Anyone but you again

In this new age of corporate transparency and customer connection at Microsoft there is a thought that crosses the minds of everyone at least once or twice a year. If it doesn’t cross your mind at all over the course of a year then I’d probably tell you that you aren’t talking to enough customers and putting yourself out there enough.

This is the thought that you have when you see a customer complain to a VP publicly on their blog that we don’t do enough for our current customers because (rough translation of a common theme) “one bit of feedback about a small feature I have questions about hasn’t seen a reply… it’s been almost 4 hours! Tell your people they need to care about me”.

It’s the same thought that crosses your mind when a customer includes you on a complaint to another team’s manager to tattle on an employee for not replying within 24 hours to the latest of what has been 20 rants in the last month that had been directed at a particular employee.

Yes, you can be a squeaky wheel and get greased by Microsoft. The VP will dutifully forward your complaint on to the right team, invoke his power, and see that you get a reply. The beaten employee will probably take a deep breath and craft you another reply to your 21st rant.

Yes, we probably deserve some of this overreaction as retribution for years of our “rest and vest” forefathers at Microsoft ignoring you and your concerns, complaints, comments, and questions. Sort of like saying your kids will enjoy the extra layers of sun-block 2000 because polluting was convenient for our generation. It’s a good thing the kids are passionate about being in the sun or they wouldn’t put up with some of it.

The thought is… yes, customers should have some responsibilities. Seth Godin captured the sentiment perfectly with his “bad passenger” scenario yesterday. I’m in a position (since I push people towards customer connection) that I’m forwarded some egregious examples of “bad passengers”. 99.9% of customers are great, but there is that .1% that make you feel like the answer, to that .1%, should be… “you know what… linux sounds like the perfect choice for you.. in fact, I heard that the Linux, Java, and Apache communities seem to be missing their idiot”.

I can’t ask the .1% to stop, but I can ask the 99.9% of you to make sure newly minted customer focused individuals at Microsoft continue to get the positive re-enforcement. Meanwhile we’ll continue to try and by as open, transparent, and respectful as possible to those of you paying our bills. And maybe the encouragement will get a few more engineers out of the closet and the positive cycle will continue. A quick thank you, a link to their first blog post, constructive feedback, etc. Any of that would do.