Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Data are Just Data...

Image courtesy of jannekestaaks
This post was originally posted as a guest post on Etuma's blog on 03/21/2013.

Pearson's law states:

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."

While there's some question as to whether this really came from Pearson (versus Thomas Monson), the point is that this law is spot on! Having said that, though,  I think it came up just short of the goal line. Here's how I'd rewrite it:

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured, reported back, and acted upon, the rate of improvement accelerates."

You can measure performance and report back all you want. You can collect all the data in the world and even share it with your organization.  But data is just data until you do something with it.

So what does that mean for your organization, especially as it relates to the customer experience?  My five rules of acting on customer data are as follows.

1. Data must be centralized. You can't just collect customer feedback and other customer data through various channels and allow it to remain siloed.  You cannot deliver a personalized customer experience across your various channels if the data are housed in several disparate systems. Have one system in place to bring all of your data together in one place.

2. Data must be analyzed. Analysis will come in many forms, simply because there will be many different types of data. You'll need a way to crosstab, predict, identify key drivers, and prioritize improvements with survey data; mine and analyze text/comments; and track and review social media inputs and influencers. You'll conduct linkage analysis, to link customer and employee data, customer feedback with operational metrics, and all data to financial measures. And you'll need to do root cause analysis to understand the why behind it. Transform the data into insights.

3.  Data must be socialized. The most important thing to note here is that data must be socialized in such a way that people know what to do with it when they get it. Those insights must be shared across the organization. They have to get into the hands of the people who will do something with them. In other words, they need insights and recommendations. Your employees need you to tell a story with the data - a  story they can translate into a better customer experience.

4. Data must be strategized. OK, maybe that's not proper grammar, but you know what I mean. To strategize means to define your strategy or your action plan, and in this case, it involves both tactical and strategic measures. This is where we turn insights into action.

  • Tactical measures are how you will respond to each and every customer, each and every piece of feedback, on a daily basis. These include both service recovery and customer appreciation efforts. Closed-loop processes are typically defined as tactical measures.
  • Strategic improvements are how the business will respond.  What operational, product, and process changes will you make to address the bigger picture. These involve a bit of heavy lifting (human and capital resources) and often take several months (or years) to execute and implement.
5. Data must be operationalized. Put it to use! The best way to describe this rule is: Getting the right feedback at the right time from the right customers, then gleaning insights, creating action plans, and driving it all back to the right departments and right employees who take action at the right touchpoints at the right time... and then measuring those efforts to start all over again. (Close the loop on your own change management process.)

So you see, it's great to measure and to report - but it's just as important, or even more so, to act.

Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a voice. -Stephen Few


  1. Spot on! I've talked to a lot of small and medium-sized businesses lately that capture some sort of VOC data but do nothing with it. I think it's better not to waste time on data collection if you aren't going to use it for anything!

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for your comment. Therein lies the reason I will stop using the phrase "collecting feedback" or "data collection." If we're just collecting, it's a waste of time, for sure!

      Annette :-)

  2. Hi Annette,
    Can I suggest that you add one more thing: Data must be tested.

    The reason I say this is that too often have I seen companies analyse data and come up with some spurious insights/correlations/biases.

    We need to use the data we have in our businesses more and more but we also need to be careful with what it is telling us.


    1. Great point, Adrian... tested and validated. I love it.

      Annette :-)

  3. How about..

    Data must be contextualised?

    It is fine to look at one number and if you fixate on it it will change, but there are plenty who will game the system. So rather than target an improvement in one area it is important to look at the whole picture.


    1. James, another great addition. If you and Adrian don't mind, I'll add your ideas to the list and give you both credit. These are both hugely valid points.


      Annette :-)

  4. Most customer satisfaction surveys are made up of more than one question. Using data analysis, it is possible to determine what areas an organization should focus on; what to fix and what to continue doing well. analysis of survey data