Microsoft wants to friend you on Facebook for tech support

Company offers support for Office suite on popular social networking site

In a classic case of going where your customers are, Microsoft is now inviting users of the Office workplace productivity software suite to go to a specially-made Facebook page to get tech support. In a recent blog post, Microsoft introduced Facebook Help Desk for Office, at which users can type in a question about Office components such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel and get answers. In a brief tryout I found it to be generally intuitive and, therefore, helpful in getting the answers I’m looking for. But it did not always answer my questions.

Keyboard Help
The responses come from two sources. One is info from Office.com that has tutorials and other information about Office features. It’s keyword search-based. The second resource is Microsoft Answers, at which a user can submit a question for the online community to help answer.

I’ve never been a fan of self-help Web sites. I hate having to scroll through several screens of FAQs on the hope that my question has already been answered for someone else. I also dislike submitting a question in a forum when I have no idea whether anyone’s out there. With Facebook and Microsoft Answers, though, you have a more reasonable expectation that the forum is active.

The blog post was authored by Microsoft’s Joannie Stangeland, who is featured in a series of You Tube video blogs titled “A Writer’s Guide to Office.”

I tried out the Facebook Help Desk by asking “Where can I find out how to use the Track Changes feature in Office 2010?” The Help Desk asks you to choose which version of Office you use, but the results I got were for Office 2007 or 2003, not 2010. But no matter, Track Changes probably works the same in 2007 as 2010.

I got a little snarky on my next query, asking “Is Microsoft Security Essentials any good if it’s free?” This is not strictly an Office-related question but Microsoft Answers provided some search results. But the forum commentary I read through did not directly answer the question except for one Microsoft moderator who explained that MSE only does malware protection, not firewall protection or other security functions. As in other online support programs, it’s all in how you phrase the question.

I next asked the more direct “How do I import a photo into my PowerPoint presentation?” Here, Office.com provided the most useful results with a step-by-step tutorial on the process. As in other online support programs, the Facebook Help Desk asks “Was this helpful?” next to its results so hopefully the answers will be more helpful as the feedback makes the system more intelligent.

In Facebook parlance, Robert “Likes” the Facebook Help Desk for Office, despite some shortfalls familiar to all online support sites.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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