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XBL customer service fail WTF?!

Microsoft and I have been getting along really well the last several years, and even with my love of all things UNIXy, I’ve also been a big advocate for the awesome things going on in Redmond related to infosec.

In that context, imagine my surprise to discover the way that XBL (Xbox Live) treats their customers… especially an owner of a few Xbox 360s since launch. A few? Of right… ya. I’m looking at my fourth Xbox 360 right now, one of the pre-HDMI version. 2 Red Rings of Death and 1 optical drive failure. That’s not why I’m pissed off. Microsoft did the right thing, they extended warranties, etc. All my failed consoles have been replaced under warranty. So kudos for that, XBL folks.

That brings us to how you fail.

I bought one of those new Xbox 360 S consoles, a very cool Halo Reach special edition in silver. Then I got suckered into paying for an Xbox Live Gold 12 mo extension through a promotion they were running. 40% off for 12 months? Ok. Noble 6 avatar helmet? Sure. That’s a good deal! So why do I say suckered? Because the XBL folks refuse to deliver. They got my money, they delivered partial value, and they told me to go to hell when the rest didn’t come through. That’s right, I didn’t get my code for the stupid avatar helmet thingy.

I was patient, I waited for over the length of time that the email support folks told me to wait. No problem, shit happens, sometimes processes break down, right? Right. So after a couple of months, I email again for an update. They tell me to call. Grr. The phone support is friendly, but inefficient. Unfortunately, its the only way to resolve this so I abandon the email and pick up the phone. I spent at least an hour on that first call getting bounced around, explaining the situation over and over, providing confirmation of personal details over and over, and end result: they escalate to find out what’s going on. Awesome, thanks for the help! We’re going to get to the bottom of this and get me my stupid little code to redeem for a stupid little avatar item. I know how much my time is worth, far more than the code, but I was hoping to help make sure that something systemic wasn’t breaking things for other customers like me. Hooray for acting in good faith! Surely that would be rewarded by getting what I paid for, right?

Bzzt.

Wrong.

A couple of days later, they call back, leave me voicemail. They quote terms of service, tell me that the “resolution” provided by the escalation is “screw you customer, we don’t reissue codes! HA! We sent it on November 5th, if you didn’t get it then its not our problem.” Uh. Seriously?

So I check my email, including pouring through 100s of email for a few days around the date they claim to have sent the code. Nothing. Lots of vi4gra, diplomas, etc. I looked through my spam, looked at each message. Gmail is awesome that way. Nothing from Xbox Live or Microsoft. So, I call back, explain the steps I’ve taken to confirm that they did in fact not deliver the code. They agreed to reescalate after some debate over terms of service vs technology vs customer service.

Days later… “TOS! screw you, customer. No more re-escalation, customer. You will not get what you paid for, customer.”

The correct thing to do is to provide another code for a trivial item. That is doing customer service the right way. Spending hours digging in to defend a terms of service policy designed to project the business from abuse and manipulation, rather than address the fact that the services purchased were not delivered is not a sound approach.

I’m looking for a reason to not be pissed off, but I really don’t see how any response other than the following makes sense:

  • When those 12 months are up, I will not renew.
  • When those 12 months are up – or perhaps before – I will likely get a PSN+ subscription.

Fun game of chess, this. To open, XBL enticed me with a great deal. My move was to take advantage of it. Then XBL failed to deliver. My move was to try to solve the problem. Their move was to tell me to go to hell, and hide behind the terms of service. My move is to allow XBL to damage their brand and alienate a customer, ideally more.

Your move, XBL.

I’ll be having fun with my PS3 while you ponder…

Update (2010-12-11):

So the strangest thing happened today… I got my avatar item code in email. Either somebody awesome was watching, in which case thanks is due likely to one of the highly clued people I have the luxury of knowing at Microsoft… or, the system that churns out the emails with codes for promotions like this coked on the email like a chicken bone and finally coughed it up.

Either way, I have my code… ironically the day after a customer satisfaction survey was sent to me to evaluate my experience with XBL support. I’ll complete that survey this weekend, and add the wee bit of feedback that the code materialized.

Sofa King weird, but at least now the issue really is resolved.

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