My life as a customer, part 2: Three red lights flash on my Xbox 360 Ring of Light (again!) RROD much?

rrod013109Sitting down with a glass and a controller in my hands, I logged into Xbox Live for a post getting-the-kids-to-bed Xbox 360.

Ooh, that’s a new screen.

Turn off the non-responsive Xbox 360.


Another Groundhog Day: it’s Saturday night, after the phone agents are gone at 1-800-4MY-XBOX, but you can now you can initiate a repair ticket online at and even print a shipping label directly from the Xbox Support Web site. image

To start the repair process, first select the console that you want to have repaired.
If the console that you want to have repaired isn’t listed below, either the console is not registered or your console is not registered to the Windows Live ID you are signed in with.

Printing the label should reduce the time to have the console repaired. Luckily, I have an Xbox 360 shipping box from the last time I returned a unit for repairs.

I sympathize with any other customers running into this failure over the weekend.

I’ll update this post as I follow the repair process.

Update 22:35: Error message using the information that was pulled up from my Windows Live ID….

First correct the following errors and click submit

  • Invalid characters found in first name.

Uh, no, I don’t think so.  But we’ll try something creative to get around the problem.

Thank you, your repair request is complete!

Note to self: send message to the Live ID team about recognizing names with alphanumerics.  I know three or four people that this ‘bug’ impacts.

You selected to ship your Xbox console using an e-label from UPS. Please check your e-label to ensure that your shipping information is correct before printing. Once you print your e-label, affix it to the box you are using for shipment of your console.

Printed, packed and ready to go to the Xbox Repair Facility… on Monday.

Update 020209, 8:00h: The Xbox will soon be winging its merry way to a repair centre somewhere far south of here. I received an automated mail from “Xbox_ AOC Web EN” indicating that “it will take 2-3 Weeks to return” the unit to me. Clock’s ticking…

Update 020909. 08:30h: An automated message from the Xbox 360 Service Center…

Good news, we have received your Xbox console at our Service Center.  You can track the status of your order online by accessing You will also receive an e-mail notification when your repair has been completed. Thank you for your patience.

Update 020909. 08:30h: Exactly 24 hours after the last email, I received an automated message update An automated message from the Xbox 360 Service Center…

We are happy to share with you that your service request is completed and your Xbox console is now ready for return shipment.  We will e-mail you again with the shipment tracking information when your Xbox console has been shipped.

Update 020909. 08:30h:  Received an update by phone today from UPS alerting me that our package will be delivered tomorrow, along with the UPS tracking info.  We found that the unit left Texas on February 11…

REDMOND, WA,  US  02/16/2009  7:34 P.M.
HERMISTON, OR,  US  02/16/2009  3:08 P.M. 
SALT LAKE CITY, UT,  US  02/13/2009  5:17 P.M.
COMMERCE CITY, CO,  US  02/13/2009  4:07 A.M. 
SALINA, KS,  US  02/12/2009  10:08 A.M. 

Tags: Microsoft, Xbox 360, customer support

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My life as a customer: this week, it’s about cable television… and more than the 2009 DTV move

Customer satisfaction clip art from Microsoft Office OnlineMy life as a customer. This week, it’s cable television and the proposed digital television transition… not be confused with that other digital TV transition… as Tweeted today.

If you read my post about my email and Tweet exchanges with Comcast, you’ll recall that I wrote to register my complaint of having to add another set top box to my "already-ready-for-digital-TV" TVs: I have televisions that include a digital tuner, and capable of receiving the free to air digital channels, which Comcast rebroadcasts on their channel map.

Given the time to explain the situation and the less-than-basic response I received from the first tier email support folks (I appreciate the effort!), I sent an email last week to Steve Kipp.  He’s the regional VP for Communications at Comcast in the Seattle region.    

I sent Mr. Kipp a copy of my brief email exchange with Comcast’s customer service representative, with my request for more information about the status and availability of digital channels available in the clear (clearQAM).  In part, here’s what I received from Comcast:

In order to keep up with the demand for more HD channels, more programming options, and faster internet speeds, we must move out the analog signals. For every one analog channel, you can fit up to 10 standard digital definition channels or up to 3 HD channels. I apologize that you don’t think our efforts to assist customers through the digital migration is not enough.

Yep, I get that.  But they didn’t seem to understand my frustration or answer my question.

For our home, I’m happy to have Comcast phase out the analog and move the entire 1-99 channel map to digital, provided these channels that are currently provided in the clear are not encrypted (meaning, that Comcast customers need a set top box to decrypt the channels).

