Microsoft Offers In-store Support

by Patrice Samuels | Oct. 17, 2014

Microsoft recently started offering their “Answer Desk” technical support service in Microsoft stores throughout the U. S. Microsoft launched Answer Desk online in December 2011; a service designed to provide one-on-one expert help to users of Microsoft products, whether or not these products are purchased at Microsoft. The answer desk service offers software repair and support, virus and malware removal and tune-up services for free.

Why invest in in-store channels?

Given that in-store support channels are generally more costly to maintain than online channels, Microsoft’s must have perceived some clear benefit to this investment.

Maintain Brand Equity – The Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft received a lot of negative press following its launch in 2012 and the operating system and its upgraded version, Windows 8.1, has yet to gain the market share that Microsoft anticipated. Much of this negative press was based on several customers reporting difficulties in navigating the new operating system and getting it to work well with a traditional mouse and keyboard. Microsoft’s decision to offer free in-store support could be an effort to be more accessible to customers so that they can provide more product guidance and help consumers to have a more seamless experience with their products.

Revenue Generation – Microsoft could also be doubling down on tech support services as a revenue generator for the company. Some of the more popular support services including Geek Squad from Best Buy and the Genius Bar from Apple have strong in-store presence; Microsoft possibly perceives this as a model for success. While Microsoft offers a substantial number of support services for free, more complex problems relating to third party hardware and software along with software upgrades are offered at a premium. This freemium model of support is sure to lure more customers to the service, giving Microsoft the opportunity to monetize out-of-scope support services. Having more foot-traffic in Microsoft stores also makes consumers more familiar other Microsoft products, potentially increasing sales.

Are physical commercial channels gaining importance?

This is an interesting move by Microsoft given the much anticipated decline in emphasis of physical retail channels with the popularity of online sales and service channels. Are large companies now assigning more importance to physical stores? Recent rumors about Amazon would certainly suggest this. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon plans to open a brick and mortar store in New York. This week, there are further rumors that the company will open a physical store location in San Francisco.

While online channels offer greater efficiency for both providers and consumers and are less costly to maintain, they do not allow companies to foster strong personal connections with customers.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the decision, this is a positive move on the part of Microsoft as recent research from Parks Associates suggests that 60% of broadband households think that it is somewhat important for support services to have physical service locations; 40% report it to be very important (selecting 6-7% on a Likert scale).

Tags: tech support

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