Find and fight the fire before the customer does

In a recent email to senior Microsoft staff, Bill Gates had rather unflattering comments about a pre-release download and install process for Windows Moviemaker.

Every one of us can relate, right?

As for the message, Gates smiled and said, “There’s not a day that I don’t send a piece of e-mail … like that piece of e-mail. That’s my job.”

Exactly.

No matter how high up you are, one of your jobs is to find the problems before the customer does.

And yes, I’m sure someone will wonder aloud where he was on Microsoft Bob, or on Access 1.0, or on <whatever>. Perhaps it’s best to wonder what it would have been like otherwise:)

In the software business, we have a term called “eating our own dogfood”, which means using the software you sell to clients. Whenever possible, it’s a valuable effort because you look at things differently as an end user than as a programmer.

Eating your own dogfood can and should extend far beyond the software business.

No matter what line of work you’re in, you can find a way to…

  • Secret shop your store(s).
  • See that your friends and family have to deal with your business and your products, anonymously if at all possible.
  • Watch someone try to use your website, or listen as they call your business for help, to make a purchase, obtain service and get advice.

Find the forest fire smoldering inside your business before the client does.

Microsoft’s “apology” to XBox owner, a good lesson

Ring of Death
photo credit: Spoon Monkey

As I’ve mentioned before, how you recover from a stumble is sometimes more indicative of a good business than the fact that you stumbled.

Today’s guest post is really just a news story about a now-happy guy whose treasured XBox360 had been ruined by someone who thought they were just being helpful, but there’s a great example to motivate you to take care of the clients you mess around.

Kudos to Microsoft for how they recovered from this stumble.

The next time you have to apologize to a client…think about this one. Valuable to that client, but not expensive in terms of hard dollars. Sometimes, a client just wants an apology.

No doubt, this is something that he will remember for a very long time.

Somoene, somewhere in Microsoft customer service went above and beyond in a very smart way.