Last week, Microsoft had worked itself into a bit of a tiff about the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop being unrecommended by Consumer Reports. I’ve addressed the firm’s emotion-laden, fact-free blog post over here, but Microsoft is about to do what amounts to the wrong thing. Thurrott has obtained an internal memo which lays out a potential line of defence of the Surface line.
According to this internal memo, Microsoft is going full on defence mode with this. If one were to take the Redmond line, the Surface line is immensely satisfying to customers, Intel was to blame for the Surface Pro 4 and Book issues, and that the subsequent products were better than the last one ( as if they were expected to get worse), etcetera. Microsoft will be working with marketing and other departments to share this information with consumers (So you can expect to see certain Microsoft news blogs touting the firm’s numbers in the coming weeks), and mount a full-fledged defence of the Surface.
While all of the above is possibly true, this is the wrong thing to do right now.
Forgive me, but I’m about to invoke Apple here, twice. Back in 2010 Apple had just released the iPhone 4. Much like Microsoft’s Surfaces were – and still are – reviewers and users as a collective group loved them and were immensely satisfied by them. The device was a marvel of engineering and pleasing to the touch and gaze. One small problem though, due to a design flaw, some iPhone 4s had issues connecting to network towers, this was the event known as “antenna-gate”.
Not only did Apple investigate, but they penned a transparent open letter to their customers, stating “We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.”
Late last year, Apple also had a brush with consumer reports. In a review of the MacBook Pro, Consumer reports kept hitting lower battery runtime than promised. Much like in Microsoft’s case, supporting blogs were posted from reviewers who had tested the same device, and Apple took umbrage with the result. Working with Consumer Reports, the firm identified the issue at hand which caused C.R to receive such low results and resolved it. Consumer Reports updated their review, Apple was happy, Apple fans and bloggers were happy, a bug was squashed in MacOS, and everyone lived happily ever after.
It really shouldn’t be rocket science. Is there a reliability issue with your expensive product? Apologize for it and fix it. Did Consumer Reports hurt your feelings? Work with them to see how you can improve.
In the first case, it isn’t the first time Microsoft’s Surface has suffered from reliability issues. In this article penned before the Surface Pro 2017 was released, I noted that “whenever the Surface’s reliability is mentioned, the users love it and think the world of it, but when push comes to shove they just can’t depend on it. ”
I also worried about the new Surface devices, stating that “If it’s anything like the others, it’ll be well reviewed and have a few bugs here and there which can be overlooked for a while. The key thing, however, is that these bugs will eventually get out of hand and prove detrimental to the experience. If Microsoft has taken on feedback from its last two devices, this hopefully isn’t going to be the case.”
This year, Microsoft moderator Barb Bowman and woman who is sick-of-dealing-with-this-crap posted the following in response to complaints about the Surface Pro 2017’s hibernation.
So, in my OPINION, based on the fact that it has historically taken Microsoft months and months to identify issues and come out with a fix and since these devices are still eligible for return for full refund, you may want to consider returning for a full refund and repurchasing. If you do that, you get another 30 days of being able to return and repurchase, etc. The reason I say this is that 6 months down the road, Microsoft will exchange for a refurb if they determine it is a hardware issue and the quality of the refurbs has not been consistent.
Additionally, if it IS a software issue, customers should not need to perform multiple wipes and reimages and bare metal troubleshooting. These devices should just work properly out of the box.
I’m not trying to be deliberately negative, but the track record Microsoft has of fixing issues is slow. You’ve all spent a lot of money. Sure it costs in time to set up a new Surface, but if the advice is to wipe and reload a device that has this issue, in MY opinion, it’s best to spend the time doing this with a different, new Surface Pro in case it is a hardware issue.
As much as I love Surface, the firm is doing the wrong thing here. Now that Surface sales are threatened by Consumer Reports pulling their recommendation, Microsoft is stepping in. When Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, 4, Book and Pro 2017 users were suffering from battery problems, reliability issues, hibernation issues, hot bagging, all this passion for their customers was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the firm alternated between total silence and making statements on their relatively obscure answer forums.
Another point being missed here is this. Consumer Reports’ survey is an aggregate survey. It’s not like the Consumer Reports staff are themselves complaining about the Surface, these are real, life consumers who feel that the Surface is – in one way or another – less than reliable. By attacking the Consumer Reports survey, Microsoft is indirectly attacking their own customers and telling them their experience is invalid, or that they are being too sensitive.
What Microsoft should be doing here is acknowledging its past issues, apologizing for them, and making it clear that it will do better, and that it has done better with the new Surface Pro. Highlight the lack of issues with the Surface Laptop and the quick fix it issued to the Surface Pro when a hibernation issue popped up. The firm could even — to show how confident it is in its products — offer the European standard 2-year manufacturer warranty instead of one year. Currently, this is a perk of Microsoft Complete, but making it broadly available to everyone would speak volumes. This was done for the Xbox 360 when it had the infamous RROD, there’s no reason it couldn’t be modified and launched again for current Surface customers. Microsoft has no chance of changing the Consumer Reports results for reliability at this point, the best it can do is hope that future results reflect positively on the Surface.
Instead, Redmond will blame the consumer for being too sensitive, Consumer Reports for being too negative, and Intel because reasons. After all, it is everyone else’s fault.