Windows To The World

Let Your Employees Hear Your Customers

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.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Windows To The World.

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