I Swear That I’ll Never Buy Another Surface Device

30

I’ve had it! Microsoft has taken support to a nearly non-existent level.

Back in 2012, I bought the original Surface tablet. This was a fun time for Microsoft products in many ways. The Microsoft Store was fun to go to and I was really enjoying my Windows Phone at this time as well. The Microsoft Store had one thing going for it that kept me coming back to buy more stuff – customer service.

After the Surface experienced multiple problems, they actually let me return it for a full refund three months after purchasing it. When my Band 2 disintegrated, they gave me $200 of store credit which I used towards a new Xbox. The stores were great and they took excellent care of their customers without fail.

Now, fast forward to 2021 and there are no more Microsoft Stores. No friendly customer reps and no good way to even contact support especially if you are outside of your warranty. It’s all crickets, web link that point you in the wrong direction and endless telephone voice prompts that eventually tell you, “Goodbye” and hang up.

When my Surface Go 2 died suddenly I was unable to contact anyone at Microsoft, nobody is home. I eventually was forced to go through my account to initiate a return for the item which thankfully was under warranty. I jumped through the hoops to return the defective one and received back a squished white box with a functional Go 2 inside that it was swapped out for. Nothing inside about the previous one, just the tablet.

I am far less happy dealing with my out of warranty Surface Pro X. Once again, nobody is home at Microsoft and I can’t even find a link to submit a technical question regarding my issue. They offer a fairly pointless virtual agent that knows absolutely nothing of any real assistance and the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit is simply a waste of time and its 2.1 stars rating is a testament to that. If you do follow the support links in your account devices page, you’ll need to send the unit in at your own expense IF you can find a way past the, “Run the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit” page which you can’t until you work your way through the app itself.

Working through the diagnostic app, I was eventually offered a way to have a chat session with an agent. I accepted this with glee and watched the countdown until my number was up. I was number four in line. The agent was just like I remember they were; friendly and patient and helped me fix the OS issue.

My aggravation really lies with the fact that Microsoft’s support site sent me to dead end after dead end instead of simply offering me the correct tools I needed to resolve the issue myself. I have spent hours trying to use their suggested support procedures that were simply incorrect for an ARM based systems. Once I reached a human, it was solved rather quickly which I am thankful for.

While I am happy to have my Surface up and running again, I feel compelled to share my experiences as a frustrated consumer of Microsoft products. I really do not like where Microsoft is going on the consumer side and I’m afraid things won’t be changing anytime soon.

Comments (30)

30 responses to “I Swear That I’ll Never Buy Another Surface Device”

  1. wright_is

    I think this sums up Big Tech in general. My experience with Google was the same.


    A few years back, I was working for a company and, suddenly, our Internet connection stopped working. Well, it was working but it was so full of packets that it was unusable. So I looked at our firewall to see what was happening.


    A Google IP address (according to whois, a Google datacenter in the 'Frisco Bay Area) was pummelling our 10mbps connection. I contacted out ISP and they looked at it. They looked at their perimeter firewall and they could see that the Google server was pumping over 1gbps down out line, no wonder nothing worked!


    I called Google, nothing. I was bounced around the electronic queue system and was eventually spat out 30 minutes later, to a dead line, it just kept telling me to look at the part of their website that dealt with my problem. I tried googling the page for when Google put a DoS attack on your Internet connection, but I came up blank. Next I tried email - their info, support and abuse email addresses. I just got an automated answer that these addresses get so much email that the emails are simply deleted without anyone or anything looking at them!


    I then tried calling them out on Twitter. No response.


    In the end, I went back to the ISP and they blocked the attack at their perimeter. The first month was free, after that it would cost 50€ a month for the service!


    Luckily, we were already in the process of switching to a new provider, so I accelerated testing and we switched over within the free month. The contract on the old line ran for another 4 months. Just before the line was switched off at the end of the contracts, I checked it again. It was still being bombarded by the same Google IP address!


    For 4 months, no-one at Google had noticed that one of their servers was misconfigured and was bombarding the wrong IP address in Germany! Nobody had responded to the tweet. They just didn't care.

