Today marks the kick-off of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Global Summit, the largest customer event each year on Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond. It’s something I look forward to all year long. Why?

In short, it’s a jam-packed week. Each year, I’m amazed at all that we learn in such a short amount of time from hundreds of the globe’s best and brightest technical experts – the MVPs. We welcome the opportunity to host MVPs who come to the summit to deepen relationships, participate in feedback sessions with Microsoft product teams and share their valuable insights about how Microsoft products perform in their communities. And you better believe we are listening.

At Microsoft, listening to our customers is an imperative, and something we work hard at doing well. The act of listening is not a passive endeavor, nor one that should happen sporadically.

How we listen to our customers continues to evolve. One way, though, has remained much the same since the early 1990s. Since that time, we’ve connected with technical enthusiasts from across the globe through the MVP Award Program, which enables us to cultivate relationships with community leaders who are passionate about technology. Today, more than 100 million people participate in technology communities. Only 4,200 are recognized as Microsoft MVPs.

All year long, our MVPs engage with technical communities, giving us tremendous insights into the customer experience. That invaluable knowledge is one of the main reasons we hold the annual MVP Global Summit.

In addition to critical engagements and events like the Summit, we constantly evaluate and refine our listening systems, which include online forums like Microsoft Answers, MSDNTechNet and our Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we do with this insight, information and feedback? We use it to create a better technology experience for everyone from the consumer all the way to the enterprise user.

The MVPs have a penchant for sharing their excitement and knowledge with others. It’s inspirational to say the least. We greatly value MVPs’ objective, critical feedback. We know they have their ears to the ground and a unique understanding of our customers’ experiences with Microsoft products and services, from Windows Phone 7 to CRM solutions. For example, last year, there were more than 25,000 e-mail conversations between MVPs and Microsoft product groups, spanning 65 technologies.

It’s also important to note that MVPs are awarded based on their exceptional contributions to community in certain technical competencies, like development tools, server solutions, business productivity and more. As technology trends shift, we align our award designations to reflect where customers spend their time.

This year, we added a new designation, awarding a number of MVPs who demonstrated proficiency in cloud-based services. Cloud computing is a trend that will continue to change the way we interact, communicate and conduct business. In short, cloud computing is here to stay, and we are excited about engaging our MVPs in this area.

MVPs keep us on our toes and remind us about the importance of consistent engagement and listening. They remind us why it’s so important to listen every single day and why it’s worth doing so, even if the information challenges the way we do things. It’s all part of creating the best possible end-user experience. For more information on MVPs, read this feature story on the Microsoft News Center.

To learn more about how MVPs make a difference in your community, check out the MVP Award Program blog, and follow the program on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted by Toby Richards
General Manager, Community and Online Support, Microsoft