‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’, I remember from my school days. Well, in business, Bad news is the spark that constantly and effectively recreates our organisations!
Bad news is Good news!
In our earlier article, we visited an organisation whose CEO was not able to get to the Bad News. His structures kept Bad News at a “safe” distance. I remember another Client stressing to me “why should I voluntarily establish a company/product Blog for all those whingers who want to complain about my product”. The answer is simple really, they will whinge anyway, except that with your Blog, you know in real time and can do something about it (or nothing if you so choose). As are Bad News, Blogs are gold mines as long as they are well managed.
Another Client, a software development house, consciously kept segregated the customer complaints database from the product development tracking and roadmap database and ensured that the 2 shall never meet, as “the customers do not realise that we have been building the best software for decades and I know better than any customer what their needs are” claimed the CEO! And at no time were the Customer Support staff allowed to share their knowledge with the software development team in case the latter were influenced by “complaining customers”.
So, let’s analyse Bad News. To start with, Bad is a very subjective and what is Bad news for one is no news for another. This is a basic premise we need to endorse before we are able to allow for the world of opportunities to open for us. In the early days of the ICT industry, regular commentary by colleagues and IT journals, about the LOW quality of the Microsoft products was commonplace. This was indeed seen as Bad News by those uncomfortable with Bill Gates’ business success. Not for Mr Gates, we imagine. What we saw was, Mr Gates creating a new industry of “resellers” that Microsoft trained and ensured they shared revenues with and that Microsoft was able to continue listening to, step by step improving the products, making them market relevant rather than technologically at the bleeding edge.
Now, this is a very controversial subject and there are many that still today disrespect Microsoft and they are allowed to have their opinions. What cannot be said is that Microsoft did not go on to become one of the most successful businesses of our time making Bill Gates the richest man on earth!
Still, many technocrats agree that Microsoft products are not technically as advanced as their counterparts such as Unix, and this may be true. However, customers and investors vote with their money and they have voted for Microsoft time and time again as instead of trying to build the best technical products, Microsoft continues to build Client relevant products based on their feedback. The question for Microsoft is, will the new management team post Bill Gates understand and propagate this subtle choice and are they able to match the Google onslaught and the SaaS software model? Time will tell and this is not the subject of this article.
It is our experience that GREAT companies treat Bad News like gold. They often have a specific role(s) in their organisations that analyse this feedback and work towards merging this with product and services roadmaps. We certainly agree with this approach. The best GAP analysis will find significant relevance in this Bad News. Often organisations ask their marketing teams to work through GAP analysis and struggle to find relevant information, or worst still, abdicate the role to an external organisation that goes-on to commit the organisation to lengthy and costly research programs that often give the wrong results. All this while in a database, hidden away somewhere in a Customer Support department, this goldmine is sitting there gathering digital dust!