This post is in part a continuation of my previous blog on Microsoft and its Office 365 customer care services. Just to recap, I cancelled my Office 365 annual subscription within a couple of hours of buying it as Outlook didn’t work on my Mac. After nearly a 2-hour struggle with MSFT tech support, I gave up and said I wanted to cancel. The call was duly escalated to Billing (by now I should have gotten used to the ‘escalation’ process which basically means you go from one clueless support person to another to whom you should recount your story for the fifth time). After a lengthy explanation of the difficulties in installing the software, I said “as it is not installing on my laptop, could I cancel the service?” Of course I could, she said, apologizing profusely that it didn’t work out for me as expected.
I was relieved to say the least. However, at that point of time I did not realize that nothing was said about refunding the $105.99 subscription fee. I will admit it. I am throughly spoilt by the likes of Amazon and Apple who do refunds if you are not happy with their products, especially cloud services, without question. Most retail chains in the US have similar refund policies. The most I had encountered when requesting for a refund was a polite, “was there something wrong with the product, madam?”
A couple of days later, I checked my credit card account. No trace of a refund. I called Billing again, but this time a different person. I regaled him once again with my failed attempt at installing Office 365 and asked him when I could expect a refund. In a booming voice he assured me, “5 to 7 working days.” Alright then, I would wait.
When I remembered the refund again, it was well past the 7 days. I checked my credit card account, still no trace of a refund. Relentless, I called again. This time, another polite lady from somewhere across the world answered. By now, I had become rather proficient at reciting my story and a little wary of very polite people on the phone. After hearing me out, she says “sorry ma’am. But Microsoft has a non-refund policy for monthly subscription services.” But then, I didn’t use the service, I struggled for more than two hours to make it work and so did your technician, I argued. Nope, policy is policy, she said. You signed the terms and conditions.
Yes, I did sign it after just glancing through it. But the service didn’t work. How can you charge me for something that never worked and was never used? After going back and forth for a few minutes, she agreed to escalate (!!) this again. A couple of days later, I get a mail from Microsoft. It said: “I have taken ownership of your request from my colleague (great, my request is progressing up the value-chain).
I understand that you wish to receive a full refund for your Office 365 subscription. My colleague made you aware of the Microsoft Service Agreement which states that all monthly subscriptions are not refundable (Not true. This was not told to me at the time of signing up but later when I asked for a refund). You agreed to the Microsoft Service Agreement during the installation of your software.
If there is anything that I can consider in your favor I would like to ask you to provide proof in form of emails sent to Microsoft, Chat transcripts, and reference numbers or similar (Really! I thought you recorded the calls and saved chat sessions. You want your customers to do it?) I am happy to consider anything that you may have that proofs (proves?) that you tried to contact us before. Without any such proof, I am not able to give you any refunds outside of the applicable terms and conditions.
The only reference of your attempt to cancel your subscription was the reference number 1250534697 from last week, but based on this I cannot refund any charges.”
I was now determined to get my money back. I did two things. I disputed the charge to my credit card with my bank and wrote a reply to Microsoft, highlighting the fact that I did reach out to tech support and apparently Microsoft had no record of those conversations. The long and short of the story was they came back to me after two days and said that I seemed to be right and I would be entitled to a refund. But by then, my bank had already withdrawn the charge to my credit card and my interactions with Microsoft support had left an indelible scar.
I was just thinking about the story in light of an article that I read on CNN today on how Microsoft intends to transform itself from a software company to one focused on mobility and cloud services such as the Office 365. I think what Microsoft needs is a fundamental shift in its thinking. It thinks and behaves like a traditional software license vendor. The cloud business demands an exceptional framework to attract, monetize and retain customers. To build that kind of business and customer care will be the first of Microsoft’s many challenges.