Who’s thriving amid the pandemic? Zoom… but CEO Eric Yuan’s latest post says even more. It’s open about challenges and plans to address them. He’s vulnerable — and it’s a strength. CEOs, gov leaders, and others can learn from this example, so I took a closer look.
Vulnerability refers to how we expose ourselves and our organizations to criticism and risk in the interest of reaping a greater reward. Public health officers who act swiftly despite incomplete information are vulnerable, but are saving lives. See the good, bold work of Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer — I wrote about it here.
Eric Yuan speaks vulnerably in this post and it’s a boon to the brand. Let’s look:
Usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight — far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February.”
Good thing exposes a bad thing for support — and users notice.
We recognize we have fallen short of the community’s — and our own — privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry, and I want to share what we are doing about it.”
Here, Yuan switches to the first-person singular to apologize. That’s a very good thing.
Then Zoom demonstrates respect for users. No platitudes here; instead, he shares technical details and background. Not to baffle us, but to empower users with more knowledge.
First, some background: our platform was built primarily for enterprise customers — large institutions with full IT support. These range from the world’s largest financial services companies to leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities, healthcare organizations, and telemedicine practices. Thousands of enterprises around the world have done exhaustive security reviews of our user, network, and data center layers and confidently selected Zoom for complete deployment.
However, we did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home. We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”
“These new, mostly consumer use cases have helped us uncover unforeseen issues with our platform.” Here, he pivots to make a “you’re using it wrong!” problem into an opportunity. That’s not spin — it’s smart leadership. Look at how he credits the community:
Dedicated journalists and security researchers have also helped to identify pre-existing ones. We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting — about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies. These are the questions that will make Zoom better, both as a company and for all its users.”
From there, Yuan credits the team. He shares extensively about what they’ve done to address problems. It’s important that the people working long hours to support more users than ever before know that the leadership sees and appreciates them. CEOs, do this.
Finally, we hear what Zoom will do and a timeline for doing it. Number one? “Enacting a feature freeze and shifting all our engineering resources to focus on our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.” We beg Twitter to do that. Zoom is doing it.
Brands that convene community to listen, learn, and improve run the risk of criticism, but can build loyalty and a better product by being vulnerable. CEOs that share mistakes and “prototype in public” can use transparency and accountability to foster immense trust.
Eric Yuan closes with how the community — consumer, businesses, schools, media — can hold him accountable: he’ll conduct weekly webinars about their privacy updates, publish a transparency report, and submit to third-party audits. He restates Zoom’s values around transparency. Clarity and detail underscore vulnerability to build a powerful case study in how to earn trust.