Microsoft Answer Desk, run by trained circus monkey’s

Microsoft Answer Desk, run by trained circus monkey’s


Since Windows 10 there is a new option available in your start menu if you search for “get help”, this will connect you to the Microsoft Answer Desk team for live support, which is also accessible via their website.

This seemed like a great feature initially, to have free support on tap, especially for non-technical people, but I am saddened (although not surprised)  to report, after testing it out several times, that Microsoft answer desk, for the most part, is bloody awful for anything except very simple issues.

BEWARE of false prophets

So far in my experience, the so-called techs who work on the Answer Desk have little to no technical skills at all, they have basically trained monkey’s who simply search the Microsoft forums and knowledge base for answers and just follow the advice they find online or copy and paste them to you. They will suggest inappropriate solutions that have nothing to do with your issue or even your version of windows, or that could even damage your systems. On a couple of occasions, the support techs made a remote connection to my pc and searched heir own website for answers right in front of me.

After my first use where they could not help, I was advised to subscribe to their new ASSURE support plan, which would give me premium support for 5 computers. I took up this subscription hoping that perhaps it would at least get my family access to a better level of support, rather than just relying on me. But alas you still have to go through the same answer desk and deal with the same level 1 numpties first, but if they cannot help you then they will (if you are lucky) escalate to level 2 support, who might call you back if you are lucky.

The answer desk team have no problem blatantly lying to you. For example, they promised me every time that they will email me the case details but rarely ever did so. As a result, each time you contact them about the same issue, there is no reference number to give them, so you have to go through it all again every time. Once when I tried to chase up a missing invoice, the person claimed that they do not send out invoices, which is simply not true. They promise to follow up cases, and then never contact you again. the list goes on.

When you speak to them on the phone they will ask you to explain the whole issue, and will then transfer you to someone else, again with no reference number and will not explain anything to the person they have just transferred you to, so you will have to go through it all again. This can easily happen several times in a row as you get transferred from one dept to another as each person refuses to take responsibility, and then they will just randomly drop the call, and you will have to call back and go through it all again 3-4 more times because you still do not have a reference number.

One tech (and I use the word tech loosely) I spoke to when I was having ongoing Windows corruption issues, tried to get me to permanently run windows from a USB memory stick instead of from a hard disk, which I refused to do as this is clearly not a viable solution and it would make my system ridiculously slow and a USB memory stick is not big enough anyway.

He refused to provide any further support unless I did this, and refused to escalate to level 2 even though I had paid for ASSURE support, he refused to provide me with the number for customer services so I could make a complaint, he refused to send me case details, kept promising he would email me the details, but of course never did.

Another tech tried to solve my issue by putting my system permanently (not temporarily for debugging) into clean boot mode and thus disabling all my third party services, such as my backup, antivirus, RMM, software updates, basically everything that kept my system secure, and promised this would solve all my problems. Luckily, since I am a tech-savvy person, I knew this was not safe and did not leave my system in this state, but a non-technical person would have just accepted this solution and been left with a vulnerable, unprotected system and no backups.

If you can get through to level 2 support then you may get some useful help from someone who actually has some technical ability, and able to solve your problem, but the level1 support is really only suited to those in the computer illiterate category, if you are a computer literate techy, they will drive you mad.

Microsoft Answer Desk, run by trained circus monkey’s

Microsoft Answer Desk, trained monkeys on demand

2015-12-19_2037Since the release of windows 10, users now have access to a free online support service called “Answer Desk”. In Windows 10 you access this by typing “contact support” at the start menu, which will allow you to launch a native answer desk chat app. This will connect you an answer desk tech who will provide you with free support for Windows and related apps.

While the concept is great, Microsoft’s implementation of it is not so much. Having used the answer desk a few times myself now, I can tell you that the techs are not skilled at all, all they do is search the Microsoft forums and knowledge base for a solutions and copy/paste it to you.
In fact I have on a couple of occasions had the techs connect to my computer, open a browser and start searching the knowledge base right in front of me. In addition they have blatantly lied to me on several occasions.

One thing you need when contacting support is ticket/case reference number in case you need to contact them about the same issue again. While the answer desk are supposed to you provide you with this, they usually don’t, so you end up having to explain your issue over and over again each time you speak to someone new. Even when you call them on the phone, if they create a case, they do not give you the details and will just blindly transfer you to another person without any warning or explanation to the other party, so you will have to explain everything over and over again, each time you get fobbed off and transferred to someone else, or if they cut you off and have to call back, which happens very often.
Once I twigged on this, I started explicitly asking them to give me a reference number, which works when you are on the phone, as long as they do not cut you off before they give it to you, but when using the live chat I have found that they consistently lied to me and would tell me they will email the case details to me, but never do.

Microsoft Answer Desk, trained monkeys on demand 2

One of the Microsoft Assure support techs hard at work.

The other consistently frustrating problem is that they simply do not read anything you tell them properly, if at all. If you tell them that for example that you cannot even login to windows or that it just keeps constantly rebooting, they will then ask you to do something that completely ignores those facts such as tell you to go to a website and download a file or follow some instructions on a web page.  In every single instance of contacting the answer desk, I have had to repeat every piece of information to them several times, often within minutes, and they will ask the same questions multiple times. If you send them links to screenshots, they won’t look at them, but they will not tell you this at the time, they will simply ignore the link, and only later when they start asking you the same questions and you say “see the screen shot I sent you earlier”, will you then discover they never looked at it and will then claim they cannot click links. Needless to say this really does drive you insane.
There were several occasions where I was contacting them about a different computer which was having a problem upgrading to Windows 10, and I told them it was not the one I was using to talk to them on, and yet still they asked me to do things on this computer or tried to remote into this un-related  computer and investigate an issue which did not exist here. So much time was wasted on this because they would not take notice of what I was telling them.

On my first use of answer desk, they were unable to help, and suggested I should purchase an Assure subscription for £150, which would give me premium support for 5 pc’s. I wen’t along with  this on the premise that it would give me access to a better level of support as well as getting my current issue escalated. Sadly this was not to be the case, even with paid support, you still have to go through the answer desk and deal with the same level 1 monkey’s, but if they cannot help then they are supposed to escalate you to level 2 if you ask. Although they do not bother to check if you have paid support, you have to tell them this.

The last issue I contacted the answer desk about was my system keep getting corrupted, no matter how many times I reinstalled windows or replaced the disk. The solution given to me by the tech was to run Windows 10 off a USB memory stick instead of an SSD. I refused this solution, as it is not a viable solution, would of course result in an incredibly slow system and I didn’t have a USB member stick  big enough anyway. So because I refused to do this, the tech then refused to help me further unless I did this, refused to escalate me to level 2, even though I had a paid assure support subscription, refused to give me a reference number for the case, and also refused to give me contact details for customer services to complain.

poor-credit-score-graphicLast week I received an email from Microsoft asking me for feedback on my assure subscription, so I gave them my honest feedback, detailing all the issues I have had, as mentioned above. They then sent me a canned response stating that my feedback had not been accepted and would not be published, obviously because it was negative.

Final summary

If you are not a very computer literate person and not able to solve problems by yourself or use google to find solutions or search the Microsoft KB or forums, then answer desk will most likely help you, as the most common/simple issues that are well documented. For complex issues, you take the risk of getting wrong advice which may make the issues worse, and you may well end up reinstalling windows. You need to be savvy to avoid such issues and know when you are being given bunk advice or down right lied to as there is no fall back and no-one to complain to. If you do know how to troubleshoot, then I would recommend to try and find the solution yourself first, search their KB and forums, use google etc, it will likely be quicker and less painful in the long run.

I would recommend to avoid the online chat, and instead request a call back and speak to someone on the phone, as the live chat techs do tend to have several chats on the go at a time which adds to the frustration, already poor communication and reading skills, slow responses and lack of a case number. Do remember to always ask for a case number when you start a call, and use this whenever you get transferred or call back on same issue.

If you want to speak to 2nd level support techs that actually have a clue, then you will need to pay for support, either per incident, or an assure subscription.

How to get help with Windows 10: from Microsoft

Having problems with  windows 10, need help, did you know that windows 10 has a built in support app to connect you to Microsoft support.

Now I  wouldn’t recommend you resort to this app immediately with every trivial issue, but if you just can’t find the help you need anywhere else,  Microsoft has provided this app called ‘Contact Support to assist you. This app gives you an easy way to contact Microsoft’s Windows Support when needed.

The easiest way to access the app is to type “Contact Support” into the search box. Microsoft promises that once the app launches, in just a few quick clicks you can be connected by chat or phone to Microsoft Answer Desk. This is a one-on-one connection with what Microsoft calls a ‘Windows 10 expert’. Support monkey may be a more appropriate term, but either way you are getting help.

contact support

I have tried this out myself, and I was connected to to someone in the answer desk within 1 minute, which is pretty good considering how many Windows 10 users there are already,  but then I wonder how many know about this app. Sadly in my case the support was useless, I clearly knew more about the issue than the support person, and the only suggestion he gave me was to “find a local support tech”, that’s it, no troubleshooting, nada due to the fact by issue occurred on startup. Not really a useful suggestion to someone is fairly techy himself. However the service may well be useful to novices and those who are adverse to googling or using forums.