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June 12, 2004

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jennifer rice

Well, considering I'm in the customer research arena, I would have posted this regardless of what company was featured. I'm thrilled that a technology company (especially one that's notorious for NOT being customer-focused) is in the news for making an effort to understand their customers. And I agree that the important issue is, what are they going to do with the data? If it's going to be used for a slick ad campaign, they'll get 2 thumbs down. If they use it to improve and customize their small business offerings, great. We'll see what happens.

Felix

Hmm. First of all, that Microsoft hired a "con-sultant" to follow some guy around only to discover that many people have disparate sources of data hardly means that Microsoft is "listening". The data silo concept is an old one, and Microsoft hasn't done much about it.

Second, a week ago you wrote (http://brand.blogs.com/mantra/2004/06/update.html) that you had a new gig with Microsoft. And now you're posting complimentary fluff pieces about - Microsoft.

You can do better.

David Foster

"discovered, to her surprise, that small companies kept vital information in disconnected places -- what she called "data silos" -- from scribbled notes on scraps of paper to files on a PC"....Was this really a surprise? I don't think there's a single corporation or government agency of which this couldn't be said.

jennifer rice

Steve, thanks for the comment. MS has historically been a product- and distribution-centric company. Despite the reorg in 1999 around customer segments, I personally haven't seen a lot of evidence that they've gotten more customer-centric... which is why this article surprised and delighted me. In this month's FastCompany, they score low on the "lovemark" rating scale. And you're right, the fact that it makes such big news simply reinforces that the vast majority of companies don't really take the time to get this deep into customers' lives.

Steve Portigal

Why do you say that Microsoft is "starting" to learn more about its customers? Is there something in the article that I missed - some in-depth history of their adoption of ethnographic methods?

In my experience as a consultant doing this sort of work, companies like Microsoft have been involved on a small scale for quite a few years. Sure, they aren't like Intel who makes enormous PR hay (as well they should) from the work of their excellent People and Practices Group - but Microsoft is working hard - from what I can see from the outside - to staff the company with this sort of talent and to engage the customer up-front in the development process.

In fact, I think if you look at most major companies, they are doing some of this. I think, like Microsoft, they aren't doing enough - they aren't driving all that much of their effort with this type of research, but it's there, it's in the culture, it's being adopted, and there continues to be more hunger (internally for it).

And of course, it makes great press, because it's always a "wacky" store - you went INTO THEIR OFFICE! INTO THEIR HOMES! And watched them do it?! Wow!

Which I'm certainly not averse to...

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