Google’s rapid incorporation of customer feedback into product development

We have all noticed how the pace of innovation is increasing – as an example, it is commonly noted that each new wave of communication services/devices gets widespread adoption much more quickly than the one before.  Hotmail, Skype, social networks, Twitter, the iPhone, iPhone app usage – all of these are recent examples of products or services whose rapid rate of adoption has astonished onlookers.

Similarly, we have all noticed how the bar for customer service is rising all the time.  Zappos, acquired for $1bn by Amazon last year is perhaps the best example here, their legendary 365 days free returns policy and ‘we will do anything for our customers’ attitude is an important part of their brand and driver of value fore their shareholders.

The reason I’m commenting on all this is that I’ve been astonished how quickly Google has reacted to the initial feedback on Buzz.  As you will have read Google’s ‘Twitter killer’ service which brings social networking and email together was launched last week and was criticised in some quarters, if not many quarters, for insufficient thought on various privacy issues.  Google listened, fed the message back to their developers and changed the product within a day, and then again two days later.

And the change is significant, cumulatively at least, replacing the default setting for public access to your implicit social network from opt-out to opt-in with an auto-suggest feature.

The saga is chronicled on Silicon Alley Insider, and if you are like me, reading that post will leave you impressed both by the speed at which Google marshalled resources to address this problem and the speed with which they were ready and able to change their thinking on opt-in versus opt-out for a key privacy setting.  And they are not a small company either.

It is great to see the consumer being put first like this and the speed with which the quality of the products and services we are getting is rising all the time, including for $0 charge services like Google Buzz.  This, of course, demands a higher standard of execution for startups (and all companies), but that is the price of the entry ticket to the game these days.

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  • I agree with you about the importance of rapid iteration. But I think that there is a deeper malaise at Google: a sense of “entitlement” or disconnect with ordinary people. Eric Schmidt's comment that is was the fault of consumers suffering from “confusion” was pretty damning. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/feb/1

    As you may have seen, I blogged about how “Don't Be Evil” is good for a startup. But when a corporation starts to believe that it *can't* be evill, that's when I start to be very, very scared.
    http://www.gamesbrief.com/2010/02/how-dont-be-e

  • Interesting post Nicholas. Arrogance often follows success, and this is a case of extreme success and extreme arrogance.

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