Solution Finder.. An Open Letter to SBSC's by Robbie Upcroft

To Our Valued Microsoft Small Business Specialist Partner Community,

Recently at the 2007 Microsoft Small Business Symposium, a pre-day to the Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver, the Small Business Specialist team heard passionate feedback from you regarding the Microsoft Solution Finder online directories.

We value this feedback and the conviction with which it was conveyed and have accelerated our September and October release timelines to address these prioritized issues.  It is important to know that your concerns have been heard and resolving these issues is of the utmost priority for Microsoft.

Allow me to summarize what we heard:

· “The term “Zip Code” should not be used outside the U.S. The term “Postal Code” is used everywhere else in the world.”

· “Solution Finder does not show my profile and I am a Small Business Specialist partner”

· “Partners based outside of the entered postal code search area are appearing in search results”

· “Solution Finder returns different results depending on how the user formats the postal code”

Resolution for each is currently in progress. Here is a brief description of our plans to improve Solution Finder based on your feedback:

· We will verify the term “postal code” is used for sites outside the U.S. for all postal code field labels. We did investigate this issue and were unable to find the term “zip code” being used in any site outside the U.S.  We will continue to monitor this issue and make edits immediately when necessary.

· Several partners in attendance were impacted by the recent Small Business Specialist program enhancements implemented in the June 15th release of the Partner Membership Center. These changes implemented rules verifying a partner location has completed the necessary Small Business Specialist requirements and then assigns the designation accordingly. If you are a partner and your partner profile does not appear on the Small Business Specialist Partner Finder, or you do not see your designation in the Partner Membership Center and have completed the necessary requirements, please contact your local Regional Support Center.

· The postal code, or “locality search”, in Solution Finder locates partners that are within a specified distance from the entered postal code. This is a result of direct customer feedback indicating customers primary concern is how far a prospective partner is from them and not necessarily if the partner is in the same postal code as the customer. Solution Finder may return partners within the specified distance criteria but not in the same postal code. This is designed functionality. We understand that this is a common source of confusion for Solution Finder users and will make necessary User Interface changes to the application in order to minimize this confusion. We are targeting our fall release to implement these changes. Also, we will convene a group of Small Business Specialists to help us understand how we can build functionality that allows Small Business Specialists to specify the postal codes they service.

· Our Fall, 2007 release of Solution Finder will expand the selections available to specify the distance parameter in locality searches by adding 5 mi, 8km, 10 mi, 15 km and 250 mi, 325 km. This will allow users to adjust their searches depending on population density in their areas.

· The current rules for sorting return results in Solution Finder are in accordance to requirements gathered from Microsoft customer feedback. Customers care most that a partner’s solution or partner profile matches their search criteria. Next they verify evidence indicating a partner is likely to deliver a solution that meets their needs and satisfaction. The best evidence we can provide the customer today is the number of approved customer references the partner has in the Partner Membership Center. These basic rules will not change. But, in our fall release, we will modify the sorting groups to display local partners more appropriately when the customer performs a locality search (i.e., enters country, city or postal code in their search). The rules proposed now are as follows:

o First show partners that have a Headquarters in the locality.

o Next show partners that have a branch office (service center) in the locality.

o Next show partners that offer solutions that are available in the locality.

· Our August, 2007 release will make changes to the search functionality to address the postal code formatting issues associated with the Canadian and United Kingdom postal code formats.  After which (late fall) we will address Germany, Japan, Australia and France if our research indicates changes are required in those areas.

We will continue to improve Solution Finder and encourage you to test the tool and give us on-going feedback about how we’re doing.  We appreciate your patience as we work to make these improvements and wish you continued success.


Mike Risse

Vice President, Small and Mid-market Business Group

Microsoft Corporation