Last week, Microsoft announced that it was closing all physical Microsoft Stores, and transforming just four flagship stores into "experience centers" that serve as a way for high-street shoppers to look at and try the latest devices from Microsoft and partners. Customers will not be able to purchase any products they see inside the store, and it's only at these four locations that Surface customers be able to get face-to-face support for their hardware.
And this, to me, is the biggest loss as a result of the Microsoft Store closures. The ability to buy Microsoft hardware on the high-street was great, but it was the ability to walk into a nearby Microsoft Store with an existing, problematic device, and walk out not too long later with the issue either fixed, or replaced with a refurbished model. This service will still exist at these four flagship centers, and in the form of online support, which is nowhere near as convenient or straightforward.
During the 11 months I was able to take advantage of in-store support, I had my Surface Book 2 and Surface Go replaced with no issue. I was in and out in 20 minutes flat. This process takes days, even weeks, with online support. Luckily, I live in London, so I'm nearby this flagship location. But for most people who own Surface products, their local Microsoft Stores are going away, leaving them with noting but online support.
And with online support, which most customers in the US will have to deal with now, you can't always guarantee you'll get a repair. For example, I had a battery issue with my old Surface Book 2 that I sent away for repair using online support, but it was sent back unfixed as the lid had a very minor dent and Microsoft's policy is that it won't service hardware with "physical damage."
Once the UK store opened, I took that very same Surface Book 2 in, and they replaced it without any hassle. That's the difference between online support and face-to-face support. That minor dent was unrelated to the issue I was having, and support in-store could see that. In the future, any minor dents or scratches on my Surface PCs might void any support I can get for issues completely unrelated to the physical aspect of the product.
A support channel Surface customers no longer have
This kind of support is something Apple and Samsung customers have had for years, and Surface customers too up until now. One of the best things about owning a Mac or an iPhone is that if I have a hardware issue with it, I can take it to my nearest Apple Store and have someone look at it. More often than not, my issue solved that very same day. This improves overall customer satisfaction too.
It's upsetting that going forward, most Surface customers won't have this channel of support. And I realize this service was only really available to those in the US, but that's not the point. Those outside the US can attest that online customer support isn't always the best. You have a much higher chance of getting your issue solved with in-person support, and it's faster and more convenient.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft's closure of its physical Stores? Do you think it's fair to Surface customers who need support? Let us know in the comments.
Updated: Clarified that only four locations will remain open with in-store support.