Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Filing Bugs With Microsoft

This evening, by way of a Digg story, I came across a post on Tim's blog about his struggle in logging a bug against a Microsoft product.

It really pained me to read Tim's story. Here's a guy who's not only been incredibly aggravated by an issue with our software, but then went over and above to report the issue, only to be faced with a brick wall and a $35 (potentially $70) toll.

For all the talk my company has generated around transparency through initiatives like Channel 9 and Scoble's blog, it's unfortunate that experiences like Tim's still occur.

In his book Brand Harmony, Steve Yastrow talks about customer "touch points", and how experiences like Tim's will shape the way people perceive a company more than any other form of marketing. With the advent of blogs, and sites like Digg, experiences like this become even more significant.

My General Manager at Microsoft likes to say that "perception is reality". I'd argue that often times perception is in fact more relevant than reality.

In this case, people have begun to question whether Outlook's non-compliance with RFCs is actually a bug, or whether the request for compliance is a feature request. It doesn't matter. Either way, there should be some easy way for Tim to provide his feedback to the Outlook team.

One of the products my team at Microsoft ships is Microsoft Operations Manager. If you check out the MSDN Product Feedback Center (the first site Tim found when he searched the web for "microsoft bugs"), you'll notice that MOM is listed as one of the products for which you can provide feedback (in the form of bug reports or suggestions). Others can then search through these submissions, and 'vote' on issues they too find important. Each submission is automatically entered into our primary bug tracking system at Microsoft, and triaged by one of my teammates.

My team takes these bug reports and suggestions very seriously. We know how frustrating it would be to run into a problem with our software and then have no way to contact us.

I wish more teams would do the same, and I'll be firing off an email tonight to our company-wide 'improve' mailing list to that end, so that more product groups can read about Tim's experience and others like it.

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