Last year, I was giving my laptop to my mother. It was a Dell XPS 13 that was a few months old and it had quite a bit of my data on it. So I thought “Why not reset the device so that she could load her own stuff on it?” Alas, if it were only that easy. About half way into the reset, the computer crashed and refused to boot up.

Having a flight in two days, I frantically called the Dell helpline to get the issue sorted.

The Dell Debacle

The experience was not pleasant. I first had to make my way through several steps of automated questions. The IVRS system was good as far as IVRS systems go, but that is not saying much. Each question was read out slowly. The machine confirmed my choices even slower and guess what?

After all that hassle, I spent about 30 minutes stuck to the phone listening to Dell’s (actually pleasant) hold music to get connected to a real human being only to find out that this human being’s job was only to connect me to the actual technician. Ridiculous!

When I finally got on the line with a technician, my experience was not much better. Now don’t get me wrong, the technician was very nice. He waited while I found another laptop from which I could download my backup and talked me through the process of bootloading it onto my broken laptop.

But the backup being downloaded was 7GB large. About 4GB and 2 hours in, the connection failed. Frustrating, but alas what choice did I have, I tried downloading it again. Once again 4GB and it failed.

Four hours in and things looked bleak.

But what choice did I have but to click the download button again and pray that it worked.

Thankfully it worked this time around, the download inched towards completion and I was set! The technician talked me through the process of mounting the file on the usb drive and booting the operating system on my broken machine.

But once again, it was short lived. An hour into the reset lo and behold, the computer crashed again. 5 hours with the technician and still no luck.

Respite finally!

At this point the frustrated technician told me that even my backup was corrupted and I needed to contact Microsoft.

Now my experience with Microsoft was similar in a lot of ways. I had to spend hours waiting for the OS backup to download and it did crash a few times. The reset thankfully worked and my computer was fixed. But there was one key difference which made it far better than my Dell experience.

The customer support was done through chat.

It seems like a trivial difference but in reality it is night and day. Chat based support/service should undoubtedly become a standard.

The initial process of getting my issue across did not involve a criminally slow IVRS process. I typed out my issue, sent it over, and proceeded to binge some Casey Neistat vlogs till the technician pinged me back. When they did, I followed their steps to download a new copy of my OS and waited. Since I was on chat though, I had more freedom. I was no longer stuck to my phone. While the download happened and the technician talked me through the process; I could watch TV, talk to my family, pack my bags for my imminent flight and even go out and get a coffee.

Perfect solution right?

Not quite.

I would argue that Microsoft could make their chat experience better still.

Why did I have to wait for the technician to ping me? My query was pretty standard and and the instructions the technician gave me were also pretty easy. The person on the other end was nice, but I could have well done the fix on my own if I knew where to look. Now I am not suggesting an FAQ page. Those require too much effort to trawl through a page and find the appropriate answer.

I am thinking automation. Having a robot customer support rep available always and instantly.

For instance, check this bot out that can solve your technical support queries :

Or this one where I could ask Dominos some basic questions about my meal and order :

In the time I spent waiting for the technician to ping me back, I could have potentially found my solution with such a product. It is much faster and requires less investment on my part than IVRS. It requires less waiting time than human chat. And it doesn’t require me to trawl through long FAQ pages or forums.

While I could imagine this chatbot to be problematic if there were more than a few standard questions asked regularly, the point still stands that in coming years, as conversational interfaces mature, bots will become the perfect customer support experience.

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