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Recently, there was a changing of the guard at microsoft.com, the Microsoft corporate Web site. Sanjay Parthasarathy is the new General Manager of microsoft.com and the Microsoft Customer Systems Group. He arrives from the company’s India Subcontinent Region, where he was Regional Director. He replaces Pieter Knook, who was appointed vice president, Far East.
Tim Sinclair, Editor in Chief of microsoft.com, now heads content and operations of the Web site. During his two-year tenure with microsoft.com, the Web site’s daily traffic has grown from 6 million hits to 190 million hits. So, we the staff at microsoft.com seized this opportunity to pin down these two guys on issues we’re often asked by you, our customers.
Q: You’re in charge of one of the Internet’s four most-visited Web sites. What does microsoft.com do well?
A: (Sanjay) We deliver an incredible amount of information to an equally incredible number of people each day. Our Web site is around 324,000 pages now; each day we serve 32 million page views, 192 million hits, to 1.3 million visitors, and we grew by 90 percent in the last six months. We expect an equally strong growth in the next six!
I think we’ve improved our international service; we offer Web sites in 52 countries in 28 different languages. Page views from international customers were up 865 percent in the last six months. We’ve built data centers in Tokyo and London
(www.asia.microsoft.com and www.eu.microsoft.com); many of our international customers can use those sites to access our site faster and find information they need quicker.
We do a good job of documenting the value of Microsoft software, which operates our system. We stress our infrastructure more than any other Internet site because of the size of our site and the number of visitors. Our software works here, so it can work everywhere.
Q: Where can the Web site improve?
A: (Sanjay) Everywhere. But I’d pick 100% availability, usability and cool new services as the top 3. Our Web site has been growing so fast that supplying the very best services and information sometimes has been second priority to just delivering information. We need to be better tomorrow at what we’re doing today. I view the www.microsoft.com home page as the ‘dial tone’ - it should be available to 100% of the users, 100% of the time. We’re going to be doing some things to make this real.
We also need to focus on making the user experience worthwhile and easy and fast - do customers find what they came to find? How easy was it to find? How long did it take them?
Q: What new features can we expect to see on microsoft.com in the near future?
A: (Tim) You will see us broadening and improving accessibility to information and services we already provide. We think international customers should be able to search our site in their own language. Customer registration should be possible in more languages. Key content should be localized, such as the Products area and our Personal Information Center.
You also will see us talking to our customers about what they need from us - what will make a difference in their businesses. We will be conducting focus groups and usability studies to determine what information is critical to you and how we can best deliver that information.
We’ve come this far by listening to what customers want; now we’ll ask our customers to help us reach a higher level of service.
Q: Last summer, you told us the "up time" for your site fell below your standards. What have you done to remedy that situation?
A: (Tim) We’ve made great progress here. We’ve added servers to handle the ever-increasing customer demand; we’ve increased the performance of our top-level pages so you can quickly go from the Internet to the page you need; and we’re presenting our information so it’s more easily accessible.
We have to be at our best, 24 hours a day, and sometimes we slip. We know the effect this has on our customers, because we hear from you immediately. So this is an ongoing job for us. I want our pages to load even faster, and to increase the speed of our most-frequently-used pages such as free downloads. Here are a couple of our upcoming projects:
A: (Sanjay) Just like the corner grocery or new employee at a big company event, we are working hard to try and remember our customers and partners. We’re not interested in confidential information like your income and Social Security number but we do want to know enough about you so that we can serve you better.
For example, we recommend electronic newsletters based on you telling us how you use your computer. We’re a big company with lots of products. Helping our customers get to the information they need quickly is an important benefit.
We’re also working hard to make the data collection process as streamlined as possible. For example, if you register with us when you download a product you will not be asked to register again if you need on-line support.
Finally, we’ve really made it a priority to put the customer in control of their data. You’ll find a site on Microsoft.com called the Personal Information Center where you can view and update your profile. This is also the place where you can sign up for electronic newsletters or if you prefer, you can tell Microsoft that you don’t want any e-mail at all. You’re in control!
Got your own questions for Sanjay and Tim? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the words Editor in Chief in the subject line. We’ll use the best for our next q/a. Thanks!