You have to eat your own dog food


In Silicon Valley, a maxim is that "you have to eat your own dog food." In other words, you have to continually use your own products, your own sales channels, your own customer support so you can experience as many of your flaws as possible before you inflict them on customers. 

That sort of self-testing has, it seems to me, been absent from insurance for, oh, centuries. But I saw a ray of hope two weeks ago when I was speaking at a gathering of global insurance leaders in Zurich. After I laid out my vision of how digitization strips industries down to their essences and then allows them to be organized in new ways that don't have to include existing products or even companies (bye bye, Sears, Kodak and others too slow to adapt), a member of the C-suite from a major life insurance company told me about a recent epiphany. 

He had decided to buy a supplemental life insurance policy and went through his company's normal channels. But he couldn't make heads or tails of some of the terminology and found the process so long and complicated that he gave up. 

"And if I can't figure out how to buy a policy, then what chance do our poor customers have?" he said. His company is now going to do better, he resolved. Much better.

A study that Chunka Mui and I cited in Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years found that 80% of executives thought their product was the best in the market—and that 8% of customers agreed. 

We have, thus, counseled many executives to continually test all parts of their businesses as a customer would, without any of the special treatment that a C-suiter could easily get to smooth over problems. Those executives wind up with a much better sense of how they really stack up and remove all sorts of barriers to sales.

It's time that the insurance industry launched into a big meal of dog food. Products can be better, much better. I hope the process has begun in earnest.

Have a great week.

Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll

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Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership.

He is also co-author of A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the Future We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050 and Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993.

Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.