User Support Is The Key To New Microsoft Store

Support, not shelves filled with products, will bring customers into Microsoft stores.

Now that Microsoft's first Apple-like store is open in Scottsdale Arizona, Microsoft has finally entered the world of direct consumer retail sales. Since I don't live in that part of the country I have to rely on the reports from others, and so far the feedback is that the store is a lot like Apple's, has a little less cool-vibe to it, and shows off some of the price differences between hardware running Windows compared to Apple hardware (no surprise there). It's still too early to tell how Microsoft store(s) will fare but from my experience visiting Apple stores, the key to success isn't only cool hardware, lots of software, or great accessories for your computer. It's end user support for the retail customer.In the Microsoft world, retail customers have limited options when it comes to support. Most often people rely on a family member or friend who is "computer savvy" to come over and fix their computer or network problems. Another option is the Geek Squad. My son works on the Geek Squad at Best Buy here in town and they do a gangbuster computer support business. There's always people standing in line ready to ask for help with some computer problem or software issue. But the Geek Squad is more of a repair center than a true help center, like Apple offers at its stores.A coworker recently started experiencing what he thought was a fan issue with his Apple laptop. He made an appointment to meet with an Apple guru at the Apple store. Turns out it was a hard drive and a fan issue. The Apple folks worked with him to replace the failing hardware, load his requested operating system configuration and left him with guidance how to recover with his Apple Time Machine backup. I've seen many others make appointments at the Apple store to have someone sit down with them just to answers their questions about how a particular program works or how they can complete a task they want to do on their Mac.I haven't heard much yet how the Microsoft store is doing in the customer support department, but my assessment is if Microsoft wants to learn from Apple's success, there's a lot more to it than just being a computer retail outlet. The key is patient and reliable end user support. Software, hardware or whatever the end user needs. Microsoft's got additional challenges there since they would have to deal with a vast array of third party hardware and software, so I suspect Microsoft will stick closer to Windows 7, Vista, XP and other Microsoft software. Still, helping the customer is what will bring customers to the Microsoft store, not just shelves filled with stuff to buy. That's my $0.02 anyway. I'm looking forward to visiting a Microsoft store soon.

Now, when do you think we'll see a Google store?

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