Earth to Microsoft: Why Do You Make it So Hard to Be a Good Customer?

I thought that the basic premise of business was that you wanted to make it easy for your customers to be your customers or you wouldn’t stay in business.
Why then does Microsoft make it so difficult for a good customer to be a good customer? This post caught my attention because it sums up so many people’s feelings about the current state of dealing with Microsoft. If you try to stick with the program, you end up with a bunch of hassles. Small wonder so many people obtain copies of the software in “nontraditional” ways.
Example 1. I spent a bunch of time recently downloading and installing a huge number of critical and recommended updates for my various computers only to find that Microsoft has withdrawn one of the upgrades because it disabled Internet access for too many people. Did Microsoft tell me that? No. I learned that from a newsfeed I found that keeps me updated on Microsoft patch news. Do I have any idea what I’m supposed to do now? Nope. I still have Internet access so I must be OK, right?
Today, there’s another security update report from Microsoft. What’s the procedure – install the patches now or risk the exposure until you find out whether the patch breaks systems or not?
By the way, Microsoft has all my contact info because I had to sign up for a Passport account. How about a little help or just an email giving me a few suggestions?
And, the updates themselves? How about sending me a CD every now and then with the updates, at least the service packs? Despite Microsoft’s assumption to the contrary, not everyone has an ethernet network with a broadband connection.
Example 2. My old Win 95 computer that will soon become a Linux computer. All I wanted to do was upgrade it to Windows 98. Why doesn’t that cost me $10 or less instead of more than the value of the whole machine?
Example 3. Speaking of software that costs more than the computer how about those prices on Office XP? What about just a copy of Access?
Well, it was comforting to see a flurry of stories today that indicate I’m not the only one who had these feelings and experiences. Microsoft itself reduced the prices on Office products (of course, given that Office 2003 will be out soon that only makes sense), but they are still very high for personal and small business use. Microsoft has recognized that by liberalizing their education discount policy, even though it is still pretty difficult to comply with the letter of the academic license – I’m one of those people who tries to read, understand and comply with the license terms, since I practice in that area of law. If I have a hard time getting the rules straight, believe me, plenty of other people do too.
And there are other forces at play. The educator’s version of Office is outselling the standard version by about a 3 to 1 margin, which bears a rough correlation to the fact that it sells at about a 1/3 discount over the non-educator version. In a certain sense, this is found money for Microsoft because if the educator version were not available, some percentage of these customers would have opted for the “copying from a friend” approach rather than shelling out for the standard version.
Add to these stories the continuing saga of the controversial and widely-panned Microsoft business licensing plan and it makes you wonder about what happens when to a company whose customers start to feel that they are merely afterthoughts. Microsoft may want to come down off its mountain and talk to the people who use its products and figure out ways to make it easy for good customers to stay good customers.