A Tale of Two Customer Service Departments

In this business, there’s more to how powerful your system is or how good your games are. There’s also the simple matter of treating your customers well, so that they will continue to be your customers, rather than those of your rivals.

Today, we look into what happens in two separate instances with two different manufacturers of two different consoles. Of course, the problems are rather distinct from one another, so they cannot be directly compared, but nonetheless, I hope this will be of some interest to you.

The first story comes from Microsoft and Quarter To Three forum poster RickH, who recently tried to upgrade his son’s Xbox Live Silver account, established in 2007 through a Windows Live ID, to a Gold account for Christmas using a 12-month Gold card.

…when I try to enter the code, it says it can’t connect to Xbox Live. (Which is BS, because I can do it with the other profiles in the system.) After a half hour on the phone with MS’s highly scripted but ultimately useless 1-800-4MYXBOX folks, they told me that the Windows Live ID “hadn’t been used in so long that it expired.” As a result, my son’s Xbox Live Gamertag, which logs into Xbox Live just fine to record his achievements, is permanently unable to be turned into a Gold account.

So, MS’s customer service tells me they can’t/won’t reactivate the WLID. And that they can’t/won’t change the gamertag to another WLID. In fact, when I asked the 1-800-4MYXBOX binder-jockey whether my son’s Gamertag could be moved to a new Windows Live ID, the response was that I could go to Xbox.com and “try.” Since I know for a fact that it is not possible for a Gamertag to be associated with another WLID through that website, I was basically being told to get lost.

Thanks for wasting a half-hour of my time, gents. And thanks for leaving me in the position of telling my son that a year and a half of achievements and save games are now useless if he wants to actually use his Christmas gift.

Which leads me to my warning: if you claimed a gamertag you thought you might want someday, or just got a Silver “for now,” but haven’t been using the Windows Live ID you created to get the tag, there is a good chance it expired and your tag is now permanently orphaned, stuck in the purgatory created by Xbox Live’s absolute dependence on a WLID that might not be around the next time you want to use it.

And if anyone from Joystiq or Kotaku is reading, would you mind asking MS how many of these millions of Xbox Live accounts that they brag about having are actually useless accounts linked to a dead WLID? If MS is making representations about online market share or potential revenues based on a total number of gamertag accounts that includes a significant number of impossible-to-activate accounts, it should probably correct them.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily the fault of any of the customer service reps, but simply a poorly-implemented system which yields unfavorable results to paying customers.

Elsewhere, we have Nintendo, who according to The Consumerist, have “apparently forgotten that they are a large corporation, went out of their way to make sure all the variables that caused John’s Wii to glitch were addressed.”

I just wanted to write to you about my dealings with Nintendo Customer Service. I’ve had a Wii for 2 years now and had my first problem with it about a month ago. When playing a game, specifically Resident Evil 4, green digital artifacts would show on the screen. It was also happening with Guitar Hero World Tour. I wen to the Nintendo website, looked up my serial number, and was informed that it was out of warranty(which I expected) and I would have to pay $75 for it to be fixed.

I decided to call the customer service number and see if anything else could be done. I spoke to a very friendly woman who was in California. She looked up my serial number and informed me that it was, in fact, “still under warranty” and promptly took down the problem and e-mailed me a printable Fedex shipping label. I sent off the Wii and anxiously awaited its return. the next week my Wii came back, and on the paper detailing the repairs, it stated that they were not able to duplicate the problem. “Oh great” I thought to myself, but upon further reading I discovered that they had replaced the motherboard because it was the “suspected cause” of the problem, and also sent me 2 brand new copies of Resident Evil 4 and Guitar Hero World Tour, all at no cost.

For my 2 year old Wii, I would say this is above and beyond the call of duty and wanted others to know.

Nintendo’s customer service never ceases to impress me.