At least that’s the title. The truth is a little more nuanced. And when you get to the truth, you’ll understand why startups have been doing this sort of thing forever. Here are four truths:
- Truth: The DoorDash program has been around since the company began operations in 2013. Like many other non-survival initiatives, it has been derailed by the pandemic. In December, DoorDash announced internally that the program would resume in January. That’s when things got furious, for a variety of reasons, some of which probably felt like a blind spot.
- Truth: Employees do not have to make deliveries. They can also track customer service or “support a merchant”.
- Truth: As far as I know, from several stories the “revolt” against the program is a (alleged) engineer going after Blind.
- Truth: The program is part of a larger community and philanthropic effort intended to be integrated into company culture. But it’s also a way for every employee, from top to bottom, to understand the product, the service, the customer, and every aspect of what constitutes perfect order fulfillment.
How early-stage leadership works
The effort is not about the task, but about knowledge.
Consider this anecdote. During the December vacation, with only one DoorDash engineer anonymously making headlines, I was often on all fours in my front yard. When my 10-year-old exterior lighting system suddenly died, I decided to rewire and replace the entire system myself.
I know very little about electricity, transformers, and wiring so as you can imagine it took longer than it should have made me dirtier and colder ( and swears more) than usual, and left me with all kinds of cuts and bruises, but luckily no knocks or high drops.
Halfway through the project, one of my kids asked me why I was doing it. Why not just pay a professional to do it in half the time with fewer problems along the way? It’s not like I’m wasting this time, it would be time that I could devote to my work or family or whatever, probably with a better return on my investment of that time as well.
I’m not cheap and I’m definitely not one of those HGTV tinkerers. But the facts are, I had never done exactly this kind of work before, didn’t know anything about it, and was totally lost when the lights went out. These are the very reasons why I accepted the project.
I wanted to be able to build something better than what had been built before. I wanted to be in a position to know if something like this happened again. As a bonus, I wanted the satisfaction of adding this knowledge to my book.
And I wanted things to go wrong along the way, so I had to figure out how to fix them properly, not with a hack or a bridge.
I can’t think of a better metaphor for startup leadership.
Hit the mark, every time
Success isn’t about serving the customer, it’s about delighting the customer.
Why is so much software, whether traditional, software as a service, or mobile, difficult to learn and use?
Why do a lot of tools, physical or digital, work well the first time you use them but get bulky after repeated use?
Why does online ordering seem magical the first time you use it, but then seem like a waste of time when you show up to pick up an order that has not yet been started?
“Delight the customer” has become a hackneyed phrase lately, but its meaning still holds true. Where it is misinterpreted is when used to describe going “above and beyond” for every customer, primarily for the purpose of rectifying poor or average service, especially when complaints arise.
But delighting the customer is above all a question of loyalty. And to achieve that level of loyalty, the kind that grows to scale, a business must hit the right target, every time. It comes from setting the right expectations and implementing those expectations, every time.
You can’t do this if you don’t know what those expectations really are.
You can guess, you can investigate, you can aggregate, and you can guess. But until you get on all fours and see how the wiring should be connected, you’re going to be making potentially costly mistakes, at least some of the time.
If you are an engineer working on software that is used by or is part of the customer service system, you should at least be a little aware of what happens when the customer finishes using the software and starts interacting with the customer. service for which the software sets expectations.
Not all user acceptance testing around the world will uncover these flaws, whether or not they are the fault of the software. When you encounter these flaws firsthand, you gain new knowledge and start to think about how software can help eliminate these flaws.
That’s why every executive, every engineer, and indeed every employee, should take the time to help build, sell and support their own product. It’s not for a photoshoot of the boss rolling up his sleeves, it’s actually to help them get their jobs done.