By Adrian Booth

Big brands depend on honest feedback from end users for everything from getting their customer services offering right, to upgrading and developing new products. The bigger the brand, the more important it is to understand perceptions of the “little people” at the end of the food chain it seems.

So when Microsoft invited Fresh Business Thinking to observe one of a series of recent focus group sessions held in London, we went to see what goes on.
Ten men; no women in this particular group; all business leaders of companies with six to 12 staff, were asked to help the anonymous client behind a one-way mirror gain deeper understanding of how new technology affects how their businesses run.

The group knew they were being observed, but the identity of the client was kept secret until the end of the session to encourage freely voiced opinion.

From the start, far ranging and revealing subjects were on the table. What’s most important to your business? Productivity? A competitive edge? Growth? Customer acquisition? Customer retention? Or getting more from your IT?

There are no right answers of course. Such questions are not mutually exclusive. How can new technology help win new business? How can you use it to grow your business? How much of your work is office based? How do you keep in-touch with clients? What operating system are you using? Have you upgraded to Office 2010?
This group had a lot to say, and seemed happy saying it too.

Mobile working by laptop and the latest generation of phones is the biggest technology advance for these users, who all value the ability to share information on the move. They pointed to innovations such as smartphones like Windows Phone 7 which now offers mobile access to Word, Excel or Adobe files as well as email.

Other topics revealed that some are considering cloud technology; that some feel cautious about rushing into Windows upgrades; and that all are embracing some form of social networking as a marketing tool.

Microsoft won’t draw significant conclusions from observing a single session, and nor should we. The information gleaned is not used in isolation, but analysed along with all the other session outputs gathered throughout the world.

So how did the group react to discovering Microsoft behind the mirror? Impressed mostly. They seemed pleased to know such a big company really does take note of their smaller customers’ feedback.

For Microsoft, customer feedback has assumed tremendous importance. They run regular surveys and act on the findings, and they encourage direct communication through mechanisms like their newsletter. Check-out Microsoft’s small business website on www.microsoft.com/uk/smallbusiness, it is a great example of what they do with the feedback they get.

Watch the video below featuring Tanya Shirlow, SMB Marketing Lead at Microsoft UK, as she discusses the advantages of cloud services.


Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness