Dogfooding Your Way to Success

From the very beginning we wanted to take a different approach to how we see support. Often times the focus on early stage start ups is acquisition. Get as many users as possible on the site and focus all efforts there. As a byproduct, supporting those users once they’re on the platform gets less time and attention leading to an at best meh experience and at worst, an experience leading someone to vow to never use the platform again.

In fact we contacted the support desk of one of the service companies we use regularly at YEN and got a response back EIGHT(!) months later with a simple canned response. At that point it’s almost not worth even sending a response back.

Blurred to protect the not so innocent – note the double cut and paste in response 🤦🏻‍♂️

It’s not that they were swamped and didn’t have resources, it’s actually quite opposite. They have almost unlimited resources but it just shows how little they prioritized support as a business. They are quite literally telling users who need help to take a hike. This is absolutely not what we wanted the YEN brand to reflect. We want to offer a white glove, world class experience for anyone needing assistance and we’ve played around with a few iterations of tooling to aide us in that.

We initially launched our MVP with Intercom installed but found that to be a bit clunky to use in practice for our team. Next up on the list was Zendesk. For those who have been around a while you may have noticed the changing of widgets and the addition of our own Zendesk community page to post questions and feature requests. While the page looked great and had a lot of functionality, what we found was that it added a layer of friction between someone trying to report an issue or offer a feature request because they then had to set up yet another Zendesk account to post on the site. We are so thankful to those that took the time to go through that process with us so we could unearth this type of data. Armed with that, we took some time to think through the process and how we could ultimately make the experience as easy as possible for someone with an issue to contact the team at YEN for support.

Let’s pause here for a little bit of a history lesson. The term dogfooding or eating your own dog food can be traced back to the 1970’s when Alpo had actor Lorne Greene create a number of commercials for the dog food company with some pointing out he fed Alpo to his own dogs. Then in 1988, Paul Maritz a manager at Microsoft (who I can only assume saw a number of those Alpo commercials on TV) sent an email titled “Eating our own Dogfood”, challenging people to increase internal usage of the company’s product. Thus a lexicon in the tech dictionary was born.

If it’s good enough for Commander Adama’s dog, it’s good enough for us

Our new approach as we prepare for Platinum Dolphin is to build tooling for the YEN team to handle support tickets in house on our very own platform. This is us dogfooding our own tooling to manage our own Yenizen community so we can get a visceral understanding of what it will take for our Community Organizers to manage their own communities.

This offers a number of benefits. By initiating chats with @yensupport on YEN, everyone will be able to get in direct contact with the team without ever having to leave the site or sign up for another account again. The longer term benefits will be realized by the owners of our upcoming Community Pages. The idea is once we dogfood our own internal management system, we’ll then be able to roll that out to the CP owners to interact with members of their pages in the easiest, most effective way. We see it as a win across the board for everyone (except maybe the development team) and plus it saves us on Zendesk fees which we can then invest in more tacos!

We’ll have more details to share later but the team is working behind the scenes to migrate our FAQ page to a cleaner, faster experience and remove the Zendesk tooling. We’re going to double down on our stance on providing the best support experience possible and we’re going to do it eating our own dog food. How can you help us? Find all the bugs and let us know!