Back on the blog, after being AWOL the last week or so unexpectedly.
Last week I was out of the office and off the broadband loop due to a death in the family. Why is this important for the blog you ask? One of the reasons I do what I do was in part related to the relative who left this mortal coil, and the impact he had on me as a customer and consumer of our products.
It sounds silly, but it’s true.
My wife’s uncle was a warm-hearted and friendly person. He was open and thoughtful, and more than anything loved to keep in touch with his family. One of the ways he accomplished this was via email and the Web, and he was a consumer and user of our products. I was amazed that this man in his 70’s was so proficient on mail, and used it regularly. For me, he was also a great source of feedback when it came to our products, what people were using to share pictures and the trouble that many people of retirement age run into when using new technology products. From him, I took away valuable insight on the difficulty of navigating site logins, Windows error messages, network configurations and choosing the right peripheral for the job.
Oh yes, and I also found him a great voice of reality when it came to many of the things we take for granted, like sharing photos on the web. Something that should be a fairly straight-forward process of sharing family photos turned out to be one of those things that required the intervention of a younger person (his son) to set up and view the photos we posted to a popular, free sharing site, as well as on our MSN Spaces. I think that we were able to get him on to our photo site after two or three attempts and a couple of tutorials.
This wasn’t due to the fact that there was a configuration or systems problem: it was because the user experience wasn’t straight forward enough.
Everyday it seems that people forget that when you’re knee deep in high-tech, software and services, we live in Oz: the streets are gold in the Emerald city (that’s Seattle), that we all know how to use all of our various products, we remember all the sites to get more information and how to configure our systems remotely. Sometimes, people forget that there are so many customers living in Kansas (or a small town in Florida, as was our late uncle’s case for the winter months) who have a hard enough time figuring out how to manage their computer back-ups, network security and protect themselves from ever-present phishers and pirates.
What I have been impressed with is that at MS, we have many people who know what it’s like to be a customer and a partner – we’ve certainly hired enough of them in the last few years (I’ve been both in the corp world, for 17+ years prior to coming to MS five + years ago). Many new and old employees know and remember what it’s like to run into a software glitch, a poorly designed dialogue or get yet another confusing message, and they work hard to make sure we fix the problem when we run into it or many times fix the issue before it leaves Redmond.
I’ll spend more of my entries over the next few weeks highlighting some cases where we have been doing well, some of the areas where we’ve fixed issues, and some areas where we have room for improvement. If there are products or areas that you’d like to see highlighted, please let me know, either by email or comments: I monitor the feedback on my blog (and so much of it is spam, I don’t allow it to be posted without review).
For now, I need to go and talk to my 8-yr old over dinner about how he’s using the Office Live beta for his summer art project.
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