The tech industry's utter contempt for its customers

The latest 'Black Screen of Death' problem points out yet again that customer service comes last in the technology industry

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Prevx certainly deserves a dope slap for making such a serious assertion without due diligence, but the real issue for users is what to do about the problem. Consider Microsoft's post on its security blog: "We've also checked with our worldwide Customer Service and Support organization, and they've told us they're not seeing 'black screen' behavior as a broad customer issue."

That sounds logical, doesn't it? Actually, it's not, and to see why, take a look at Microsoft's support policies. To begin with, people who buy Windows from a retailer are entitled to 90 days of free support. After that, they have to pay. Well, that's fine for anyone who purchased Windows 7 in the last six weeks, but it fails to cover the tens of millions of Vista and XP users. Because a call to Microsoft support is costly, I doubt that many would bother to even report the problem.

Then there are the millions of Windows users whose computers came with Windows already installed. They don't get free support from Microsoft; that's up to the computer maker. That works for a new PC, but if you're running anything but Windows 7, chances are very high that the computer is out of warranty. Too bad for you.

I mentioned that to the folks who speak for Microsoft and they said, "Free support is always available to all customers, regardless of where they purchased Windows 7 through Microsoft Answers, @MicrosoftHelps on Twitter, and the Windows Help and 'How To' center troubleshooting and solutions, too." Excuse me -- my PC is frozen and you're telling me to go online to get help? The mind reels.

Microsoft can afford to be generous

In case you hadn't noticed, inflation has been nearly insignificant in the last few years, and hardware prices have continued to drop. But Windows never gets cheaper, and Microsoft's gross margins continue to be very high. Given that reality, Microsoft could well afford to have a more consumer-friendly support policy. I'd bet that the increased consumer loyalty and brand equity would more than make up for the extra cost.

I'm a bit more sympathetic to HP and other computer makers whose margins on PC sales are truly tiny. However, since the PC and Windows are quite literally useless without one another, wouldn't it make sense for Microsoft and the PC makers to work together on problems like this, and on support issues in general?

As I and lots of other commentators have pointed out over and over again, the utter inadequacy of support, and the contemptuous treatment of consumers, are industry-wide issues. I had a home networking problem recently and called D-Link, the makers of my router. Because the device is out of warranty, I was told that I had to pay for support. OK. But then -- and this could only happen to a technology consumer -- the techie mentioned that I would be charged whether or not she could fix the problem.

D-Link is far from alone in that practice, but can you imagine, say, an auto mechanic saying he'll try to fix your brakes, but there's no guarantee and you have to pay whatever the outcome.

The mind reels.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net.

This article, "The tech industry's utter contempt for its customers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments on Microsoft at InfoWorld.com.

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