Dog fooding – and why it matters in product management

dogfood

It should be obvious, but is often overlooked – good product management is not just about building and shipping. As a PM you need to understand the end to end customer value chain, in particular, how your customers use and interact with your product or service.

While consumer research and customer feedback is valuable, I am a proponent of “dogfooding” – the process whereby a product manager regularly uses their product to understand the true customer experience. Only then can they get a sense of what is working really well and what is not.

It is often the smaller, less obvious product features or service elements that deliver the opportunity to materially improve the  customer experience and value proposition.

I recently had an experience interacting with one of my products which made me realise that the language we used was jargonistic and likely to make our customers feel overwhelmed and/or disengaged. Working with the Communications Team, we put ourselves in the shoes of our customers – we stripped out the jargon and simplified our communication message. We then tested it with both customers and frontline staff. The result – higher levels of satisfaction with the product and greater levels of customer engagement. And our staff? They too related better to the proposition we were asking them to sell and service. The sales numbers went up.

Dogfooding is not an alternative to customer journey mapping and customer research. It is another tool in the Product Manager’s toolkit which can identify design issues and opportunities in both the product and service experience. Product managers more than anyone, have a responsibility and the means to amplify those things that are working and change those that are not. In doing so, they can further differentiate their proposition and make it even more compelling.

Enjoy the meal – and if you don’t, then change the recipe! (Woof)

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