Confession time: I’ve been known to zone out after a busy day by curling up in front of the television to watch something like Undercover Boss, Tabitha Takes Over or Restaurant Stakeout.
All of these programs have two things in common. First, they take a candid look at what really happens in the day-to-day operations of a business. We see it all, the good and the bad, and more often than not there’s quite a lot of “bad” to be seen. We’ll chalk that up to the fact that these are edited to create entertaining reality TV. Hopefully U.S. businesses aren’t typically that terrible.
The second thing they have in common is even more important: Owners and managers don’t know what is really happening in “the trenches.” While most businesses may not be as inept as those featured on reality television, I suspect many of these shows aren’t all that far off base in their portrayal of how well owners and upper level managers truly understand the customer experience.
Google’s Leftover Dog Food
In the world of computers and software there’s a process called “dogfooding.” In fact, when Google released Google Voice on Android 4.0, the behemoth accidentally left its “Dogfood settings” in the software. Simply put, “eating your own dog food” or “dogfooding” is making developers use their own products to prove and understand their quality and capabilities.
It’s a concept that should be used in all kinds of businesses to truly understand the customer experience. Let’s face it, most of us will never have the kind of hidden camera surveillance that they use in Tabitha Takes Over or Restaurant Stakeout so we need to do the next best thing: Serve ourselves a big dish of our own dog food.
Go through all the processes your customers and clients experience and if you can’t do it yourself because people will treat you differently, grab Aunt Martha and have her do it for you. Don’t miss anything. Make sure that you experience every possible touch point in your customer service pipeline. This includes, by the way, the digital side of your business, not just the “live and in-person” part of the operation.
Small Investments, Big Results
It’s amazing to me that some businesses seem to think that they can still get away with poor customer service. It took a bad morning dealing with the bank to motivate Greg Fry and remind him that he hadn’t touched bases with all of his clients in a long time. Hopefully, after you do a little dogfooding, you’ll be fairly pleased with your overall customer service. However, we both know that you’ll find areas that can be improved.
And, even if you think your customer service is “fine,” look for ways to make it “outstanding.” That small qualitative difference can make a huge impact on the success of your business and often the difference between “fine” and “outstanding” customer service can cost very little.
As the Internet and overnight delivery services have radically improved communication and transportation, the playing fields between big businesses and small businesses, new businesses and established businesses has been leveled. Almost everything that is being sold today has been turned into a commodity. One of the few ways to really distinguish your business is to deliver world-class customer service.
And that might start with your first spoonful of dog food.
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