    • jason_e

      This sums up Big Tech EXCEPT Apple which has freaking outstanding customer service. On the phone, in person or via chat. Never a problem getting into contact with a real person. They are quick and very responsive.

      • jwpear

        Agree except for battery replacements. That process sucks whether in-person or shipping it to a service center.

        • bkkcanuck

          I got a free upgrade on a MacBook (more SSD, slightly more powerful processor) as part of a battery replacement... I guess their glued batteries were not that great for them after all... (maybe why the new MacBook Pro it is easier to get the batteries out...).

      • thretosix

        I just think it would better serve Apple if they didn't call their in person support the Genius Bar. For a product that should be so simple to use, you shouldn't have to take it to a "genius" to get it to work properly. I tell this to every person I know who uses an Apple device and asks me to fix it. I tell them I don't know, time to find a genius.

      • wright_is

        It depends on where you are. Around here there are no Apple stores (nearest one is now an 8-10 hour round-trip away).


        We have a large fleet of iPhones and Android phones at work.


        If an Android phone is damaged or defective, the carrier replaces it next day with a refurbished model and works out whether it was user inflicted (broken screen, water damage etc.) and whether to bill you for the repair/replacement*.


        If an Apple phone is damaged or defective, the carrier picks up the phone and delivers it to the Apple authorised repair centre (I think the nearest one is in Holland). After 2 weeks, the phone will be returned.


        That makes a huge difference, phone back up and working next day, or 2 weeks without a phone - and that is the business class service Apple provides here. My first iPhone, a 3GS, spent 6 of the first 7 weeks of ownership in the repair centre. The record was it being returned as "no fault found", with it failing again before I left the shop! Eventually, I got very loud in the shop and, wonder of wonders, after being twice returned to me with "no fault found", I suddenly had a replacement, because the memory was faulty.


        Yes, I can pay for AppleCare+ to get better service - the level of service I get with Samsung for free!


        (*) I once had a Galaxy S3, which fell 6' from the top of the fridge onto the ground. The screen didn't break, but all antennas /radios (cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) stopped working. The phone was swapped out next day, but, because the screen wasn't broken, it wasn't billable!

      • crunchyfrog

        Agreed on that point. My experiences with Apple have been good to exceptional after the sale once you get through the appointment process. When I hear people complain about the, "Apple Tax" regarding their high prices, they forget what they are really paying for. After sale support is expensive so I don't mind paying extra for their products when I do buy them.

  2. j5

    I think you have a legit beef. I mean we pay A LOT of money for these devices. It's inevitable that we'll have to reach out to them for customer support at least once. Especially now that all these tech companies have hardware, software, and now subscription services.

    I wouldn't fault you or anyone leaving a tech brand over poor customer service. Vote with your feet!

  3. bluvg

    I really, really miss the stores. For a business fleet of Surfaces, we worked with a behind-the-scenes business rep who was absolutely brilliant--direct contact, totally got it and took complete ownership. While the devices were under warranty. after a brief email exchange, it was same-day, absolutely no-hassle exchanges--just walk in, drop off the problems, pick up replacements. On-site repair from Lenovo, HP, Dell etc. is also great, but not as easy as this, and no pricey add-on service plan was required.

    • bschnatt

      For them to be able to keep the stores open, they'd have to: 1) make their Surface products a lot better (in order to minimize exchanges and limit the number of store personnel, and 2) Sell only the higher-end configurations (more markup), and expensive options from other manufacturers. They could also offer paid classes in the back of the store, in-store hardware part swaps / installations (for a fee), etc.


      It could work, but they'd have to do it right...

  4. bschnatt

    Your experience is in stark contrast to WordPerfect Corporation back in the day. They offered endless free tech support 24/7 at great cost (they even bragged once about having to spend a million dollars a month, or something like that). Obviously, no rational company can offer that today, but there has to be a happy middle ground, and Big Tech companies today think even that's unacceptable. That's too bad. They've forgotten who's putting bread on their tables...

  5. hastin

    When the First Gen Surface Pro (still kicking!) and the Xbox One dropped, Microsoft Stores were awesome. Fun launch parties, free goodies, great customer support, and just rockstar employees. It was always a friendly place to shop or browse around.


