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NYC Mayor Bloomberg Talks Up Customer-Centricity

He tells the New York Software Industry Association that technology companies in lower Manhattan will survive, and thrive, if they focus on the customer.

The 108th mayor of New York said Friday that Silicon Alley businesses--though hurt by an economic slump that was aggravated by the Sept. 11 attacks--will come back strong. Speaking to members of the New York Software Industry Association at their daylong conference, Michael Bloomberg said recovery will be dependent on providing not only top-quality products, but top-quality customer care.

Developers of technology products need to listen to user concerns and requirements from the beginning, and the user relationship should continue after a product is delivered, he said. "The best days are yet to come for your industry, but only if we are customer- and client-sensitive and we put ourselves in a situation of understanding what people need, and have the openness to go and see after we do things whether we were right or not."

He cited an example from his own experience in the business world to show why it's important to consider the customer from the start. He recalled an occasion in which a receptionist was charged with making name badges for all visiting customers. Because the fields in the program she was using were so small and required so much unnecessary information, the line of customers waiting for badges was often intolerably long. So Bloomberg went to the IT department, found the programmer who had developed the software, and forced that programmer to work the reception desk for two days. Needless to say, the software usability was quickly improved, Bloomberg said. But it was a situation that could have been avoided if the programmer had thought about the product from the user's perspective before designing it.

Some attendees said local government can only benefit from having a mayor with a background in business who's experienced in technology. Bloomberg L.P. played a key role in transforming the securities business by delivering instant access to real-time historical financial data. "He's a mayor who not only understands technology in general, but he also understands that in order for technology to have value, users need to be brought into the process," says Ed Carubis, CIO of the New York City Department of Health, following the keynote. Carubis added that he agrees with another Bloomberg premise--that technology needs to be simple.

Bloomberg got a standing ovation from the group, which supported him in his bid for mayor.

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