We have TVs at home with digital tuners that work just fine pulling in the few digital HD channels I get today from Comcast, and the remainder of the channels from 2 (local news) to 99 (which happens to be the CBC, thank you very much). Most of the channels we seem to enjoy most seem to be above Channel 29 including CNN, CNBC and various kid-friendly programming. Which means the capabilities in our new digital ready TVs will be redundant and – even worse – marginalize: it’s expected that the inexpensive boxes that Comcast intends to provide "for free" won’t provide the clarity or experience customers get today from digital HD provided via the cable connection today.

Back to my email to Mr. Kipp.

In my mail, I asked him just which channels will be available with a television equipped with a QAM tuner once Comcast pulls the switch to move more of the local channel map from analogue to digital. I explained that I hadn’t heard from anyone following my last email, I sent my email directly to him to register my dissatisfaction with the planned digital change on Comcast’s network…

I understand that Comcast intends to offer two STBs per HH for free which will no doubt be a cost to your company. In order to avoid some of this capex cost, it stands that you could offer the current analog channel map broadcast in the clear to your customers with digital and HD ready equipment capable of receiving clearQAM channels. It seems that this approach would allow Comcast to eventually migrate to an all-digital format, encouraged as more and more customers purchase new TVs and home AV equipment capable of viewing clearQAM. This would also highlight the benefits of an advanced STB, offering VOD, HD and DVR beyond the basic digital TV’s tuner. In fact, I would be inclined to add a new advanced STB on our main HD TV while allowing digital clearQAM channels on other TVs in our HH.

My objection is that contrary to Comcast’s advertising at the end of last calendar year, it seems that I will have to change our set up on our televisions at home and add simple STBs in order to view channels above channel 30. Surely, you can understand a customer’s frustration over this need to add a STB to nearly every TV in the home, and why instead I’m looking at ways to eliminate the need for such a STB and move (regress?) to an attic-mounted antenna distributing OTA ATSC to the digital-ready TVs in our home.

That was sent on January 26.

Yesterday, I received a letter dated the same day (Jan.26), noting that…

The Executive Customer Care Department for Comcast in the Seattle Market has received your blog regarding the analog migration. I have left messages to attempt to answer your questions. Due to no response received from you, Comcast will consider this matter resolved.

Hmmm. I received one phone message – which I really did appreciate – and attempted to call them back the following day (I left a message, as it seems they’re busy). But I find it interesting that in response to my original email, I received a letter and one phone message (again, truly appreciated)… but no email response.  And it appears that they waited less than a day before considering the matter resolved. Email much?

You might ask, why would I bother to escalate this?

In the Windows group at Microsoft, I often receive emails directly from customers or partners with questions or issues that haven’t been resolved.  Sometimes the emails or letters come to me via other managers and execs at the company, asking to route to the appropriate group for a response. You’d be surprised at the number and breadth of mail we receive from people, and we do our best to respond to these mails across the board. 

Building on that concept, I decided to escalate when it appeared that my emails to the general customer service inbox at Comcast had stalled.  I sent my emails as a customer of a service provider, unhappy with the proposed migration headache this move will likely cause in our home. 

I’ll let you know how this turns out.  I expect that unless a customer advocacy organization or some oversight committee steps in, we’ll be adding new, cheap set top boxes to all the TVs in our home once Comcast encrypts the channels we view today without a set top box.

Tags: Comcast, television, DVR, FCC, policy.

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Announcements: the kick-off of Microsoft Answers beta, courtesy of Chris Kilbourn

A new site has hit, in support of our customers: the new community on the Microsoft Answers Site, Microsoft’s first consumer-focused support community.  Chris Kilbourn (the Lead Site Manager for TechNet) posted today about the launch…

“A few times in my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with the turn-up of some major web sites. Today marks another one of those events.

“I am very pleased to announce that my team, in coordination with many others across Microsoft, has just launched Microsoft Answers Beta for Windows Vista!

“It is a web site for everyone who uses Windows Vista at home, and has questions about using or fixing problems with Vista. With community-driven forums, it is a place for Microsoft customers to discuss and ask questions about Vista.

“Take a look, and leave us know what you think in the Microsoft Answers Beta feedback forum.”

Microsoft Answers The Microsoft Answers Site is an interactive community self-help experience moderated by dedicated support engineers and (from my Windows POV) provides a place for consumers to quickly and easily find all sorts of Windows Vista support content. Microsoft Answers is available today as a beta release, and I found that the Windows Vista section is where you can post your questions and answer some, too.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a number of customer interactions being fielded about Windows Vista and many of our products across a wide variety of communities (including various comments posted on Twitter, and deeper exchanges on Get Satisfaction and the green button to name a few).

