A word or two about Exchange PSS hold times…


A word or two about Exchange PSS hold times…

It is something we hear quite often these days here in PSS, Exchange specialty: “I had to wait a few hours to talk to you”. “I called in, waited for an hour and the they told me I’d get a call in 4 hours”.

Yes, unfortunately, this is what happens these days.

This is, understandably, very frustrating for customers that call us in need. It is definitely frustrating for all of us here too. Why is that? Well – for us – it is the customer that needs to be taken care of first, and the help that we provide needs to be both expert and quick.

So – that being said – why is this, what does one do, and what are we doing about it?

Why is this? There are several reasons for this situation. For example – we have seen more Exchange 2003 deployments sooner than expected. On the other hand, Exchange 5.5 call volume has not slowed down, really.

What does one do? There are a few tips that might give you a better experience when getting Exchange support:

– if at all possible, call for support on Wednesday or Thursday – as those days are typically “lighter” in our support queues during most weeks; while you might still have to wait, there is more chance that your issues will be handled more quickly on those days

– if the issue is not critical, it might be easier to open up a Web support incident rather than call into the support queue; additionally, you might want to use our Newsgroups to get help on the problem

Microsoft Communities (Newsgroups link is on this page):

http://www.microsoft.com/communities/default.mspx

Web Support incidents (Please go to “Contact Microsoft” and then to “Submit a Request for Online Help” links):

http://support.microsoft.com/

Of course – the above are just “workarounds” which brings us to:

What are we doing about it? We have worked quite aggressively on addressing the situation. We are in the process of hiring new people. We have a lot of training going on. It will take some time though, but the situation will be improving.

So there you go – it is not much, but – I thought we should acknowledge the problem for what it is and shed some light as to what we are doing about it.

Nino Bilic

Comments (12)
  1. I says:

    I thought that mainstream support was over for Exchange 5.5.

  2. Colin Walker says:

    Having worked for MS UK support I can vouch for the difficulties in manning support lines.

    It’s always difficult as you have a business model to "adhere" to – you’re never going to hire more staff than you need as you end up with people not doing much, so the trick is balance.

    The last year of my period with support was exclusively spent dealing with Web Support queries and I must say that this is a very good way of getting support for non-urgent issues but can be equally frustrating.

    If you are going to use web support you need to put in all the relevant details. If you think 4 hours waiting for a phone call is bad then you are not going to be impressed if PSS take two days asking you questions because you didn’t give the right info to start with!

  3. KC Lemson says:

    I: See http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/support/lifecycle/Changes.asp. Mainstream support ended in december, extended is available until EOY 05, the first year of extended is free.

  4. I says:

    so I can still get help with a question about Exchange 5.5 configuration or whatever? I can’t really figure out what the difference between mainstream and free extended support is.

    Thanks.

  5. Ben M. Schorr, MVP-Outlook says:

    Is there a maintained FAQ for Exchange support? Might be useful to publicize whatever the 10 most common calls/solutions were of the month — especially if the Outlook/Exchange MVPs make an effort to highlight that document so that people seeking support can find it more readily.

    -Ben-

    http://schorrtech.blogspot.com

  6. FWIW, I had a major issue over the summer – 5.5 stopped talking to AD right after the migration, and it wouldn’t let me connect to the 2K instance, and when I called, I told them this was a major issue, and the router had me connected in 3 minutes.

  7. A PSS User says:

    I must say that PSS has degraded considerably over the past few years, not just in queue times, but in overall quality. Back in the ‘early days’ (98 to 2000) I was ofter ASTOUNDED at the level of expertise and knowledge that the people on the other end of the phone had. These days, quite often I know more than the ‘support professional’, and the call is nothing more than sitting on the phone listening to dead air while the person ‘searches their knowledge base. It is sad, really, and one reason we are not going to renew any support contract…..the value simply is not there any more.

  8. Brandonh says:

    The Exchange "Top Support Issues" as calculated by PSS are stored in a per component basis in KB articles. For example, the Top Exchange Transport Issues are stored in this KB article: 253193. There are also numerous webcasts done on common troubleshooting tasks and common issues.

    The easiest way to locate these KB’s and Webcasts is on Support.microsoft.com and search for: "Support Issues" and Exchange

    HTH,

    Brandon

  9. Nino Bilic says:

    As far as Exchange 5.5 support is concerned… you can still absolutely call PSS on Exchange 5.5 issues. The fact that we are in "Extended" support now means that there might be no "functionality" hotfixes. There still will be security hotfixes. So you can place the support call for configuration, migration, etc issues no problem.

  10. Nino Bilic says:

    In reply to Brian’s comment:

    Well, the truth is – we have not had such problems with long hold times last summer… Not to the degree that we are experiencing now. Additionally, PSS business during summer time is traditionally a bit "slower", probably because of number of vacations that our customers take at that time. Overall, when talking to the Customer Service Rep – you should communicate the real severity of the problem in your Exchange environment.

  11. Former PSSer says:

    I know that the people I worked with in 99-02 are all still in their positions, so it’s not a universal decline.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Scoble asks the question. Feel free to answer in his comments, or here and I’ll pass it on. My view? Microsoft needs to evaluate and push this on three fronts. This is, of course, assuming that Microsoft sees RSS as valuable. I’ll leave the risk management and technology assessment to people who are smarter than I am. Evangelize The first step is to prove first that it’s worth it, and second that it solves a problem. To be honest, I would start by making the Community Groups for Microsoft products available as RSS feeds. The notification system in these groups is either non-existant or useless (I’ve never been notified, even after checking the little box). One of the biggest things that RSS does is improve communication, so let’s see it improve communication. Microsoft may even want to extend on that Exchange Developer who asked for patience through his blog. Why not offer support status updates via RSS? In fact, why not provide 360 degree communication to key customers. They can know the support status on the project, they can know the status of their question and they can know when an answer is given. All powered by RSS? Chris Pirillo would be happy. He’s been on a bit of a "RSS can replace Email" thing. I digress. For MS to effectively push RSS, it needs to first show that it works for them. By solving internal issues (like communication), not only will the Product Evangelists be able to say it works, but bloggers will as well. MS will have several proof of concepts built up, and maybe even distribute those to customers under licensing (or God forbid, Open Source) agreements. Resource Whoops, got caught up in the moment. In order to effectively get customers, but more specifically ISV’s to pick up RSS, Microsoft needs to provide resources. Believe it or not, Microsoft is already incredibly good at this. There are an incredible amount of small tools out there that solve problems companies don’t even know they had. From Software Update Services to the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. By providing a resource, ISV’s and customers alike will be able to take advantage of this new tool. Build It While a lot of the buzz recently has been around building the functionality into the OS, I’m hopeful that Microsoft has learned some lessons from previous "big technologies" that were built into the OS and then dropped. Following this 3-phased approach allows them to see if RSS actually solves a real problem that real people are having. If it flies (or bounces, or sticks… however you choose to put it), they can then build functionality into the OS. Into Outlook. Into Office. Into Exchange. Whatever. Make it part of Sharepoint for all I care. Not sure if this helps Robert Scoble, but these are my 8am thoughts….

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