Are you there Microsoft? It’s me, your customer.

“Who is on the other end getting that feedback? Is someone on the other end getting that feedback? Or does it just go to File 13?”

[This is Part II in a three part series about Microsoft and customer feedback.

Part I: The best methods to send Microsoft feedback.
Part II: What happens to customer feedback?
Part III: Criticism of how Microsoft responds to customer feedback.]

Is Microsoft really listening to its customers? How do we know if all the feedback that we send through E-mail, telephone calls and websites really make it to someone who is paying attention?
I frequently read scoffing remarks in the Microsoft newsgroups and other online forums that Microsoft and other large corporations like Apple must not be listening to its customers because “they haven’t responded to my question”. Or when recent software updates like the one released in July left Microsoft Office applications unusable, what was Microsoft’s response to this problem? (More on that in Part III.)

Users of software products like Microsoft Office for Mac are by now familiar with the concept of bugs and features. Bugs are flaws in software and features are the capabilities of the product. Software users are also very familiar with updates. Updates are fixes to the bugs and sometimes the introduction of new features.
What does a software user do when he discovers a bug or wants a new feature? Sometimes he does nothing and hopes things will change in a future update. Sometimes he finds a workaround or another application that works better. And sometimes he makes the effort to let the software developer know about the bug or feature so that it will be changed in a future update. This is called feedback.

What happens when a user sends feedback to Microsoft?

When I participate in the Microsoft newsgroup for Entourage and see someone with a feature request or a bug I often respond with something like, “Be sure to tell Microsoft that you’d like to see this changed in future versions of Entourage by using the Send Feedback tool found under the Help menu in any Office application.” This tool opens a webpage on Microsoft’s site that allows Office:mac users to send feedback and suggestions about any Mac application that Microsoft develops.
Who is on the other end getting that feedback? Is someone on the other end getting that feedback? Or does it just go to File 13?
Nadyne Mielke is a user experience researcher for the MacBU. In her blog go ahead, mac my day she describes herself as “a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world” and blogs about Macintosh software and Apple products extensively. While she may not necessarily work on Microsoft Entourage, she was kind enough to respond to some questions about how Microsoft works with feedback from their customers.

  1. What happens to a feedback message once it has been entered on the feedback site? How is it classified and aggregated with other information?
    All feedback sent to our site is aggregated internally. Everyone in the organisation has access to it, and several different teams use it in a way that’s appropriate to their discipline. For example, I’ve used some of the feedback about Remote Desktop Connection to help define a usability study that I did against the first version. Based on the recommendations from that study and some of the feedback that we received through our product feedback, we made a few changes to our website to make information about RDC more easily accessible. The completely new user interface for RDC v2 (which is available in a public beta now) owes a lot to that feedback and the subsequent work that we did based on that feedback.
  2. How much feedback on Mac Office applications do you receive?
    We get about 1700 feedback submissions per month. About 60% of the feedback is about Office, the rest is about Messenger, Remote Desktop Connection, requests for new applications, and other Microsoft software. Since the feedback website is open to anyone, we get some misdirected feedback. I’ve even seen game requests for the Xbox 360 team!
  3. How can I convince readers that you guys use this tool?
    Since so many different teams use this information, this is a hard question to answer. The user assistance team uses it to help them improve the help topics and website. For example, they get feedback telling them that a certain help topic doesn’t provide the help that they need, or that a user would really like to see a help topic that deals with something. It was through the product feedback that I first learned that users of RDC v1 weren’t installing the help. Our planning team uses this feedback, as well as the feedback that they get from many other sources, in helping to shape and define our future work. I wrote a blog post about some of the feedback that we get, which you can read here:
  4. “I think that my favourite piece of feedback was someone asking us to reinstate Clippy…”

    What is the MacBU’s opinion of the usefulness of this tool?
    I think that the product feedback tool is great. It’s a direct line from our users to us, and it’s used to send us all kinds of feedback. I think that my favourite piece of feedback was someone asking us to reinstate Clippy, and even offering to pay extra for a version of Office that included him!

[The Send Feedback tool may be the best way to give Microsoft feedback but it’s still just a one-way conversation. In Part III of my posts about Microsoft and feedback I’ll offer some criticism and suggestions for how the MacBU can improve this tool. Maybe they can offset some customer frustration.]

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6 comments to Are you there Microsoft? It’s me, your customer.

  • For the record, I do work on Entourage as well.
    But I don’t think that I deserve my own tag in this blog! 🙂

  • Hey!!! I want Clippy too!!!!!

  • Of course you do, Nadyne! You’re the center of this post. And thank you again for affirming that Microsoft is listening and acting upon customer comments. This kind of feedback from you is reaffirming to us.

  • Corentin says:
    Hey!!! I want Clippy too!!!!!
    I think Clippy was always better on the Mac. 🙂

  • Karen

    I can’t figure out how to take an email address from a message I received and make an address book entry from it. Surely I should be able to do that … I also can’t figure out how to delete email addresses from the autocomplete list I get when I enter a few letters in the To box. If they’re not in my Entrouage address book, I can’t delete them.

  • Hi Karen!
    If you want to make an address book entry from the Sender’s address then you can simply right-click or Control + click the address in the From: line at the top of the message and select “Add to Address Book…”.
    I believe someone has made an AppleScript to find all E-mail addresses in the message body and make Address Book records but I’m currently unable to find that. Maybe someone else can chime in on that one.
    I encourage you to post your question in either or both the Microsoft Entourage newsgroup or the Entourage-Talk mailing list. You can find instructions for posting to them here: Still can’t find the answers.
    Thanks for posting!