MICROSOFT CASE STUDY
My thanks to George Pulikkathara, Marketing Manager and founder of MSDN Webcasts. George is the blogger for MSDN webcasts who helped us to put together this case study. We asked George the following questions.
George Pulikkathara's Webcasts
How have Microsoft's blogging efforts helped product development and service issues?
Are there any minor and major product examples of how a post or communication on a Microsoft blog has helped Microsoft improve their product, or deal with a customer service issue?
Are there any examples where a customer asked for a change to a product, but Microsoft had to explain to their customers that it was not possible to make such a change unless the price, or other factors such as a change in the marketplace occurred? How did the customers handle this issue? And did blogs help resolve the issue?
How do blogs help employees at Microsoft develop stronger product? Can you give us some specific examples, perhaps one or two where employees blogged maybe sharing code?
The spelling mistake incident
Ken Dyck, a customer of Microsoft, noticed they had a spelling mistake in the windows update function. Ken decided to contact Microsoft to inform them of the spelling mistake. He spent some time attempting to tell Microsoft they had a spelling problem in their software by looking around the Microsoft support site at http://support.microsoft.com.
To report the spelling error Ken would have had to call product support services and register an incident, at a cost of $250. Ken either did not want to spend the money, or was not able to discover how to notify Microsoft they should make a change. Instead Ken decided to blog about the bug on this own blog. A Microsoft employee, as Ken hoped, read the blog entry and the error is being reviewed.
The wider issue for Microsoft was that even if someone did register an incident, the staff in the support department don't have responsibility for enacting a change, and if an incident was passed on through existing channels because of the number of people it would take to get the incident reported too, the incident may not make the list of priorities for the development team. Blogging provided a better mechanism for customers to contact Microsoft employees to make a change to their software.
Microsoft employees are now discussing internally how blogging, which several employees consider to be an "unorthodox" channel, can be used to handle such future customer issues. One interesting aspect of this discussion is that people at Microsoft realize that customers might become impatient with the official path to report issues; they may just give up and complain about the issue with friends. That complaint is more of an issue today as the customer may have their own blog, as in Ken's case, and if they do complain, the complaint is broadcast to the whole world.
If Microsoft does not monitor such issues on blogs and forums they lose both the customer and maybe leave some negative PR on the web forever. Several departments, or individuals in Microsoft are already monitoring the web for such complaints, but these are efforts by individuals undertaken under their own recognizance. There is some discussion at Microsoft on how they can automate this process to make sure they have someone at the company monitoring frustrations and issues expressed by customers outside the Microsoft customer support system. Ideas include have a point person in each product group.
For Microsoft, the issues around customer service and how blogging is helping the company to respond to customers quickly have a lot to do with Microsoft's approach to business in the last few years. The company is very "goal focused", get this product out by this date etc. Sometimes responding to an immediate customer issue takes product teams away from those goals. But many people at Microsoft recognize that they are in business to serve their customers, and they see that blogs are helping to connect their product teams to customers directly. Effectively blogs are helping Microsoft to redefine their approach to "customer focus" through one on one interaction with customers. As we saw in the example with Ken Dyck an issue that had been around for a while is addressed once a real conversation through blogs is started. The result of using blogs to answer customer issues was that Ken was excited by the response.
This change to a "customer focused" company for Microsoft means that many employees are no longer concerned about giving out their telephone number and email address. Not so long ago employees were not encouraged to give out such information, management thinking was that customers should go through the existing channels, plus any value provided by an individual employee should accrue to the company rather than an individual. Blogs are helping employees break out of this large company mentality to help Microsoft become more customer focused.
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