Column: Data doesn’t tell the whole story


Commentary by George Klein

On a recent trip, our pilot was excited to announce that he got us to our destination 20 minutes early. I was happy to hear that and it seemed my fellow passengers were, too!

As we sat on the tarmac, our pilot announced that we were so early there was no open gate. We waited awhile longer and then finally parked at a gate where we waited for someone to extend the walkway for us to deplane. In the end, we were actually on the plan longer than we would have been had we landed on time.

This incident made me think about airlines metrics. If airline leadership looked at the arrival time, they would see a positive metric. But, if you talked to any passengers, the feedback would not be as positive. Most businesses collect a lot of data. But if they don’t collect the right data or truly understand the data, they may not be getting an accurate picture.

Businesses collect an endless amount of data. They might collect data on call center volume, peak times they receive calls and call abandonment rates. They might collect data on customer time spent on their website and where they clicked. These are examples of quantitative data that provide one layer of information. Our flight duration and arrival time are examples of quantitative data.

What quantitative data does not tell you is the customers’ motivation behind the activity, feelings or thoughts about an interaction. Why did they call you? What caused their satisfaction or dissatisfaction? Why did they click through your website but not make a purchase? This is qualitative data, and it gets at underlying reasons, motivations and opinions of your customers. Altough it may be more difficult to obtain and analyze, this is critical data for businesses.

Getting qualitative data

Many businesses use surveys as their primary way to get customer feedback. The traditional survey provides quantitative data but is not a good method to get qualitative information. Here are a few ways to collect qualitative data.

Customer interviews

One-on-one interviews with customers give rich information on their opinions and motivations.

Text, phone or chat transcripts

Reviewing transcripts from customer phone, chat or text interactions provide insights into customer thoughts and opinions. Our mobile communication platform provides our clients with rich qualitative data from customer text conversations. In addition, our platform can be used to engage directly with customers to ask about their motivations behind actions and thoughts about their experiences.

Voice of the employee

Employees are a great source of information on your customers’ experiences. On my trip, the airline attendants were able to see and hear that passengers were not happy about having to wait after arriving early. Touchpoint employees’ feedback provides insight into the quality of experiences and helps identify how processes and policies impact customers.

George Klein is the CEO/Founder of Peoplocity, a customer feedback and communication platform. Contact him at[email protected].