    Even my Surface Book 2 (where the TPM died), was quickly replaced under warranty with in-stock hardware right at the store. However, I recently had an issue with my Xbox Series X, and it's all downhill. Can't talk to anyone, support sends in a loop - no help at all. Can't even offer a replacement due to lack of hardware. Demand is outstripping supply, and customer service has tanked with it.

  6. OldITPro2000

    I had a similar experience with Surface Support recently. Overall it was a mixed bag.


    I ordered a Surface Laptop Studio the day it was announced. I received it with a display problem which began as soon as I took it out of the box going through the OOBE. The display had green sparkles on it from time to time and would periodically just go crazy when trying to use it. The screen would tear, the Taskbar would move halfway across the screen, etc. and it was simply unusable when this was occurring.


    Initially I thought it was a driver or firmware issue, so I let it do all of the day 1 updates, but the problem persisted. I couldn't make it happen, but it was repeating often enough that I was able to just wait a few minutes for it to return and grab a cellphone video of it.


    I ran the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit and it (of course) said everything was fine. I did some other troubleshooting and tinkered with the display settings, trying to turn off the NVIDIA graphics and force Intel and vice-versa but nothing helped. Later that night I gave up and decided to go through the support options on their website.


    The website implied that I needed to send the device in for repair. Fine. I initiated that process which is really a "repair order checkout" operation, made it through to the end, then received a bizarre error message that meant nothing to me. Then I found an option to expedite the return of the item for an extra $10 or $20. Fine, do that, maybe it will go through and I'll get the replacement faster anyway. No help. Different error and it charged my card 4 times, then credited my card 4 times for the same amount. Not wanting to do that again, I tried it once more without the expedite option and (of course) error again. I gave up for the night.


    The next morning I poked around again on the support site and found a live chat option. It was only a few minutes of waiting and the agent was helpful. Since I had just received the device he said I had 60 days to exchange it for a brand new one. Great! Except he couldn't handle it; he only took care of refurbished replacements. He had to transfer me to a different department, but that wasn't possible in the live chat. He wound up calling me on the phone, then transferring me to sales.


    This second agent offered to charge me for another laptop and cross ship the replacement. I declined and said I would return the original, then they could send out the replacement. She was able to set that up and I returned the defective one that day. To my surprise, about a week later a brand new problem free laptop was sent to me.


    While this story had a happy ending and all of the agents were nice and helpful, it's not what I would call a good experience. Getting help was clunky, the errors when trying to enter a repair order were very disappointing, and no one wants to go through multiple agents (risk of disconnecting, having to repeat your story over and over, etc.).

    • jwpear

      You did the right thing by returning and ordering a new device. You should get a new device if your new purchase arrives defective. I feel like Microsoft should ship a new replacement within 1-2 days like they did in the early days of Surface and Band, but sadly this doesn't happen now.


      Never do the send in for repair if you have the option to return. You won't get a new device. I went through that and it sucked--took several exchanges to get a decent device.


      Back in the day, the Microsoft stores offered fantastic service in these situations. I had them replace a device with a new one with absolutely no hassles (other than having to drive four hours round trip). This great service was part of what made me a fan. But it's going in the wrong direction lately.

  7. lecter

    Wouldn't pretty much all of this be avoidable by buying a Surface or anything else from a reputable retailer instead of directly from Microsoft or Google?


    I have had good experiences with the decent retailers in my country and would definitely not buy something like a OnePlus phone directly from OnePlus, which I would know beforehand means shipping it back to God knows what country for any warranty stuff.

  8. hrlngrv

    When it comes to customer service for hardware, MSFT is a helluva software company.


    For any business, there are some things it's just never going to be good at. I figure when MSFT discovered just how much of a COST center brick & mortar stores and good service staff would be, and ran screaming from them. The economies of scale for issuing 120 monthly updates over the 10 year support cycle for a Windows version for hundreds of millions of PCs are far more attractive than the complete lack of such economies maintaining a staff capable of servicing tens of thousands of PCs annually.

