Microsoft Pinpoint: Delivering what customers want
What Microsoft wants
Microsoft wants to sell lots of software and make lots of money. It's a very normal company that has had abnormal success. And just like every other organization on the planet, what Microsoft wants is not always what the customer wants.
Microsoft Pinpoint is a website that helps business customers find IT solutions built on Microsoft technologies, and helps Microsoft partners market their offerings. It particularly focuses on helping small and medium businesses find qualified experts, software applications, and professional services that address their unique issues. You'd go to Pinpoint if you needed outside IT expertise and wanted a solution based on Microsoft technologies.
Microsoft wanted to identify the technology-related top tasks that made small and medium businesses seek outside help, so that they could better understand and address customer needs. What kind of task would bring them to a website like Microsoft Pinpoint?
At a certain level you would think that there can't be top tasks here. This is so broad. We're talking about the whole world of IT; all the software and technology that small and medium businesses use to address a vast array of challenges.
Here's a sample of the type of tasks we came up with after exhaustive research:
It's quite a broad sample isn't it? We asked about 700 small and medium businesses throughout the United States to score their top tasks. (The core focus was organizations with between five and 250 PCs.) These organizations worked in many different sectors including technology, government, healthcare, manufacturing, retail and hospitality. Another broad range. Here's a list of the top tasks that we identified:
- Accounting (general ledger, accounts receivable / payable, job costing, order entry)
- Antivirus (software, consultancy, malware)
- Backup and recovery (online, archiving)
- Customer relationship management (CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, customer care / satisfaction)
- Data migration / integration
- Desktop support
- Financial analytics and reporting
- Hosting (Web, e-commerce, e-mail, co-location, SharePoint, Exchange)
- Internet security
- Network design (LAN, WAN, wireless, VPNs, VoIP)
- Order management
- Payroll (services, time and attendance tracking)
- Spam (anti-spam, filters, blockers, blacklists)
- Supply chain management
- Tax management
You could look at the above and say: That's not a very long neck because the top 5% of tasks only got 14% of the vote. And that's a good point. My counter-argument is that we were probably too refined in our choice of tasks. Internet security, Antivirus, Security, and Spyware are all strongly related and if we add them together we get 10% overall. Computer/PC support and Desktop support are also quite closely related and together they add up to 5%.
An interesting point is the stability of the results, which can be seen in the following table. What it shows is that the top tasks had emerged by the first quarter of the vote (179 voters), and that there was very little change as the voting progressed.
There is a clear message from the results. Security is the top task. It makes sense when you think about it. A security issue is a trigger issue. It's what sends you on that search or makes you pick up the phone. It's something you can't resolve yourself. Internet security is particularly important. This is true regardless of the number of PCs an organization has. Or, whether an organization had less than 10 employees or more than 500.
We asked the Microsoft team responsible for the Pinpoint website to vote on the tasks while trying to think like their customers. Then we compared the two votes. The following table shows the tasks that were statistically most important to each group:
While Internet security was a top task for customers it didn't rate highly for the Microsoft team. On the other hand, while customer relationship management was the top task for the Microsoft team it didn't rate highly for customers.
Security is something that has become more and more important to Microsoft's customers. Yet, when the Pinpoint team was presented with the results of the vote, they were indeed surprised. They hadn't downplayed security deliberately; they just hadn't considered it a top task. They had a vision of small and medium business that was more about Internet marketing than Internet security.
As a result, Microsoft has gradually shifted its focus and made security solutions more central among its offers.
The original version of the Pinpoint homepage also came from a classic marketing perspective.
The hero shot dominated the page, with the implication that this handsome man (with his arms folded) uses Pinpoint, and you should too. The new version of the page that came out of the top task identification project was much more to the point.
On the new page, Search is much more obvious, with an added location option as businesses often require technical help that is located nearby. Categories now feature on the homepage, with the top tasks of "Internet Security" and "Computer/PC management" being quite prominent. These simple but powerful changes reflect the philosophy that top tasks should be prominent and doable. A great webpage is not something to look at. It's something to do practical things on.
"This philosophy is now integrated into everything we do, and we have continued to refine our site with key customer tasks in mind," states Peter Horsman, Global Site Management lead for Microsoft Pinpoint. "Most users now enter Pinpoint through a search results page tailored specifically to what they are looking for. This helps our customers find what they need quickly, while allowing them the option of refining the search outcome further."
"Our work with Gerry increased understanding across our team of the specific tasks that our customers are trying to accomplish and how best to address their needs," Peter continues. "We adopted the mantra that customers use the site to get something done-in our case, finding a Microsoft technology expert, and contacting that company about its application or service. From this standpoint, we identified browse categories, and refined our use of images and our overall design. The result is a significant improvement (+20%) in our customers' ability to find what they need on Pinpoint. The study is now standard reading for anyone new to the Pinpoint team."
Top Tasks Management Solutions
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The Stranger's Long Neck
The above is an excerpt from Gerry McGovern’s latest book, The Stranger’s Long Neck
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