Do you eat your own Dog-Food? — Lionesses of Africa

by Lionesses of Africa Operations Department

The year was 1988 and a manager at Microsoft called Paul Maritz was fed up at the glitches being found by software customers of theirs purely because although being tested before release, the software simply wasn’t being used in the real world under real life conditions by themselves. He wrote a memo about the need to trial new networking software internally – not just test, but really use in a day-to-day environment. In the subject line he wrote “Eating our own dog-food” and this was picked up by a testing manager who named a test server ‘Dog-food’ and from there the phrase grew through Microsoft and then on into the industry (see here).

Ever downloaded new software and then wondered why it simply did not work as promised? Often the main reason is because although it may have been tested in a laboratory condition or a controlled ‘sandbox’, it has not been tested in real life. Chances are high that the software developers do not even use it themselves! Surely not?! Surely of all people, the developers themselves must believe and love their own product that they constantly use this in their daily lives?

It would seem not! In October 2013 Yahoo totally revamped its popular Mail service. The amount of complaints this caused was incredible as this new ‘revamp’ removed some very popular functions and added a complex multi-tasking function. Surely the developers would have seen this – perhaps the bosses at Yahoo themselves seeing the loss of functionality as they tried to send emails and organise calendars, complained? Surprisingly it turns out that many (including many within the leadership!) at Yahoo didn’t even use their own mail system, preferring Microsoft Outlook. Following a plea by management, 25% of employees started using their own mail (prior to this plea it was obviously a lot lower!), but still that was 75% of the company that had no idea how bad (or good) their system was. 

The internal memo that can be seen here, starts by stating: “Earlier this year we asked you to move to Yahoo Mail for your corporate email account. 25% of you made the switch (thank you)… It’s time for the remaining 75% to make the switch. Beyond the practical benefits of giving feedback to your colleagues on the Mail team, as a company it’s a matter of principle to use the products we make. (BTW, same for Search.)…

Eh?! They didn’t use their own Search either? Suddenly for any who tried to use Yahoo Search in those days, it all starts to make sense! How can feedback be given internally? How can customer complaints be foreseen and headed off at the pass by being solved before they become a problem if there is silence from within the company, and even the developers have to wait for irate customers to call in before they recognize there is a problem?

The memo continues: “But wait there’s more. By using corporate Mail, you’ll automatically get to dog-food our new features first.” And there it is, the new verb courtesy of our friend Paul Maritz, who lest we forget worked for Microsoft, the builders of Outlook from which Yahoo were desperately trying to wean their employees – a tad ironic perhaps?

Still, the point, if perhaps lacking in subtlety (and you should read the rest of the memo to see the subtlety used, or rather not used!), is still true. Software developers should have to in real life use their product and the same certainly applies for the leadership of that company. 

Recognizing that this would also be important for companies outside of the software world, many companies have also insisted the same of their employees and especially of their managerial level. They should wear the clothes produced, cook the ‘ready-to-cook’ food, and drive the cars. Indeed any product produced and sold should be tried out in the home environment, exactly because using in such a day-to-day environment will show the buttons that drop off unexpectedly, the cruise control that is not easy to find, the cup holders that don’t work or only fit expresso cups, or if the plastic covering starts to burn when you get the wrong setting on your microwave. There will so often be an obscure action that causes an issue that will not have been covered in the testing department of your company. These will be found out by your customers – far better to find them yourself so that you can immediately start to find a solution.

Why stop there? Working for BMW or Mercedes, how lovely that you drive the latest model each month – of course you can find no fault – but have you actually tried to buy one? With enough trees cut down to cover a small country, the paperwork is enough from some resellers to drive the most placid, calm and understanding of customers into drink (rather ironic, as they can’t then drive). Time is such a precious commodity these days, if the poor customer has to sit for an hour filling out the forms, surely there is a better way? Same with so called easy to use, quick flow websites. If you don’t test out your website and ordering system with a few real live purchases, then how do you know that it is a seamless route to peace, tranquility and your product? 

Get your employees to purchase on your site – why not? What is the worst that could happen? That is why decent employee discounts are so valuable for any company. We say ‘decent’ because 10% is just plain stingy – these are your employees, surely you want them of all people to be proudly wearing your garments, shoes and so on? Obviously if you are a luxury brand then you have to be careful as exclusivity is your thing and if you manufacture Gin, perhaps limit it a bit (!). But still, here are many employees willing to test out your products, the website, the ordering system, the payment platform (build the employee customer discount code into your normal discount code area – although remember to number individually. You do still want to see that one employee who buys 1,000 of the same handbag using their one code, better to catch that trick early!). And one extra joy – all of this is done in their own time!

In addition to which, as we have often written previously, the customer service experience is such a central pillar for trust and loyalty that this too must be tested. This is where you create strong loyal customers by helping them solve their problems. However, if done wrong this is where you drive your customers into the arms of your competition. Indeed customer service interactions are nearly four times more likely to lead to disloyalty than loyalty, because it is usually done so badly.

Managers should be encouraged to test this – to ‘chat’ on the website, to ask for suggestions, to check if something is sold out, to ask if your famous ‘Pink Paradise Slippers’ come in Blue… (you’ll be amazed by the questions your customer service dept receive), to purchase, to test customer care, to complain and ask for a refund, to follow through the process – this is only what you are asking your own customers to do, so why not your managers? You know the rules you have set with regard to refunds, test out the process. 

Pull up a chair, sit down at your own table and in the words of Paul Maritz our friend from Microsoft, Eat your own Dog-food!

…25 years later, Maritz’s own daughter started her career at Google Inc and returned one day sporting a T-Shirt with the phrase ‘We Eat Our Own Dog-Food’ emblazoned across the front! The phrase had come the full circle! As Maritz himself says: “It’s a very good discipline to say to yourself, if we can’t use it ourselves then there must be something fundamentally wrong.

We could not agree more!

Stay safe.

Source link

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *