Head, Meet Brick Wall…

Customer Support, the phrase that all too often seems to take on oxymoronic overtones.

Once again, I’m currently battling Microsoft’s Customer Support services in an attempt to fix an issue on Martin’s Windows Phone.

I’ve recently invested in a Nokia Lumia 1020 (of which more in another post), and passed on my old Nokia Lumia 800 phone to Martin. It’s been reset, and is now installed with the Dutch Language and has its region set to the Netherlands. I added Martin’s Microsoft Account details to it, and all seemed well. The phone started displaying his emails, his contacts and his calendar correctly. But there was a snake in the grass.

We attempted to install a couple of Apps from the Marketplace onto the phone, and discovered that the phone was displaying the contents of the US Marketplace, not the Dutch one. Any attempt to purchase an App was met with the message that a payment method needed to be set up, which I found a bit odd, since that has already been done for Martin’s Microsoft Account. Further investigation revealed that his Microsoft Account has got two billing accounts associated with it: a Dutch account (which has the payment options set up) and a “ghost” US account, which has no payment accounts associated with it.

Xbox Account 01

This ghost account probably got created years ago when Martin first created his Windows Live ID (which subsequently became known as the Microsoft Account). It’s lain unnoticed until now, when Martin’s Windows Phone has decided that it will use it instead of the Dutch account. The phone uses Microsoft’s Zune software on the PC to synchronise content between the PC and the phone, and this also showed that it was attempting to use the US account instead of the Dutch one.

Zune 01

It was with a sinking heart that I saw all this, because I had exactly the same issue with my Windows Live ID – a US billing account was created some years ago, even though I live in the Netherlands. That took eighteen months of battling Microsoft to get it resolved. Things have moved on, so perhaps it would not take so much effort this time around?

I posted a request to have the issue resolved on the Windows Phone Customer Support site. The first response from a Support representative understood the issue and believed the resolution to be “relatively  simple and painless”.

Cue hollow laughter.

I could see the logic behind his suggestion (changing the region of the Xbox Live account), but when we tried it, we found that it wouldn’t work for our situation. The reason was that Martin’s Xbox Live account is already set to the Netherlands region. So, back to Customer Support. He suggested several alternative support routes, with as a final resort, a live chat with Windows Phone Support. Needless to say, we rapidly ended up trying the final resort.

I started a live chat via the Netherlands page of Windows Phone support and ended up chatting with a support rep in the US (or at least somewhere where they don’t understand Dutch). She directed me to call Microsoft Support here in the Netherlands, who were worse than useless – the Dutch support rep insisted I would have to take up the issue with Nokia Support. Fortunately, the US rep was waiting until I had called the Netherlands number, and since I had got nowhere, I asked for the issue to be escalated. She agreed, and said I would receive an email from Microsoft within 3 working days.

It arrived yesterday – head, meet brick wall. It said:

The senior team could not find any reason for this behaviour other than the account region. So we kindly ask you to refer to the Account support to clean and fix any relation of your account with other countries.

Account support link:

https://support.microsoft.com/oas/default.aspx?gprid=15834&st=1&wfxredirect=1&sd=gn

Global Customer Service phone numbers
http://support.microsoft.com/gp/customer-service-phone-numbers/en-gb

The Account Support link merely asks me a couple of questions, and then unceremoniously dumps me in the Office forum of Microsoft Answers, where I know this issue cannot be resolved.

The Global Customer Service numbers just gives me the Netherlands support number, and as I learned, they cannot help us. The support person I spoke to insisted that I should take the issue up with Nokia, even though this is clearly a Microsoft Account and billing issue.

I know that the problem is caused by the account region – it’s the fact that there is a US billing account associated with Martin’s account alongside his NL account. We need to get that US account deleted, or merged with the NL account. I cannot use the Xbox Live migration technique, because Martin’s Xbox Live account is already in the Netherlands.

This resolution can only be done by someone in Microsoft.

