I believe that Microsoft’s MSDN subscription is a very handy product and one which is super helpful to developers worldwide. In addition, I believe that cookies are pretty handy when used correctly and I have lots of them on my PC happily letting web sites call me “Rick” and welcoming me back.
Hoohkay. With that out of the way:
I’ve got a problem with a Microsoft App. Shocking, I know. I futzed with a dll and, <boom>, I toasted the application. I don’t have my MSDN CDs with me so I zip on over to the MSDN site to just download what I need. Simple. Well, I thought so
I get to the web site, log in and get into this loop of being asked for a password, saying welcome, and being flipped to the asking me for a password page again. Growl.
MSDN has an online, live, help system. 24x7 designed to help with nit things like this. The entire transcript is below. Take a quick read and then scroll on down for some commentary.
Welcome to the MSDN Online Concierge
|The session has been accepted.|
|[jerry]||Hello and welcome to MSDN Online Concierge. How may I assist you today, Rick?|
I'm trying to get to the down loads page and I keep getting a page about managing my sub.
[Ed note: the response below took less then 1/4 of a second. Tells ya I’m not the first person with the problem]
|1)Close all Internet Explorers excluding the current chat window.|
2) Open Control Panel and select the Internet Options item.
3) Under the General tab, click the "Delete Files" button in the Temporary Internet Files area. Click to add a checkmark to the "Delete all offline content" item and then click OK.
4) Click “Delete Cookies”, then click OK.
5) Under the Security tab, set the Security level for the Internet zone to "Default Level".
6) Under the Privacy tab, set the Privacy level to Default.
7) Under the Content tab, click Publishers. Remove all Trusted Publishers.
8) Under the Advanced tab, click "Restore Defaults"; then clear (uncheck) the "Enable third-party browser extensions" option.
9) Under the Program tab, click Reset Web Settings.
10) Apply the change and open a new Internet Explorer. Try to access the MSDN Download Site again.
[Rick Segal] This isn't cool, it deletes cookies to ALL my sites. What are the specific cookies/files for MSDN that I need to kill
[jerry] But this issue is really of cookies
[Rick Segal] By cookies you mean that MSDN's cookies are currently, on my machine, a problem?
[jerry] The cookies associated with the download site will lead you to a looping problem.
[Rick Segal] ok. So how would I find out exactly which cookies those are so i can avoid deleting all of the cookies and offline content on my computer.
[jerry] I am not sure on this
[Rick Segal] Would it be possible to ask someone or email someone and then email me? I am not in a rush so I can take the time to do it right.
[jerry] I can not get the answer for you right now, it will maybe in several business to get the right answer for you, Rick
[jerry] Sorry, it's several business days
[Rick Segal] That would be fine, Jerry, I just would like to do this correctly on my machine so as to not mess up all the other programs. I can give you my email address if you'd like.
[jerry] Is that E-mail address valid for you to get the E-mail? email@example.com
[Rick Segal] That would be correct. If you email someone inside Microsoft, I am sure this information is available and I will wait to hear from you.
[Rick Segal] I appreciate your help.
[jerry] It's my pleasure to help you
[Rick Segal] Have a good holiday and don't let cranky customers mess up your day.
[jerry] Thank you, Rick, ,thank you for using the MSDN Online Concierge service. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please feel free to come back at any time again
Whew. Let’s start with some fun stuff.
The live chat software isn’t LiveMeeting or any other recognized piece of MS technology. When the chat started Microsoft’s anti-spyware phreaked out. It still worked even after I said no, block it, pretty funny. Too bad as this a perfect opportunity to show people LiveMeeting in action. No dog food at this table.
As I mentioned inside the transcript, 1/16 of a second after I hit the send button on the problem that whole delete *.* checklist flew into my machine.
This points to a much larger problem and one that you should pay attention to if you are launching software or services: Don’t screw somebody else because of your problem.
Had I done what jerry suggested, my Air Canada “remember me” settings would have been blown away, for example. It means that if I don’t have my FF number handy/memorized, I’m not able to do things on the Air Canada site. And lets not even talk about telling me to just set everthing to default.
You have a responsibility to know what your software does, what it modifies, and what people need to do in order to back you or your problems off the machine.
This points to the other big issue: Outsourced customer/technical support. Here’s a guy that is trying to do the right thing. Give me a solution to my problem. The split-second jerry is ‘off script’, uh oh. He is just hanging in the breeze, thank you Microsoft. Doesn’t know, doesn’t have an easy way to find out and has to tell the customer (who had paid thousands of dollars for MSDN) that it will be several days before an answer will be coming. Totally not his fault, rather Microsoft’s for not arming this guy better.
As a side note, I try to be extra nice to technical/customer service people because I really believe that those people are just trying to make a living and the issues with service rest with the home office executives.
Other side note: David Sifry, CEO of Technorati, was personally picking up the phone and helping customers during the time when people were writing the company off as dead. I know because I called, got him, got help, got a call back, and got a follow up email. He didn’t know me, doesn’t care if I am a VC or the Pope, just rabid desire to help the customers.
The point of these two side notes: Don’t leave your people hanging and walk the walk before you talk.
There are hundreds of thousands of people using MSDN and paying for it. After more then 10 or 100 people call/email/chat with the same problem, a very granular checklist can be offered up to the support people. Even better: Make the “having trouble” section of your web site as helpful as you can with all sorts of issues people come up with.
Anyway, for your start-up, remember these things:
1. Delete *.* or Format C: may solve the issue your product is having but it may screw others. Get specific and granular.
2. Give your people the tools they need to support the customers along with a fast path to get to the right people.
3. Walk the Walk. You go serve the customer, directly, and feel the pain.
The best part of this story? Jerry Ding.
While I’ve been typing this, Jerry sent me an email message with a third party tool that deals with this cookie issue and one of Scoble’s (go figure) channel9 links. Plus he asked if I’d check out both and let him know which I thought was better. I’ll be doing that while trying to steal this guy into one of my portfolio companies.
Well done, Jerry, you are a great example of good people making all the difference in the world.