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Microsoft customer feedback loop envisioned

The head of Microsoft's online resources unit says users will soon have a direct link to Redmond's product-development teams.

As part of its effort to forge stronger ties with end users, Microsoft is planning to release some "tools" to facilitate better two-way feedback.

Details are still fuzzy about exactly what those tools will look like. At the MVP [Most Valuable Professional] Summit in Redmond this week, Rich Kaplan, corporate vice president for content delivery, told MVPs that Microsoft is testing the "tools" with end users, and the software maker will release more information in early summer.

The idea is to create a feedback loop between Microsoft and its customers that will give Microsoft a way to follow up on things users feel are important and want addressed, Kaplan said.

Customers might also use the technology to vote on product features, Kaplan said. The feedback will go straight to Microsoft staffers working on a particular product team, he said. "Ultimately, there are a lot of different feedback mechanisms," he said. "The tools will let us expand to a broader community."

Users crave information

For many customers, this type of communication is a sure-fire winner. "This is something that would interest most people," said Chris Nicholson, senior IT analyst at Husky Energy, a petroleum company based in Calgary, Alberta.

Nicholson said he would also like to see more customer benefits, such as free TechNet subscriptions and more exposure to beta and release-candidate software versions. "More hands-on is always better," he said. "And more information is better than less, even if you don't use it all."

Kaplan said Microsoft has been expanding its online content to help users in several ways. The company is registering all the blogs written by MVPs. The company is also searching other IT communities for the most compelling content topics. And Microsoft this week launched its Community Solutions Content Program, a pilot project that lets MVPs author content to be posted in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. Traditionally, content on this site has been provided exclusively by Microsoft employees.

MVPs are technical professionals that are either developers or others from the IT community. There are roughly 2,500 today, a number that was greatly increased by Microsoft this year. Kaplan said Microsoft expanded the MVP population to adjust for the company's international and technological expansion.


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