The 2013 “Missing the Forest for the Trees (You Haven’t Even Planted Yet)” Award goes to…

Yahoo spent 2013 investing in an updated image – acquiring new technology companies and services (28 total!), launching new apps, logo redesigns, and updated user interfaces. Their new CEO, Marissa Mayer, put a human face on the company by communicating directly with customers via Twitter. These are all necessary moves if Yahoo is going to keep its email customers and expand their business model. This was going to be Yahoo’s big year.

But none of those projects have really taken off. The new companies are still in limbo and haven’t been integrated into Yahoo’s system yet.

While Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, SnapChat, and even Groupon have apps on the top 100 chart for the iTunes App Store, not one of Yahoo’s apps is there.

After months of sharing the minutiae of their logo redesign, the big reveal garnered a collective “…meh…”

To make it worse, the public discovered a rejected logo design by a random Yahoo employee – and liked it so much that it went viral.

And in the last two months, Yahoo sprung a surprise email redesign on users with absolutely no warning. It removed features users loved and depended on – features that kept them from switching to other providers. Overnight, they just disappeared.

The last straw came on December 9th, when a large, unknown number of Yahoo users lost access to their email.   Yahoo issued an apology, and has posted periodic updates assuring everyone they’ll fix it. Weeks later, they’re still reporting problems. Long-time customers are leaving.

Here’s an idea, Yahoo: 
Maybe put the same effort into informing your customers about a major change to their favorite product that you put into telling them about … designing your new logo?

Just… maybe?

Whatever Yahoo wants to do in the future, their core customers NOW are still email users. All its other services flow from how satisfied those customers are as they use their email each day. No amount of new logos or updated apps can eclipse what the customers experience each time they log in.  Yahoo’s leaders have to remember that while they care deeply about the company’s future, its customers just want their email now.  Companies must update their services to be competitive, but those updates have to build on what’s important to core customers. Don’t lose sight of that during the excitement and complexity of a transformation.

Read about the other Crappies Award Winners here.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.