This latest effort should help connect consumers within a Microsoft forum, in a way that we’ve seen through the communities that we have for developers and IT professionals in MSDN and TechNet.  I like the structure that Microsoft Connect has brought to the pre-release and beta process.  It’s good to see that we have an interactive effort to connect consumers with our employees in more than an ad hoc way (such as through blog feedback and comments, which I get from time to time).   

Microsoft Answers is available today as a beta release. For more, please visit and provide your feedback on the experience.

Added 12/16/08: I’m reminded by my friend Matt that ahead of Microsoft Answers, I need to provide a tip of the hat to Windows Live. We also recently launched support for Windows Live customers at

Windows Live Solution Center is the first fully integrated online consumer support experience for Windows Live. Combining topic-driven blogs, technical solutions and community conversations, the Windows Live Solution Center offers dynamic support for Windows Live services.

More on this one asap.

Tags: Microsoft, customer support, feedback, customer service, Windows Vista.

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Handling customer technical questions should not be like the Sunday funnies

Some days, the comics are just so right on the money.


Tags: Humour, Dilbert, customers, customer feedback.

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Dude, I’m returning a Dell: the hard drive failed on our new PC

j0414099[1]I wanted to share a very frustrating story with you that happened to me last weekend, one that I shared with Dell’s customer advocate folks.

You may’ve read my post on the poor customer experience at my neighbouhood Best Buy (the good, the bad… you get the picture).  I was in search of a new laptop for my wife and I purchased a new, sealed Dell Inspiron Laptop with an Intel T5750, 3GB, 250GB.  Such a model should be a good, reasonably priced replacement for her Inspiron 600M. 

Over the weekend, I backed up and migrated the files from my wife’s old notebook to this new machine: file transfer was easy using Windows Vista Easy Transfer.  I spent the bulk of my time on installing applications.  All was well, my wife was happy and the kids were thrilled of the promise of a new computer in the kitchen.

After using the PC for a few hours, the machine froze. 

Uh oh.

I restarted by holding the power key and after running through the self test, I found in the diagnostics that the hard disk was no longer recognized, making a repetitive clicking and whirring sound.  To my ear, it sounded as if the drive had fallen and was unable to get up.

So back to Best Buy I went.  After taking the unit behind the curtain, the Geek Squad determined that the unit was in fact unrecoverable, and my only options were to exchange it for another PC (but not a similar 1525, as they were sold out) or return it for a full refund.   could get one form another store a couple of hours away (no thanks) so I opted for the refund.  To their credit, Best Buy’s return staff were courteous, helpful and sympathetic.

Oh, and while I was in line, saw several Dell PCs on the returns table – this didn’t inspire confidence.

One of my concerns about the returns process wasn’t how the credit would appear on our credit card statement, but how Best Buy would ensure that our personal identifying information would be erased/ destroyed from this drive.  After asking, Best Buy’s manager on site assured me that the unit would be returned to Dell and that it would not be resold.  But knowing that Dell has a healthy refurbished sales channel, and lots of stock ends up on Best Buy’s “returns” table, I’m still a little concerned.  How does Dell deal with drives that fail in the field returned for refurbishing?

So far, no word from Dell’s customer advocates (via email).

I am a long time Dell owner (several towers, laptops) and a little upset at the time I spent this weekend migrating my wife’s data to this new machine.  In all, these are steps I will have to repeat when buying a new replacement machine for her 600M. Frankly, I don’t think that I will invest in another Dell personally purchased via box box retail – all my Dell PCs have been built to order (BTO) direct from Dell. 

With back to school and holiday sales on the horizon, there may be a good time to buy coming up, assuming my wife’s trusty Inspiron 600M lasts.  (I expect that it will.)  An added bonus for this tried and true notebook: I purchase the then-discounted four-year, full coverage (“even if you drop it we fix it”) warranty, which has paid for itself a couple of times over: Dell has so far replaced the motherboard, power supply and hard drive.  And it remains quite usable, having upgraded the more than three year old notebook from Windows XP to Vista Home Premium SP1 and Office 2007.

There are 151 days of Dell Complete Care remaining on the 600M. Maybe this notebook will see us happily into the new year.

Tags: Dell, Microsoft, Vista, Windows, Best Buy, retail, whack, Customer Service.

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