You can imagine or guess what your customers think of this or that product or service. But there's no replacement for asking them directly.
Here are a handful of the ways Microsofties listen to customers:
- Most marketing managers are required to spend time on the Product Support phone lines, listening to technicians trying to solve customers' software problems.
- Letters mailed to Bill Gates concerning a particular product make their way from Bill's office to the employee responsible for that product, and a response to the customer is usually expected.
- As he built Microsoft's new online service, the vice president in charge would sift through the thousands of e-mails he received from users and forward a variety of kudos and complaints on to his team.
- Most new products go through a test where volunteers using the software are watched through a one-way mirror by everyone from programmers to marketers to psychologists who ask "How does that make you feel?"
Listening means including business partners, too. When an executive at CompUSA, a major seller of Microsoft software, commented in a meeting, "I don't know who would make that decision at Microsoft, but I know it would take a long time," the head of the Microsoft sales force reorganized his 1,000 people into specialized units, each with a clear focus and decision-making power.