Linking Customers to Expertise

REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 14, 1999 — Microsoft has always used the Internet to help customers find the technical specialists they need, but the company recently took a step toward providing customers with not only the
to find consultants, but also the
Launched in July, the improved referral engine now connects Microsoft customers with the most specifically qualified Microsoft Certified Solution Providers (MCSPs) in their area. In less than five months, the site has distributed nearly half a million listings and doubled the number of referrals it has provided to customers.

MCSPs are the consultants and technical specialists often called upon to implement solutions for businesses using Microsoft technology; in addition to their expertise with Microsoft technology, MCSPs have specialized backgrounds ranging from e-commerce solutions to specific industry tools and practices.

“The Microsoft referral Web site is a great resource for customers like me who need to facilitate a technical project but aren’t sure where to turn for help,”
said Thomas Horn, director of sales for the American Philatelic Society.
“I have a tendency to get frustrated if a site is too slow or too complex, but this was fast and easy. I received a call within a day from the closest MCSP with just the qualifications we were looking for.”

In addition to providing more detailed information, other changes to the system will make finding an MCSP even easier for more customers worldwide. With the tool now available in an additional six languages, customers have improved access to more of the 24,000 MCSPs around the globe. This enhancement will benefit a number of companies that do business outside of the United States. For example, a customer wanting to open an office in Belgium in the next year can now connect with the experts in that area and get started on their technology solutions before they even arrive.

Other changes to the tool will provide customers with even more detailed and in-depth information about the MCSPs in their area, a benefit as important to the MCSP as to the customer.

“Customers don’t want to waste time contacting MCSPs that don’t offer the particular services they need,” says Al Boulanger of Data General, an MCSP in Massachusetts that offers an extensive portfolio of services committed to providing coordinated support across multi-vendor platforms and technologies.”
Thanks to the engine’s detailed and easily updateable solution provider profiles, they don’t have to. By simply filling in their requirements, customers can instantly find a local MCSP with the right experience to meet their needs.

For example, a small business that provides accounting services to medical organizations may want to develop an innovative technology solution — but it needs a solution provider to help it adapt its accounting software to the complex procedures of the health care industry. Using the referral engine, the small business can enter specific information about its industry, the software it uses or needs, and the solution it’s looking for — and be instantly matched to a qualified solution provider that meets its unique needs.

With an improved profiling mechanism, thousands of MCSPs renewing their program membership in the coming weeks will be able to easily provide detailed profile information that will better connect customers with the appropriate expertise.

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