Microsoft has announced that enhancements to its TechNet support service will boost self-service IT support and increase the feel-good factor among its customer base.
But the software giant denied that the move is an attempt to cut costs or reduce the burden on its own support staff.
Microsoft has added two new online collaborative support services and a new navigation tool, which it claimed will help subscribers more easily pinpoint the technical resources relevant to them.
Online Concierge is a web-based chat service available 24x7 to help TechNet subscribers locate specific technical resources, downloads, how-to articles and technical support content.
Meanwhile, TechNet Managed Newsgroup Support allows TechNet Plus subscribers to post technical questions to over 90 IT-related Microsoft public newsgroups and receive a guaranteed response from an expert within 72 hours.
Microsoft also said that a new search and filtering engine improves the way users can sort the results of a search, and makes it easier to manage regular queries or favourites and read different content from disparate sources.
Karen Allen, IT professional loyalty manager at Microsoft, explained that the enhancements will provide subscribers with real-time access to expert help from Microsoft support professionals.
She denied that the enhancements were in response to criticisms of the existing service.
"It makes it easier to find information. We're trying to get more of a community feel," said Allen.
"People want more of a direct relationship with Microsoft. It's an enhancement to show we support them and value them as users of Microsoft technology.
"It's not about reducing support costs, nor is our objective to boost the number of subscribers to the service."
Research conducted by the vendor found that 76 per cent of subscribers said that they saved up to five man hours a week looking for the answers to their technical queries using TechNet over other sources.
TechNet subscribers also reduced the number of support calls to Microsoft by two-thirds, the firm said.
The first in a series of TechNet webcasts for IT professionals in the UK will show how to get the most out of TechNet subscriptions and will take place on 10 December, followed by a live Q&A session.
A one-year Microsoft TechNet CD/DVD Standard Subscription costs £240 for a single user edition, and £565 for the server edition which delivers a welcome kit containing 29 CDs/DVDs, plus 11 monthly updates.
The annual TechNet Plus CD/DVD subscription costs £385 for a single user edition, and £705 for the server version. It also offers Microsoft pre-release beta and evaluation software for all products, prior to wide public distribution.
Feedback from users suggested that the enhancements were sought after.
"I wondered if it was value for money, given broadband download speeds overtaking the need for CDs/DVDs, along with much better searching via Google than TechNet offers," said one subscriber.
"I've more or less decided to renew for the next year, but not very enthusiastically."
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