Eating Your Own Dog Food

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on August 16, 2018. Click here to read the original.

I’ve already established that I’m a big fan of my new dentist and their approach to the customer experience.

I recently found myself in the hygienist’s chair staring up at the ceiling where she has a cool poster of a dog in a park and the challenge is to find a variety of objects that are hidden within the image (Similar to the picture above but more difficult). Objects like a hot dog, thumbtack, spoon, etc. While we were chatting I made the comment that I was having a difficult time finding one of the objects even though it was the second time I was seeing the poster.

She made an interesting comment in response saying, “Oh it’s about time I put a new picture up there. It’s been a while since I’ve sat in that chair.”

This comment reminded me of a term I once heard in a client meeting called “Dogfooding.” It’s a verb derived from the expression, “Eating your own dog food” which refers to using or consuming your own product in the same way that your customers would. I was new to the term but not the concept. It makes sense for so many different roles within organizations.

Think about this for a moment. Imagine serving at a restaurant but never dining at that restaurant or trying the food. Let’s say you work customer service for a company that ships products to customers but you never have any of that product shipped to you. Picture working at a software or hardware company and never actually using the software or hardware. This doesn’t work for all industries and products but it certainly works for a lot of them.

Here are three practices that can help make dogfooding a reality in your organization:

1. Make it possible for employees to use the product

If you have a consumer product, allow employees to use it for free. I once worked for a phone company that gave employees free phone service and it was a great opportunity to try installing the service in my own home and testing the user interface for my own personal application. If free isn’t feasible, at least consider a deep employee discount. Not only do employee gain intimate familiarity with the product but they also gain the ability to empathize with customers for the variety of issues and scenarios that might occur.

2. Set up a feedback channel

Employees should know that the free product or service, while a benefit, isn’t actually free. As they gain better understanding and experience what customers experience, we want their feedback. Be sure to set up a channel for employees to submit feedback and feature requests. Heck, depending on their role, empower them to make improvements! You’re training them to think like the customer and the feedback and insight from that experience is invaluable.

3. Map out the experience

Going back to my phone experience, this process involved steps like placing an order online, receiving a shipment, plugging devices in, using a mobile app, and configuring within the user interface. This is a great time to go through a journey mapping exercise where you map out the steps and understand the points in the process that might cause customer aggravation.

Whether you call it dogfooding or sitting in the customer’s chair, this is an invaluable practice in just about any organization and can be a catalyst for customer experience improvement. I’d love to hear how your organization encourages this practice and what you gain from it.

On that note, I have a teeth cleaning next week and am eager to see if the dentist swapped out the poster. I’ll keep you posted.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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