If I ran the Microsoft customer database...

Anyone who has ever been to one of our Shark Tank blitzes knows a few things.

The good

  1. you get focused calling time
  2. you get to network with the MS employees and other partners
  3. you get pizza and have a good time

The bad

  1. the quality of the list is not the best

In fact, we find that upwards of 50% of the names we call have something wrong with them. The person has left the company, the company is out of business, the phone number is wrong, etc.

Now, for those we do contact, there's some value. People do want to hear about the events and do come, but what about those we don't reach?

What about the effort that partners put into helping Microsoft clean up the database?

The fact is, right now, nothing.

Partners will update data, but the systems and tools we currently have in place to make these changes are cumbersome and inefficient.

Obviously, this isn't the best scenario.

Data...clean data about your customers and prospects (and that's everyone, both in a social and professional sense) is the lifeblood of your value.

Now, I'm not minimizing the absolutley gargantuan effort that is keeping a Microsoft database clean and up to date.

Most people (myself included and I'm willing to wager that I do a better job than most on this particular issue) have a difficult time keeping their Outlook Contacts file current...scale that to 60,000 customers in 4 states and you've got an idea of how big the issue is.

That matters...and it doesn't, because if we can't keep in touch with our customers and tell them what they want to hear, we are going to spend more and more money on effective communications.

We spend time doing "profiling" via the phone, which is ineffective and can get out of date the following week.

In some respects, our customer database is built for a pre-internet era.

Wouldn't it be great if we could figure out a way to make it worthwhile for our customers to tell us how and when to locate them?

Microsoft is in a unique to provide a HUGE amount of customized, personal, and relevant data to people while providing an incentive for those people to give us their accurate information?

  • What if we gave you access to customized training courses for your level of use with Microsoft Office?
  • How about free upgrades that are only available if we can mail you the redemption code?
  • What about an Xbox game for your phone number?

These may be naive or simple ideas, but the point, I think, is a bigger one.

Most company databases are internally focused and accessible....what can you do to offload the cost of maintaining your customer database to your customers?

Can you turn customers a partner in keeping your data clean?

Amazon does. If I don't give them the right address, I don't get my books...see what I mean.

Can you turn your customer database inside out?