Sep 9, 2008

Microsoft Jumps in to Customer Experience Revolution

Competition in consumer markets is restructuring in daring new ways right now. The more familiar battleground of product against product or retailer against retailer is being trumped by larger contests between coordinated systems.

This new go-to-market landscape has product manufacturers and retail partners collaborating to create new business models that win over consumers from other combinations of players. To beat competitors and gain share, companies are starting to see they must create tighter and more strategic system wide alliances to drive differentiated new experiences for consumers.

And now, we find Microsoft the latest branded product maker to jump head first into this new customer experience revolution. While pundits debate the merits of an idiosyncratic ad campaign, we are very impressed with the company's early forays into go-to-market system thinking.

As part of its new $300 million marketing campaign and image makeover, Microsoft Corp. plans to deploy its own customer-service representatives at retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City to help people with their PC purchases.
The world's largest software company plans to have 155 "Microsoft Gurus" in U.S. stores by the end of the year, and expand based on the project's success, said Tom Pilla, Microsoft's general manager of corporate communication.

The experts will answer questions about PCs and Microsoft products and demonstrate how the company's products work together -- help designed to get customers "thinking Microsoft."

"Think of that as borrowing a page from Nordstrom, with that retail customer experience," Pilla said, referring to the upscale department-store chain known for customer service...." (Rachel Metz, Associated Press)

I have for some time lamented the absence of branded product manufacturer leadership in growing consumer markets. And their abscence is not only bizarre, it’s the norm. Branded product manufacturers long ago ceded customer experience responsibility and retail system influence to downstream players, helping to fuel these retailers growing power.

So I applaud the company's strategic direction and predict that if they follow up these initial marketplace moves with more, it will fuel what is at best today a brush fire of change in the consumer electronics and software marketplace.

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