      • pecosbob04

        Wouldn't it be cool if a really smart system engineer could invent a method by which the text in a post could be altered after the fact. Oh what a brave new world that would be.

        • jwpear

          Yes! The comment editing experience reminds me of doing remote tech support back in the 90s with PCAnywhere over 56Kbps modems. The latency and speed were so bad that you were conditioned to always triple, triple check whatever commands you were about to issue because there was a very good chance you had a typo in the commands or the data/parms. I was always hesitant to tap enter. My finger would shake and I'd have this slight sick feeling because I knew I couldn't quickly undo it if I screwed up the production data I was modifying.


          The stakes aren't nearly as high here and I think most people look past an editing error because we've all been there. It is interesting how the inability to edit after submitting conditions you to review more carefully. And yet it is still quite easy to miss something.

  9. jimchamplin

    <Vigo The Carpathian voice>


    GIVE IT TO ME.


    </Vigo The Carpathian voice>

  10. jwpear

    I too had great support experiences like you in the past. Surface support has definitely dropped off. I bought a SB3 and had an issue with the touchpad. It took two returns to get a decent replacement. They kept sending me units that had obviously been repaired because the tablet was bent at the top and glass was wavy like they hadn't gotten it glued back properly. I was furious with this process and level of service for such an expensive device. After receiving the second poor unit, I refused to accept their standard service. I kept insisting with the agent that my case needed to be escalated. All told, it took a month to get a decent replacement after multiple exchanges and calls. I still prefer the Surface devices over others, but this gives me major pause on future purchases.

  11. jchampeau

    As I've said before, Surface is a side hustle for Microsoft. And as much as we'd all love them to treat Surface as though it isn't a side hustle, I don't see it happening.

  12. ngc224

    Microsoft’s customer support fails even before the sale. I don’t trust Microsoft or their dutiful minions in the tech media to be honest about anything. This wasn’t always the case.


    It shouldn’t be necessary, but I’d pay a “Trust Tax.”

  13. darkgrayknight

    I think the "getting to talk to an actual person" is more difficult across the board, but once you can talk to someone so much more can be done. Microsoft should improve this (and hire more customer service reps). This would help them out with being in the consumer space at all. I wonder if there are any customer service reps at Google, as I can never find a way to comment on their products or find someone to actually help. Everything is automated and not in a good way. Unless you have a simple problem (that most of us IT types could fix ourselves) there are no answers or solutions.


  14. scj123

    Apple customer service is amazing, but I have never had so many items from one company repaired or replaced.

    • prebengh

      Is it because of product failure or because of drops, water ingress or the like?

      I think I have had at least 30 different Apple products including Macbooks, Iphones, Ipads, Apple watches over the last 12 years. I have had a Macbook screen failure (screen retention) and an Apple Watch failure (sound and taptics failing) and that is all.

  15. bbold

    This has been my experience, too. Microsoft needs to completely overhaul its support options, the professionalism of their agents, and move support back to the United States. Anything else is unacceptable. If they can't do that, consumers should know what they're getting into. I've always considered Apple and Starbucks to have among the highest customer service threshold, and Microsoft could learn a thing or two million from those companies and how they interact with 'customers.' I also learned this in working in retail management for over 20 years... If you want the customer to give you return business, treat them like you'd treat your mother... with tender loving care and professionalism and respect. Microsoft and many other companies have a long way to go to get to the level of care that companies like Apple or Starbucks provides, which, in my opinion, are the best in the industry.

    • bkkcanuck

      They also need to overhaul the management of support (as many companies do), with the focus on support and trying to make the customer happy. A lot of it comes with the emphasis that management places on making sure the customers are treated well. With the way Microsoft develops Windows and some other things, I often get the feeling that from the management level down the tend to be a company of ... good enough... rather than trying to constantly improve (which also applies to customer service). You would not have a decade or more of neglect with the UI being inconsistent if it was a company that focused on improvement rather than just being good enough. I am sure it does not necessarily apply to all of Microsoft, but they do have parts that become 'legacy' where they just don't put the same emphasis on areas that are nice shiny new darlings.

Leave a Reply