Several years ago I did some work for one of the top global software companies. This company was a “household” name to most Fortune 1000 executives and had penetrated most of that market. I have a fair amount of experience with the company, including hearing the typical complaints about its products. When I arrived at the company’s shiny glass headquarters building, I expected an experience akin to arriving in Rome or Mecca: evangelists trumpeting the glories of the company’s wares, and looking with pity on anyone who did not understand their nuanced approach to developing software and services.
Just as one might be shocked to find their fire and brimstone preacher knocking back drinks at the local brothel, I found a company that barely used its own products, and more shocking, the rank and file complained bitterly about their poor usability, instability and lack of applicability to their business. When looking at moving a department onto their software, one VP exclaimed “This looks just like our crappy expense system!” Both products were of course made by the company. I even heard laments from the sales force that they begrudgingly adopted their own questionable sales software when most customers began asking “How can you sell me your sales package when YOU don’t even use it?”
This problem extends well beyond this software company. As one example, with the US automakers largely in the dumps these days, there have been stories of executives given “ringer” cars that had been carefully adjusted and manufactured so they would not indicate any underlying problems with the company’s products as a whole. While this story certainly raises an eyebrow, what I find more flabbergasting is that these executives never thought to set foot in a dealership and test their company’s products in the same manner as their target customer! Whether you are selling software, cars, government services or industrial equipment, not eating your own cooking is simply inexcusable. Visit your retail locations, create a problem and call your support lines, attempt to get pricing information or support on your company’s products and services. If you are in government, go stand in the line at the DMV or visit a State Park, or attempt to get information about a government service. If any of these activities proves painful to you, a company insider, just imagine what your customers (and lost customers) are going through.