Eat Your Own Dog Food!
CEOs need to experience their product or service as a customer
“Is this group two?” I was asked for the third time. “I don’t know about everyone one else here, but yes, I’m a two” I responded. I couldn’t help but be snarky after waiting for the delayed United flight.
The guy ahead of me turns around and says, “How is it that Southwest can figure out how to form lines but United cannot?”
If you’ve traveled lately, I’m sure that you know what I am talking about. Unless you’ve only been in a very wide aisled airport, you know that United—the airline that I fly most often, though I’m sure most others perhaps are just as bad—boards in groups and asks that you to line up behind a number. The designated space is occasionally well marked with adequate space and sometimes has only enough space to accommodate the members of a canoe. A small canoe. That was this flight.
There is a funny story I heard about a CEO who gathers his people to talk about the dismal sales that their dog food is experiencing. The marketing people blame the sales people. The sales people blame the marketing campaign. The finance people blame the production people for high costs. Finally an intern from the back of the room says, “The dogs don’t like it!”
It makes me wonder, when the United executives fly, do they ever wait in line? If they were in Group One (which is really Group Six because first they board anyone with a disability—a growing group, many with unidentifiable physical disabilities—then uniformed military personnel, then Global Services, families with children under the age of 35—including cousins—and then anyone with a Q in their name)—they wouldn’t be able to experience the canoe syndrome. If they did, they would probably work to solve the problem. Even colored bread crumbs or a line of duct tape (with the United logo of course) would help.
Too many executives don’t eat their own dog food. Unless you experience your product or service from the customers’ perspective, you probably have a rosy view of what you are offering.
Years ago when I was an executive at Kinko’s I spent much of my time in the stores talking with customers and our coworkers—we all did. We heard good things and we heard complaints. Once we sold the company and hired many new executives, the new executives, on the rare occasion that they went into a store, huddled in back where it was safe from anyone with a complaint or request that might not fit their neat and tidy view of what the business should look like.
Go try a bowl of your own dog food!
coaches CEOs to higher levels of success. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000 people. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing).