉

  2. Sorry to hear about this experience, Ed. I agree this is very bad. I’m going to see if I can help jumpstart this. Let’s definitely stay in touch to make sure we fix this for you.

  3. Forget the traditional methods, get in touch with them on twitter – @wlive. I had an issue with the update, sent them a message on twitter, within 20 minutes one the guys handling the twitter account got in touch with me and resolved my issue.

  4. I would have thought you’d know by now that Microsoft don’t care about, and almost NEVER fix, cosmetic bugs.

  5. Given the emphasis on fit-and-finish for Windows 7, and the radical redesign of the Office UI, I would actually expect more of Microsoft in the future as far as cosmetic bugs are concerned.

    How does this compare to other free web applications that you’ve used? I find it usually takes a week just to get past the replybots and the offshored frontline support. When it’s free and you’re grubbing for clickthroughs, your first priority tends to be the advertiser, not the end-user. Especially since the heaviest users tend to be the money-losers.

  6. Tom, I can’t remember the last time I asked for support from a free online application. But that feels like the soft bigotry of low expectations. This is supposed to be a cornerstone of Windows, and Microsoft is trying to erase the memory of the botched Windows Vista launch. They’ve succeeded with the generally high-quality of the WL services, but are falling apart on support.

    The real issue to me is the random nature of support. There are newsgroups that could be very helpful. Why is it so difficult to find them, and why is there no link to those groups from the Live apps and webpages?

    For what it’s worth, I’ve received fast and promising responses from Microsoft, including a report from Mike Torres that the bug in question has been identified and is being fixed. You’ve already seen Marcus’s comment above.

    Overall, I expect a lot more from Windows Live than I do from some free Silicon Valley startup. I think they expect more from themselves as well.

  7. Hi, Ed.
    I agree with you on Windows Live support. I’ve got an instruction set outlining the process that I use for newsgroup and forum replies!
    In any event, the problem you have on home.live.com with invitations in the header, but none pending when you click is apparently a bug caused by “merging” invites received at an alternate email address, clicking through and logging into a LiveID that is not that address and accepting the prompt to merge the invites into the current LiveID from the other email address. Cute, huh? I don’t know if it will correct itself, needs a bug fix/patch on the server side, or if we get to look at that bold text forever.

  8. What the heck is Windows Call? I’ve tried opening it several times, with no result. Maybe my computer doesn’t want to talk to me… I’m a lonely fella.

  9. Glad to see you don’t unconditionally support MS 🙂
    Yeah, it’s too bad IT support is too often like that. It’s true that with MS support is particularly hard to find to begin with for some reason. It’s very weird that she can’t open a PNG file, doesn’t she use Windows? PNGs are viewable out of the box for eons now… on all platforms. She must be working on an Amiga 500…

  10. I still think it’s crazy that PNG isn’t suitable for MS Support,.. However, it may be something as simple as their tracking tool having a restricted list of filetypes that it’ll accept, probably implemented to stop huge bitmap files being attached. Just a hypothesis,.. But it’s based on having seen exactly this issue before with a 3rd party tool a company I worked for used.

    The whole support process seems somewhat underwhelming though. Does it really need to be quite so cumbersome?

  11. The people giving support on Windows Live aren’t the programmers who actually write it. An actual bug report will just get passed up and up the line until it actually gets to the programmers at which point it will be ignored because it’s cosmetic in nature and they have too much else to do.

  12. I tried to get a support with this wired problem with missing spaces in a feed reader in Windows Live Mail. Almost the same story.

    This kind of support remembers me the anecdote from time USSSR time.
    80’th, Olympic Games in Moskow. It’s still impossible to buy almost anything (the well know ‘deficit’ – shortage). But because it’s Olympic Games, the salesmans are not allowed to answer, that there no such things to by.The lady comes into the shopping center and asks for the pair of gloves. Because there is no any gloves, the salesman starts asking:
    – What kind of gloves you wish: leather on woolen?
    – from a leather
    – What kind of the leather you wish: pigg of calf?
    – pigg
    – What a color?
    – Brown, to match with a coat.
    – Well, you should bring the coat here and we select the appropriated gloves.

    The man, which stays near, interrupts this salesman:
    – Do not trust them, miss! I showed them already my ‘ss, brought a lavatory pan here – they do not have a toilet paper!

    Long story, short answer – do not make you unsatisfied, make you busy 🙂

  13. Hey Ed!
    I know what you mean. I had the same scoop of icream with my Tech Net membership account. Worst of it, two months without the service for what I had paid.

  14. This is nothing new with Microsoft Ed …

    I went to try and install the Live “essentials” update as they recommended …. after 135mb of downloads and install of the half dozen various programs the install program gets to the end and decides it doesn’t like something, and aborts.

    And then proceeds to roll back (hey at least thats something I guess – they don’t hose your system) … all with zero clue as to the issue – other than a meaningless error code.

    After 45 minutes of searching, including support.live.com – there is virtually no mention in any of the disjointed “help” sources … other than to make sure you have sufficient resources

    There is a Windows Live Team blog … here is a URL for their announcement of the “Live Essentials” upgrade


    You can kind of interact with techs but it is thru a “blog comments” format – which is simply ridiculous – and difficult.

    I agree that the Live platform has promise, but when even experienced users cannot find or get access to simple, easy, meaningful and mos important USEFUL support they are never going to be successful with the platform.

    And its not like it is difficult.

    A forum format makes a lot of sense. But not the horrible http://www.windowslivehelp.com … that is an even bigger nightmare. Cartoonish, and extremely user unfriendly …. what should be simple they manage to make difficult. Splitting “Solutions, Community, and Help” into separate sections of the site (not of the forum).

    This is a huge step backward overall in my opinion.

    What is so hard about support? Go buy vBulletin – install on high power servers, set up a forum for each product group with subforums for each individual product and then man it with techs.

    Problem solved.

    All the information is in one place, and is easily searchable. Almost every user today understands and is comfortable with using a forum. Forum replies by techs essentially become automatic knowledgebases. Simple, understandable, usable and effective.

    Instead Microsoft comes up with the joke that is http://www.windowslivehelp.com

    Its really sad as well that they jump when guys like Ed are forced to publish these kind of stories, but for regular folks its an ongoing nightmare …

    Keep after them Ed … maybe if they get whacked over the head enough times – by reputable media sources … they will finally pay attention … and make an effort at real support for their customers.

    We probably shouldn’t hold our breath, but we can always dream ….

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