It’s been months since I last did a blog post, so that may have led three or four people to wonder “what happened?”.

Since October I’ve been working on a project to add functionality to our customer’s support experience.  Many of you out there have opened cases with Customer Services and Support (CSS) in the past and have probably seen our Online Assisted Support option.  This is a web page where you can open a support incident with Microsoft and engage our Commercial Technical Support (CTS) group.    CTS is the group I work for.

When you select your product at the OAS page, and after you have selected how you will pay for your incident (which are inexpensive but not free), you are presented with two pull down menus that allow you to select the technologies that the problem you are seeing is related to.   These selections are called Support Topics, and that is also the name of the project I have been working on since October.

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Our intent to is to add intuitive selections-intuitive to you, our customer.  Why is that important to you, and to us?

As individual engineers we specialize a great deal in the technologies we support in order to have a great deal of technical depth to bring to bear on the complex issues we receive.   This technical depth means that our engineers may lack the breadth of expertise to address just any issue.  That puts emphasis on the need to get the problem you need help with to the exact engineer who can help best. 

So we need to get the right specialist for you right away.   These selections above can allow for you to choose the right technology and tell us a little about the problem you are seeing.  Using this information we can immediately get your problem to the best person to resolve it.

What happens if your incident goes to the wrong person?  Simple enough to answer: the issue will not be resolved as quickly.  That tends to make people less happy with our support-and we want people to be very happy about our support and our products.

So if all we’re doing is filling out a list then why have I been away doing that for such a length of time?  Seems excessive, right?

Well, we are doing this revamp of the support topics for every product that CTS supports.  For each product or set of similar products we may create up to twenty topics per “level” of selection, with a maximum of two levels.   That could be 400 topics if we did the maximum, and of course we must describe them and attach some good technical questions to ask for them as well.   If you consider that we have more than a few distinct products to do this for, and a global customer base to take into account, this project increases its anticipated scope quite a bit.

Creating that nice set of taxonomies for this is all well and good but this is the framework for greater things to come.  Here’s an example.  For folks that have worked with CTS over the years you know that we have data gathering tools (we call them manifests now) which are created to be useful for technology specific problems.  For example, a Directory Services manifest that gathers useful information like DCDIAG.EXE results.   You can look forward to having the option to have that data gathered as you create your online case, and have it in a seamless way passed along to the engineer who will be assisting you.  Hey, if all works out, your issue could be solved  before you and the engineer actually talk to each other.

I’ll leave you with one final thing in this post.  When you look at some of our current support topics on that OAS site now you may or may not see an ideal reflection of what you would expect. Well, here’s your chance to give me some feedback on what you would like, or what you would dislike, to see in that support topics list.