Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Putting a human face on Microsoft

In the past, I've written about Brand Harmony, the struggles customers of big corporations often endure, and how interactions (or "touch points") between companies and customers play a significant role in how companies are perceived and ultimately whether or not they are successful at what they do. If customers enjoy interacting with your company, your product, your services, they're likely to continue to remain your customers (and likely to tell their friends). If customers dread working with you, they're likely to bail at the first opportunity (and five times as likely to tell their friends).

Earlier today, I came across a blog where one of my team's early adopting customers, pws, blogged his experience at my product's Technology Adoption Program event. The posts are here, here, here, and here.

These were a few highlights, which made me really happy to read:

“But most of all I was impressed with the Microsoft staff. They genuinely cared about what we had to say, the needs we had to meet, and what we thought of their product. They took notes with eagerness, whether we said we loved a feature or thought something was stupid, or too complex, or not complex enough. They really took the time to make us feel like we had a say in where the product was going, both from a look and feel standpoint and from a roadmap overview.”

“Today was filled with more meetings, more debriefing, more hands on. I can't say enough about having the opportunity to sit side by side with Microsoft technical people while we go through the product, giving input and learning about why things were put together the way they were. Just having that input, being able to ask why this button is where it is, why this dialogue box is the way it is, has been the most rewarding part of the whole experience.”

“One of the things that impresses me about the Microsoft campus is the ethnic diversity. I don't know if it's a reflection of the area, of intentional Microsoft hiring practices, or perhaps a bit of everything. Perhaps most of all it's a reflection of my insular Midwest upbringing, where seeing families from other countries is unusual.”

“I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: The Microsoft employees were great. They were genuinely interested in what we had to say and took our criticisms and comments seriously. They certainly went out of their way to make us feel welcome and wanted. The specialist that was assigned to us even showed up at the hotel this morning, to make sure we did not want to go to the Microsoft Store like we had discussed previously.”

“The last day of the event happened to be the same day as the big Microsoft yearly meeting, so all of the employees involved with the TAP gave that up to get our input and finish out the week. Maybe they'd all seen Bill speak before.”

“The entire experience has energized my thoughts about the product we're looking at and where it could help take us. I must admit it has also softened me a bit to Mictosoft in general. I'll always bleed red, but I'm no longer baised against the blue just because it's blue.”

Truth be told, I was having a pretty stressful morning before I came across these comments. They instantly brightened up my day, and I forwarded them on to the rest of my team (then I went back to debugging pre-release code, but more intent than ever before on solving my problem).

When it comes to the customer, advertising dollars and cheesy 1-page magazine ads can't buy the impact an experience like this will have on an enterprise customer making big technology bets and purchasing decisions. And while we may not be able to reach every customer individually in this way, professionals talk and word of mouth is a powerful thing.

When it comes to the people pouring their lives into building the software, no paycheck, bonus, and certainly no off-site team-building morale event can muster up as much passion and motivation around building a high quality product as this kind of encouraging feedback from the human beings who use (or will use) what you are creating.

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