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Learning from your Customers in the Internet Age

Background: This blog post was inspired by a series of events that began late last month when employees of Parallels, a company that makes a competing solution to VMware Fusion, were found posting less-than-flattering reviews of VMware Fusion to Amazon.

The Web, and Market Transparency

The web brings amazing transparency to learn about products and services. Whether you’re talking user forums on your company’s web site or reviews on a third-party retailer’s site, users get the ability to share their likes and dislikes about products, help others with technical challenges, and give prospective users unvarnished opinions about products at hand. 

This level of transparency is a godsend for companies looking to improve their products and how they do business; the feedback loop from customer to vendor has never been stronger. At VMware, we believe in leveraging the power of our users and the community to help us build and release the best possible products. 

VMware Fusion team members from engineering to marketing participate in our own user forums on a daily basis. We do our best to stay in the know about what our users are doing with the software—what delights them, and what frustrates them—so we can make it better. 

And this engagement isn’t limited to our own site. We do our best to stay current on what’s being said about us out on the web. We scan blogs and read customer reviews at Amazon.com, Apple Online Store and other forums to make sure we are capturing the pulse of our users and to identify the areas where we can make VMware Fusion even better. We do this because consumer reviews truly matter when people are looking for honest advice from their peers—other customers who have bought the same product before them—to make a sound technology decision.

The Good, and the Bad

While the majority of the feedback we receive is from users getting significant value from VMware Fusion, like any company we have our share of negative reviews and user issues. When we encounter users with problems or challenges, we do our best to reach out to solve the problem and help the customer find success. This helps us improve our product and helps our users to become even better advocates of VMware Fusion. 

With this context in mind, last week we ran across a couple of negative user reviews on Amazon.com that seemed out of character. They seemed especially out of character given that both posters had posted 5-star reviews of Parallels Desktop for Mac, prior to posting less-than flattering reviews of VMware Fusion. After a little investigation via LinkedIn, based on the user names that the reviewers posted under, we found that these reviews were not from actual users but from employees of a competitor, Parallels. 

Choosing the Right Path

Recently there have been quite a few conversations taking place across the web about how best to compete in a web-enabled world, and what is and isn’t okay.  Ultimately, in determining what was the best way to address this situation, we applied the same standards of respect, transparency, and “benefit of the doubt” that we value on the VMware Fusion team, and that VMware aspires to in general.

Last Friday, we brought this behavior to Parallels’ attention to address, offering them the opportunity to address the issue internally and to explain the situation publicly. 

At the end of the business day on Monday, Ben Rudolph from Parallels published a brief, explanatory blog post on the topic. You can read it here. 

While we may not agree with Ben’s characterization of the issue, we’d like to thank Ben and the Parallels team for working with their employees to remove the offending reviews and address the issue. 

We Continue to Look Forward to Your Feedback

We greatly appreciate and continuously look forward to feedback from our valued users. We will continue to monitor customer reviews and forums to make sure we are getting the best possible feedback from our users.  And at the same time, we invite all our users to come visit us on the VMware Fusion forums and let us know how well VMware Fusion works for you or where we can improve. 

Pat Lee
Group Manager, Consumer Products
VMware

 

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