Metrics Are Great - But Do A Reality Check, Too

Jonathan Imberi 
2002

Almost all companies have some type of method for gathering data on their customer base, but individual metrics cannot tell the whole story, and if you stop with say for example web metrics, you'll miss a lot of the richness of what customer data has to tell you. When a company markets, they become especially fond of quantitative data, because it is clear and definitive, making it easier to draw conclusions. So conversion rates, customer return rates, customer profitability, break-even rates, and acquisition costs are all appealing measures of what is coming of your marketing efforts. 

But numbers, as much as we love them, are never enough. Part of the task of drawing meaning from customer data requires that you go beyond the charts, graphs, segmentations and profile pictures, and actually communicate with real people. Yes, talking to actual customers - and to those who chose not to buy - can be the best source of useful information. Not projectable information (that's where large data files reign supreme), but information that allows your cold data to become useful, to take on meaning. Numbers are dangerous if you don't do a reality check, testing the findings against real human behavior. SendJax combines the process of gathering metrics and communicating (live) with the customer. 

You may remember the anecdote about a car manufacturer wishing to build the perfect vehicle. It wanted a medium-priced car that would be comfortable for as many people as possible. So the company studied populations to determine the average height, weight, leg length, hip width, arm reach, and waist size of the population for a whole country. It identified average finger size, chin length, head rotation - every measure it could think of that might have an impact on a driver's comfort behind the wheel. Having amassed mountains of data on every body measurement one could possibly want, the manufacturer built the perfect driver's seat, only to find that not one individual could be located whose body fit that particular combination of averages. The perfectly average human simply does not exist, and the seat that should have been comfortable for the masses was comfortable for no one. 

The lesson here is simple: Numbers and data (metrics) are critical to understanding patterns and setting expectations, but your work isn't done until those assumptions are tested against real individuals. I invite you to use SendJax – FREE of charge - to e-mail a random sampling of repeat customers and a sampling of those who did not buy, and ask them about their experience. It is a humbling but powerful process when you find that buyers and prospects do not always react to your ministrations the way you expect them to. The expected outcome is rarely the actual outcome. 

SendJax offers many ways to test those assumptions. We can run a permission-based survey through e-mails to recent customers, or contact them by old-fashioned paper mail. We will even pick up the phone and talk to people directly, although most people do not prefer this method. Some people may not love answering surveys, but everyone likes to know that the businesses they are interacting with care about keeping them happy. If conversation is customer-focused, you'll be surprised how many customers will tell you what you need to do to improve their experience of your business. No matter what solution you choose to gather and analyze customer data, everyone in the business - yes, everyone - ought to spend some time each month answering phones on the customer support lines and responding to customer complaint e-mails. Of course, every marketer will want to do so, but don't stop there. Add the Web designers, technologists, merchandisers, employees who set billing and collection procedures, and absolutely every executive that has a say in policy. SendJax makes this process easy by having one standardized medium from which to communicate. 

The marketers in the business world today should use real customer feedback to do a reality check on the conclusions they draw from the data. A year or two ago, the online press was shouting about a study, now forgotten, that used the number of abandoned shopping carts to "prove" that online shoppers had security fears. Many of us in the market had a good laugh, knowing that just as many shopping trips were abandoned before purchase because we were forced to register each time, or the shopping cart was poorly designed, or the store did not have exactly what we'd been looking for. A few customer conversations would have cleared up that faulty assumption right away, and perhaps a few more e-tailers would still be open for business today.