Is Microsoft Getting More Customer-Centric?
In the Microsoft/Google conflict, it’s sometimes intriguing to look at the big picture. Here’s one person’s view of that big picture. In the book, “The Customer-Centered Enterprise: How IBM and Other World-Class Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results by Putting Customers First” by Harvey Thompson of IBM, Microsoft was rated at the extreme left on the Product-Driven / Customer-Centered scale. That was published in 2000.
Since then we’ve seen Microsoft accept the corporate blogging phenomenon spearheaded by the renowned Robert Scoble. Surely blogging is a dialoguing process and marketing can be viewed as a dialogue with your customers. Hasn’t that moved Microsoft along the scale to be more customer-centric? There’s certainly been movement by Microsoft but unfortunately the scale has been getting extended and is even longer. Customers would now define customer-centric to be much more so than in 2000 as they see what the best companies can achieve.
This is best illustrated by comparing what Microsoft and Google are doing. Both are operating against a background of what they each might call the Internet Tidal Wave. Bill Gates pointed this out in an internal memo in 1995. However given that product-driven viewpoint, it was seen as the competitive playing field (to mix metaphors) on which the various manufacturers and suppliers were fielding their competing products. When you know you produce good products and believe you’re the leader, it’s tough to step outside yourself and adopt a customer-centric viewpoint rather than your corporate viewpoint.
So what’s happened in the succeeding 10 years. In some ways a lot, and in some ways a little. This can be seen in two internal memos recently displayed in a Financial Times article, entitled The Microsoft memos revealed. The two memos are by Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie, Chief Technology Officer. The Bill Gates memo still reflects that product-driven approach. The Ray Ozzie memo does bring out an important new feature of the Internet, the “grassroots” nature of many of the players now. However that seems to better define the competition rather than suggesting any new dynamic in the market place.
Interestingly Google now also has a strong proponent of the Internet Tidal Wave, who has given many presentations on it since 2000. His presentation bears the title, The 21st Century Internet Tidal Wave. That proponent is Vint Cerf, who since September 8 this year, has been the Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He also is Chairman of ICANN, the non-profit body responsible for the regulation of domain names such as .com and .ca. While in Vancouver for the most recent meeting of ICANN, Cerf was pushing for increased efforts to help developing nations get on to the wave. This is expanding by many times those “grassroots” players that Ray Ozzie was talking about.
The other aspect of the Internet, which is important in this discussion, is the changing of the power structure caused by the Internet. It is much tougher to ‘control’ a market-place. There is greater visibility. Purchasers can more easily find and compare competitive offers. Customer-centric therefore requires much more effort since expectations are so much higher.
So the answer to the question in the title can only be a qualified Maybe. If Google continues to offer more of what customers are looking for, then Microsoft will continue to be playing catch-up.
Barry Welford, Internet Marketing Commentator – Barry Welford is a writer, speaker and Internet Marketing expert working for Strategic Marketing Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.. For the past 15 years, he has been working as a marketing and sales consultant and coach to medium and small manufacturing and service businesses. He welcomes the opportunity to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements.
Barry is well known in the Internet marketing world and is a moderator on the Cre8asite Forums, covering Online Marketing and Promotion, Google and Other Search Engines. Many know his writings through the SMM Newsletters and in two associated business blogs. BPWrap covers Internet Marketing ‘from a different point of view’ working at the global level inherent in the Internet. The Other Bloke’s Blog covers Business and Internet Marketing from a Montreal perspective.