When was the last time you tried your own dog food?

Try experiencing your business from the customers’ perspective

“Is this Group 2?” I was asked for the third time. “I don’t know about everyone one else here, but yes, I’m a 2,” 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 can't?”

If you’ve traveled lately, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Unless you’ve only been in an extremely wide-aisled airport, you know that United — the airline I fly most often, though perhaps most others are just as bad — boards in groups and asks you to line up behind a number.

The designated space is usually well-marked but only occasionally has adequate room and sometimes has only enough area to accommodate the members of a canoe. A small canoe. That was this flight.

There’s 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 salespeople. The salespeople 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 United executives fly, do they ever wait in line? If they were in Group 1 (which is really Group 6 because first they board anyone with a disability — a growing group, many with unidentifiable physical disabilities; then uniformed military personnel; then United Global Services; then families with children under the age of 35, including cousins; and then anyone with a Q in their name), they wouldn’t experience the canoe syndrome.

If they did, they’d probably 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’re 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 co-workers — we all did. Once we sold the company, we hired many new executives who rarely went into a store.

When they did, they 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. Things would be so easy if it weren’t for those darn customers!

Go try a bowl of your own dog food!

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