Should You Be Dogfooding At Your Credit Union?

Dog Food

Ever heard of dogfooding? According to a post on the widely-read business-meets-technology blog GigaOM, dogfooding is the “yucky-sounding policy of many tech companies that try to mandate their employees use that company’s products (and only that company’s products) at work.” Now that you know what it is, the big question is whether you should have a doogfooding policy at your credit union.

In my 17-year consulting career I have met with literally thousands of credit union professionals and volunteers – many through my efforts at facilitating credit union strategic planning sessions. One of the gripes I have heard whispered in many planning sessions by both professional staff and volunteers alike is how few management team members and/or volunteers actually use the products of the credit unions they lead. If this is truly a gripe, should you have a policy, governing all employees and volunteers, that active use of credit union accounts is mandatory?

Consider this. In the GigaOM article the author reflected on comments made by Jeff Shuey, a former Microsoft developer platform evangelist. Here is a key excerpt…

Shuey cited current Microsoft insiders who said the answer is definitely yes. That if employees are not troubleshooting and using their own products, they’re not working for the greater good and should be fired. Shuey’s own, more equivocal answer, is that if you’re not doing this on your own, you should probably “fire yourself.”

I happen to believe Shuey is right in general, and his comments can most certainly be applied to credit union volunteers, management and staff. I believe this simply because of personal experiences I had as a credit union employee. In one particular instance, back when I was a call center/member service representative at a credit union in Virginia, I fielded a call from a member with questions about how to use one of our proprietary ATMs. I was utterly incapable of addressing the member’s questions for one key reason… I didn’t use our ATMs.

Now, I certainly knew the basics… like the fact that you needed to put your card in the card slot, enter your PIN, etc., but I had no practical user experience, which put me at a loss as soon as the member ventured into machine features that I had never personally seen from a user’s perspective. I failed the member because I wasn’t a user, but… I didn’t have to be. It wasn’t required. While I was trained, it was at the surface level. While I had been made aware of our system functionality, I had never accessed it via my own ATM card and PIN. While I could tell a member where to find an ATM, they were on their own from that point on.

To truly help a member get the most out of a product or service requires practical, hands-on experience. To truly sell a product requires an understanding of the points of interaction required to use a product. To improve a product requires an understanding of what is, and isn’t, working with regard to product functions in the first place. Staff, management, and board members must be the initial agents driving product and service excellence. To take on that role requires that they possess more than superficial awareness of the contents of the product and service menu. All must be active, engaged users.

So to this concept of dogfooding. If you don’t like the idea of requiring key credit union decision-makers and staff to have an active credit union relationship, then at least find out why those that bank elsewhere choose to do so. Try to determine whether outside relationships are simply a choice of the path of least resistance or a conscious decision due to some product flaw or competitive disadvantage – and by all means, try to determine whether you have key leaders and staff who simply don’t believe in your brand.

Additional Information:

You will find the full GigaOm dogfooding post here:

Jeff Shuey’s original post can be found here:

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