The key to dealing with a large customer support department is knowing the limitations of how much you can accomplish at any given level. When you first contact someone like, say, Microsoft’s customer support because someone stole $50 out of your account, you’re dealing almost solely with a script. At that level of service, the person on the phone is doing little more than reading from a flow chart of conditional statements. It’s a bit like a maze. You learn to find your way to one of the script’s dead ends, at which point you will be transferred to a supervisor. My particular dead end was asking why my Xbox Live access had to be shut down for 25 days before I could have the stolen money restored to my account.
“It’s for the investigation,” the script reader recited.
“Right, but why does the investigation take 25 days when it’s clear what happened? Someone hijacked my account and spent my money to download games onto another Xbox 360.”
“Because that’s how long it takes.”
After doing that particular loop for a few time, I was handed over to a supervisor who identified himself as “John”.
“Hi John. I’m trying to find out why my account has to be shut down for 25 days for an investigation when it’s obvious what happened. I know this is something you guys have been dealing with, so why do I need to be locked out of Xbox Live for so long?”
“Look, I’m not going to give you the PR line. I know you’re in the business and you don’t need me to give you the PR line.” I had told John that my job is writing about games and that this is exactly the time of year when I can’t afford to be without Xbox Live for a month. “So let me just say that the reason it takes so long is because the problem is so widespread. We’re having to deal with so many cases that’s just how long it takes for each individual case. The new dashboard upgrade that I’m sure you know about will partly help us deal with that. But for now, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
So it’s happening so often that it takes them a month to resolve each case? That means it’s happening to a whole lot of people, or that Microsoft sucks at efficiently addressing customers who’ve been screwed over by their lax security.
I told John that I wasn’t really concerned with an investigation, and that I just wanted my money back. Since we both knew what had happened, I asked him if he could just cancel all the purchases that were made on November 2nd and refund me the cost.
“It’s against the terms of service,” he said. And even though John was off script and improvising, I knew that was another dead end. The only thing on their other side of that wall was their legal department.
The bottom line is that I’ve had 4800 points stolen from my Xbox Live account, and would have had more money stolen if a credit card had been associated with the account. In order for me to get that back, I have to shut down my Xbox Live account for a month. Maybe when releases slow up next year, I’ll give in to their absurd investigation requirements. But for now, it seems to me Microsoft can’t be trusted to hold anyone else’s money. At least Sony’s outage didn’t cost me anything.