Monday, March 31, 2003
Microsoft, Ever Think Some of Your Customers Hate You?
Wednesday, I got to meet Max McEwean, where he gave a speech to us Microsoftees about Customer Connection, or maybe rather Microsoft's lack of it.
The point was made that there are a number of customers of ours that hate our company. Not dislike. Not merely don't like. Hate. Viscerally. Now normally, it wouldn't matter a lot. I mean, it's just a company, right? But it's my company. I'm really proud to work at Microsoft. But lately, I end up apologizing, either because I work for the big, giant, evil empire, or because I can't provide on-demand, accurate, and infinitely-insightful technical support (after all, I am in marketing, right?).
Does it really matter that so many customers hate us? Yep. Why? Three reasons: 1) Our products--operating systems, games, word processors, server software--will someday all be commodities. When that happens, when customers have a choice, they'll (naturally) choose a company to work with that they don't hate. 2) In order to survive in this industry, we need partners. Max McEwean illustrated the difference between complicated (layered linearly) and complex (interwoven). We are in a complex industry, and need our partners to survive. And most of them don't trust us, and some hate us. 3) Our future depends on innovation. The brightest minds are either in high school, or are at small companies that hate us. They'll never come to work for us. Never, ever. Ever. This I believe.
A co-worker in the back of the room comments that it really isn't our customers that hate us, it is our competitors that we have beaten. 200 people in the room groaned. Nope, it's our customers. But he would have nothing to do with it. What does it matter that our customers hate us? It's about the software, right?? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Don't misunderstand me. I really like many with whom I work. We've built a company where smart, creative, assertive (some may say aggressive) people can thrive. I'm often amazed at how brilliant people I work with can be. And the team I'm on, in particular, has some very real, very honest people. It makes me sad that the few who would wield some kind of twisted power would ruin my company.
Can it be turned around? Yes. I fundamentally believe that by doggedly focusing on our customers, that we can learn what it will take to turn it all around. Only by really getting to know who is using our software can we really get to know what they're going to want in the future. And not in a statistical sort of way. In a real way. In a personal way. I have met the customer. And she is not me.
It's about the voice of the customer. And it's about realizing that our mission really is about helping that customer reach her potential. It's funny that sometimes when co-workers hear the new Microsoft mission, they actually think it's about us reaching our potential. Or it's about our partners (or specifically our partners' companies) reaching their potential. I often remind them that it's none of the above. It's about our customers, the one who plops down a credit card and takes a box home and installs our software on their PC. It's about their potential. That is why I do what I do. Really.
So it begins...
Interesting. So this is what this whole "blog" thing is about, huh? Now that I'm officially online, I expect to see hundreds, no thousands of comments from admiring, curious, spectacularly interesting folks. Then again, maybe not.
Monday in Seattle.
Monday at Microsoft.