The Suite Spot
Book Nook: Satisfaction Guaranteed
The last sentence of Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer (Penguin, $26) provides a gut check for business owners everywhere. Authors Chris Denove and James Power IV, both executives at J.D. Power & Associates, the customer-satisfaction survey company, write, "When it comes to your customers, perception is reality, and ultimately your company is nothing more than what your customers say it is."
As the authors see it, observing what customers do and say--and then responding effectively--are the keys to the corporate kingdom. Too many companies, they write, pay customers only lip service. Denove and Power knowingly quote Dilbert's two rules of management: "One, the customer is always right, and two, they must be punished for their arrogance." And they cite many examples of companies, Staples for one, that deliver consistently high customer satisfaction--and translate it into bigger profits.
In the Internet age, the authors note, companies disrespect customers at their peril. It's easy to post a snarky opinion on a message board or even set up an anticompany website, as Starbucks found out after an espresso-machine purchase went bad. So companies might as well listen to customers. They aren't shutting up anytime soon.
Grabbing a Bite: Just Browsing
What does the CEO of the Mozilla Corp.--the browser company that has made a remarkable inroad on Microsoft's dominance--drink with lunch? Smartwater, naturally. That's the only unsurprising aspect of an encounter with Mitchell Baker. First, there's the name, which is unusual for a woman. Then, there's her lush red hair, which falls nearly to her shoulder on her right but is cropped close to her head on her left.
Most surprising of all is the story of Mozilla. Eating takeout salads at the free-snack-stocked lunchroom of the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, Baker recounts how, in 1998, she and several other Netscape veterans asked programmers around the world to devote free time to creating a better Web browser. The result of the open-source experiment, Firefox, has proved solidly successful. An estimated 9 percent of American websurfers now use it.
The for-profit Mozilla Corp. uses commissions from Firefox users' Google and Yahoo! searches to pay a growing 46-member staff of professional coders, security experts, and marketers who oversee the volunteers. Any profits go to the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which owns the corporation (which, in turn, owns Firefox). Baker, who also sits on the foundation's board, says the goals of the two are the same: to make the Internet easier, safer, and more useful.
But Baker will soon have to fight to prove that Firefox is the surfers' solution. After leaving its Internet Explorer 6 browser pretty much untouched for four years, Microsoft will late this year launch version 7, which promises the kind of pop-up blockers, security, and tabbed browsing that won Firefox its fans. However, Baker says, "what we really need to see is whether IE 7 represents not just a response to Firefox but a long-term change of heart in making a product that serves users well."
In case it's not, Mozilla is working on new features, such as browser tools that will help people collaborate on projects.
The Suite Spot: Wish List
Simply roll the clock to your desired city and get the local time.In stainless steel, the clock is $190 at www.junro.com.
This story appears in the March 27, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.