Creative Good Fellow
I'm taking part in the 2005 Creative Good Fellows program. It brings together folks from different industries to work with and learn from pros like Phil Terry in an intensive year-long program. Phil and the gang at Creative Good are user experience consultants, and work with various businesses to design customer-focused strategies that will improve a business' bottom line.
I truly believe that developing a business' or product's strategy around your customer's needs is the best way to ensure sustainability in the long term. A continuing dialogue with your customers and consistently user-testing your products provide a feedback loop that will be invaluable when anticipating change in your industry and formulating strategy to stay ahead of the game.
The cost for consumers to switch from most services are low, and information about your product and your competitors' products is easily obtained by increasingly-informed consumers. Unless you have a powerful brand, brand loyalty is often only as strong as your last product. For example, last year our League Manager (LM) fantasy games product had some technical issues that made customers pretty unhappy. ESPN is a great brand, and many of our customers gave us the benefit of the doubt and came back to play again in 2004. We didn't let them down, either--the LM team worked their asses off to refine the product and fix bugs, and our customers rewarded us with very few "ESPN SUCKS!!!" messages (and even one or two "ESPN ROCKS" messages) on our primary source of informal feedback for League Manager.
Anyways, I've seen some of the work Creative Good has done; they really understand how customers transact business on the web, and I'm excited about learning more from the Creative Good folks and the rest of the Fellows to help make ESPN a more customer-friendly company.