I have replied to that email with these points, but somehow I get the feeling that I’m shouting in deaf ears.

Customer Support? Gone missing in action in this case.

Update 9 January 2014: I decided to go into battle with Microsoft’s Customer Support again today, since I had heard nothing back from my last contact. Today, I got bounced around four completely different departments in a combination of Live Chats and telephone calls. I journeyed through Windows Phone Support, Microsoft Account Support, Office Billing Support and Xbox Live Support.

The telephone call was with Office 365 Billing Support, and the person I spoke with expressed surprise that I had been referred to them. Me too, since we don’t use Office 365. I had said as much to the person in Microsoft Account Support, but she assured me that it was the correct department.

No, it wasn’t.

The last person I was in contact with in Xbox Live Support has escalated the issue once again, this time to yet another team – the Advocacy Team, so cross fingers, it might have a better outcome than the last attempt to get this resolved.

Update 10 January 2014: Another day, another failed attempt at getting a resolution. We had an email reply from the Advocacy Team yesterday, but it failed to resolve anything. None of the suggested steps were either relevant or helped to attack the issue. The whole point is that nothing that either Martin or I can do with his account settings will delete the false US account. That can only be done by someone in Microsoft.

So, back once more to Customer Support Live Chat. Today’s representative, Vincent, promised to pass the message back to the Advocacy Team that we had not got the issue resolved. He also suggested that I reply to the Team’s email with a complaint. He claimed to be certain that someone would read it. However, I doubt it. It’s never worked before, and I note that at the bottom of the email it says:

This email is sent from an unattended address.  Please contact Xbox Support directly if you have any questions or concerns.

I hold out but faint hope that anything will get done…

Update 13th January 2014: This evening I had an email from a member of the Customer Advocacy and Exceptions team at Microsoft, who is looking into the issue. Cross fingers, we may be getting somewhere…

Update 17th January 2014: This evening I was called by the team member. He said that the ghost account should get removed sometime during the next few days. It’s looking good…

Update 24th January 2014: I suppose I should have learned by now that these things never go smoothly. Here we are, a week later, and still no sign that the issue has been resolved. Emails and telephone calls to the team member supposed to be responsible for the issue go unanswered…

Update 29th January 2014: This is beginning to get truly annoying. I noticed on Monday that the US billing account had been removed. However, the Windows Phone and Zune were still locking onto it. I even tried resetting Martin’s phone to its factory settings, but that made no difference whatsoever. I sent an email stating this to Robert L., the “Advocacy Specialist” assigned to the case. Today, two days later, I get an email from him saying:

It appears our Team was able to remove the US account from your partner’s account. You may need to restore the phone to factory settings before the issue is completely disappeared, but they have reported that your account should be fixed.

Let me know if your issues persist.

Well, yes, they do and I had told him this, so it would appear that Robert L. does not read his emails. I tried calling him (again). Once again he was not available, and his voice mailbox is full, so I can’t leave him a message. Just as well I suppose, or I would have given him an earful.

Update 30th January 2014: I thought I would try restoring Martin’s phone back to the Factory Settings one last time to see if the issue has been fixed. Nope. It is still there. Interestingly, for the first minute or two, I saw the Dutch Marketplace on Martin’s phone, but then it was once again replaced with the US version. See this photo of my phone (the Nokia 1020 on the left) and Martin’s phone (the Nokia 800 on the right). They are both displaying the entry screen for the Marketplace. My phone is showing the Dutch Marketplace (called the Store), while Martin’s phone is showing the US Marketplace (with the extra US-only entry of Podcasts). Ironically, it’s showing the US Marketplace in Dutch…

WIN_20140130_164053

There is something in Microsoft’s services infrastructure that the Windows Phone (and the Zune software) is locking onto which is saying that Martin’s account is in the US when it is not… Robert L’s voice mailbox is still full, and he never seems to answer his phone or emails, so there seems little hope that he will resolve the issue. Next step: a plea for help to Rob Warwick, head of the Xbox EMEA Senior Advocacy Team, I suppose.

