A few years ago, a client had a problem with Outlook that I couldn't fix. It was important enough that we called Microsoft for paid tech support and all went well. The fee was very reasonable (the exact amount escapes me) and we dealt with a qualified technician who used remote control software to take shared control* of the problematic computer and fix the problem.
So recently, when Word 2003 crashed and took with it many hours worth of updates to a document, updates that couldn't be re-created (a number of things complicated the recovery, which I won't bore you with), it was time again to call for help.
I started at support.microsoft.com where I clicked on Contact Microsoft Support and ended up at an Assisted Support Options page.
From there, I clicked on More Office products (Office 2003 is not on main page) and ended up at another Assisted Support Options page.
From there, I selected Office 2003, then the Professional Edition and ended up at a page asking how I used Office 2003.
The truest option was "I use it for my business or company". After selecting that, I picked Word as the problematic software and a subtopic of "Other" since none of the subtopics applied. This landed me at a "Select a Payment Method" page.
Since there was no preexisting contract with Microsoft, I selected "Dont use a professional support license/contract (charges may apply)" and the only option at that point was paying $99 for email based support. Talking to someone on the phone appeared out of the question.
Undaunted, I went back to the "How do you use this product?" page and selected "I use it for my own personal use". That presented three options, none of which was to talk to a person on the phone. Online chat was $39, as was email. Community Answers was free.
Again, I went back to the "How do you use this product?" page and this time selected the "I use it as an IT Professional, developer or Microsoft partner" option. Without a pre-existing contract for support, the only option presented was email based assistance for $99.
Having exhausted that branch, I went back to support.microsoft.com and this time clicked on "Contact a Support Professional by Email, Online, or Phone" near the bottom of the page. The resulting page had no phone numbers.
Back at support.microsoft.com, I cicked on the Contact Us link at the very bottom of the page which seems to be the main Contact Us page for all of Microsoft. From there I tried the link for technical support in the left side column, and on the resulting page clicked on "Contact Microsoft Support". Been there done that.
Back on the main Contact Us page, I tried the big CALL US button and ended up at a Contact Microsoft by Telephone page.
From there I tried the link for Contact Microsoft Technical support, but alas, no phone numbers.
On the Contact Microsoft by Telephone page nothing else seemed remotely applicable.
Had Microsoft stopped offering telephone-based assistance because Word 2003 was too old?
As a Hail Mary play, I called their main phone number, 1-800-Microsoft. Following the voice prompts, I was quickly connected to a human being.
It turns out that Microsoft does still offer telephone-based support for Office 2003, and the cost is only $49 per incident. The phone number, I was told, is 800-936-5700.
As before, the technician I spoke with seemed well qualified and (long story short) he was able to restore the missing updates to the Word document from an .asd file in the Recycle Bin.
May this serve as a heads up to anyone needing technical support from Microsoft. If you are willing to pay for it, they will help you over the phone.
You just have to know who to ask.