This week, I noted in my internal blog at the company that the Wall Street Journal ran an article on How Microsoft Rebooted Its Reputation, which mentions a survey of global opinion leaders at the World Economic Forum, and our efforts to focus on improving relationship with our customers, partners and employees.

"In June 2002, Mr. Ballmer sent an email to company employees heralding a change in the corporate mission. The email emphasized values, put a new focus on "trustworthy computing," and talked about Microsoft's responsibilities to "customers, partners, shareholders, employees and communities in which we live and serve." Subsequently, company officials started focusing attention on programs serving "stakeholders" such as the arrangement announced yesterday with the U.S. Department of Labor, that provides computer-skills training in a number of cities."

This is a great recognition, and at the same time a significant responsibility. It's so easy for us to look at this and say "hey, great, good job." 

But the hard work continues every day in the effort to improve the connections with our customers and partners at Microsoft. The on-going challenge is to improve their satisfaction with our service and products. It's just good business sense to take care of our customers and partners.

In addition,  there's been a great deal of discussion and press on what employees at Microsoft think about the company: it's also important to ensure that Microsoft employees are satisfied as well. (Note: There is a large body of work --including this study, "Linking Employee Satisfaction with Productivity, Performance, and Customer Satisfaction," from the Corporate Leadership Council-- that notes there are significant links between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, productivity, and financial performance. Happy employees = satisfied customers.)

I read Glenn Ross' entry today on  "What Must You Do Before You Can Create A Great Customer Service Experience." He mentions that you have to "treat your employees as if they were your most important customers, as happy employees = happy customers=greater net income."

Ross also notes that you need to "build in an ongoing feedback mechanism using multiple channels so that your employees, your customers, and even your vendors can provide feedback. Act on that feedback."

Yes, note to self to spend some time soon (after our next set of meetings that have kept me busy and off the blog this past week) to write about how we listen and respond ("then repeat") at the company.

Just as much as this blog is a set of things I think and hope will have a positive impact on customers and partners, it's also a place where I can acknowledge that there are so many people in the company who are super passionate about improving the company. They know that when they make the effort to improve our products, customer services, systems, processes, structure and internal day-to-day stuff, many employees believe it will result in improvements across the board.  

OK, off the soap box.

If you haven't seen a reference to the mail from Steve Ballmer that the Journal quoted above, I think you can still find a synopsis here. In addition to that mail in 2002, Steve also wrote an email to our customers and partners in which he shared some of the ways we had established better connections with our customers, and a look to how we might implement these listen and respond systems in the future.

We are renewing our commitment to improve our communications with partners and customers. We are dedicated to being a responsible leader in our industry. And we are passionate about bringing the benefits of digital technology to every community in the world. Everything we do supports our mission of becoming a global technology provider that makes great software to help people realize their potential – whether that's on the PC, the Internet, or a gaming or handheld device.

It's funny... Steve wrote that almost four years ago, and I so impressed in what the company has achieved over that period.

But as I noted, that doesn't mean we're done.

I heard a quote during the Olympics, 'though I don't recall who said it: the effort doesn't end with the end of the race or the closing of the games, it's the beginning of the next four years of training for the next Olympics. That's how I look at our efforts at the company to improve the levels of satisfaction with our customers and partners, as well as the internal satisfaction of our employees: four years after Steve's mail, we still have a lot of work and a lot more ground to cover.

Speaking of satisfied customers, I'm off to read stories to the kids. Work-life balance, you know.

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