Update 7th February 2014: We’re no further forward. The problem is still there, Robert L. doesn’t respond to emails, never seems to be in the office, and still has a full voice mailbox. I’m posting the plea for help tomorrow. It’s my last resort.

Update 12th February 2014: Perhaps it’s coincidence, but I received an email from Robert L. yesterday evening. He wrote:

It appears that a service or software Martin is using is or was set to a US Region, which is automatically generating a US Billing account for his Microsoft Account (MSA). I was informed that this can happen from the Zune software, Surface, Windows 8 marketplace, and Xbox Marketplace.

E.g. Using a US region Surface, and accessing Windows 8 Marketplace will generate a US Region account on the MSA.

Per our support page: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2692008

“2. If the Microsoft account used for signing in was previously used for Xbox LIVE, Zune, or a premium service, the account locale will default to the locale of the service.”

In regards to the issue with, particularly, your region of the Windows Phone marketplace, if we are not able to determine the root source of the auto-generation, and then change its Region, it may be in Martin’s best interest to create an MSA intended just for accessing the Windows Phone marketplace that is separate from the MSA in question. He can then set up the account in question as his secondary account.

As far as we are aware, Martin has never previously used Xbox Live, Zune, or a premium service, yet his Microsoft Account is clearly set to the US locale. I suspect it is simply because his Windows Live ID was set up years ago when only the US locale existed as far as Microsoft was concerned, and so the associated service account has a US locale.

Be that as it may, the suggestion that Martin now create a new Microsoft Account solely for his Windows Phone is also not acceptable for the following reasons:

  1. Martin would end up with multiple online identities (the MSAs), and multiple service accounts – one of which would still be holding incorrect data.
  2. It also seems to us that Microsoft would also be contravening EU law on Data Protection, by not correcting false data that they hold on Martin.

If Microsoft cannot change the locale of the service account, then surely they can follow the procedure that was done for my MSA, which I had already outlined in an email to Robert L. on the 20th January: Microsoft simply creates a new temporary email address that would be attached to Martin’s old service account, thus freeing up his existing MSA to create a new service account (with the correct data). The old service account, and the temporary email address, would then be deleted by Microsoft.

I’ve replied with these points to Robert L.’s email, we’ll see whether I get any response.

Update 18th February 2014: No response from Robert L. to my last email; just like all the other null responses. However, yesterday I noticed that Martin’s Phone was now accessing the Dutch Marketplace. So, at long last, a result! Strangely enough, the Marketplace entry page is still showing the US-only “Podcasts” menu item, but Martin is now able to browse, and purchase, Apps from the Dutch Marketplace, so we consider the issue resolved. I sent him an email to this effect.

Update 20th February 2014: Today I received an email from Bella D., who apparently works in the Xbox Global Escalations Executive Team – yet another department. She wrote:

I am taking over some of Robert’s case [load] and I will be working with you with the problem that you have been experiencing.

I read your last email and Robert’s notes. It seems like the issue has been resolved on your end. Would you please confirm if that is still the case?

That would seem to imply that all my former emails had indeed been received, but never responded to. An acknowledgement would have been at least something. I replied to Bella:

I think we can say that the issue has been resolved. There is just the oddity that the Marketplace App on Martin’s phone is also displaying the US-only Podcast list alongside the Dutch Apps list. However, the main thing is that he can now browse the Dutch Marketplace and purchase Apps from it – which is what we’ve been asking for. So long as that continues to be the case, then the issue has been resolved.

Hopefully, we can now close this saga. It’s taken six weeks, but that’s a blink of the eye compared to the eighteen months it took the last time we went through this…

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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2 Responses to Head, Meet Brick Wall…

  1. Pingback: At Long Last – A Result! | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  2. Pingback: My Head Hurts | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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