Numbers Don’t Lie: Making Data-Driven Decisions


Imagine a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. You’re asked to guess what the final picture is without looking at the box. Such a task would be pretty difficult unless you figure out how all the pieces fit together.

That’s how customer analytics work – but instead of thousands of jigsaw pieces, you’re working with millions of data points. They may not mean much on their own, but together they can give you insights into how your customers are interacting with your products and services.

Every data point is a puzzle piece with its own shape, function and origin. To get a complete picture that influences your decisions about everything from organizational change to user-friendly web principles to communicating within an organization, you have to start grouping things together. The same way you would gather up the border pieces and pieces of different colors to put together that jigsaw puzzle.

When you’re done putting your picture together, you’ll have enough information, or key performance indicators (KPIs), to measure your goals and deliver a better customer experience.

Gather Customer Metrics

Metrics can help you derive insights and see a broad picture of who your customers are. Many collection tools are available for free or at low-cost. Others you’ll have to pay a little more. But even if you can’t get everything on the list below, gathering several different types of customer metrics will give you a more robust view of how effectively you’re meeting their needs.

  • Website analytics (visits, page views, site paths, top content, times people visit)
  • Search engine analytics (what people search for on your site, what search terms bring them to your site)
  • Social media analytics (follows, likes, re-tweets, shares, interactions, impressions, video views)
  • Email analytics (subscription rates, open rates, interaction with messages)
  • Customer satisfaction (overall satisfaction, component satisfaction, ease of navigation, ease of finding information, reasons for visiting)
  • Call center metrics (overall satisfaction with experience, reasons for calling, profession or type of caller)
  • Face-to-face communication (stakeholders’ qualitative impressions of your products and services and how you communicate about them)

Piece the Analytics Together

Each measure mentioned above gives you a section of the puzzle and informs your KPIs. Put them together, and a picture starts forming that will tell you some of the things you need to know to effectively deliver products and services.

At the Census Bureau, we started off a few years ago by assembling the analytics we had into a spreadsheet. We also brought together a team to regularly review them. Gradually, as we grew our sources of information, we added more detail to that initial dashboard to paint a landscape of the Census Bureau through the eyes of the customer. Later, we worked to create a dashboard that allows us to see a broad cross-section of analytics in real time. I’ll talk more about this in my next post.

However you organize your customer analytics, the side-by-side comparison allows you to identify patterns. If you see a spike, you may be able to attribute it to an email or Tweet that also brought good engagement. Or it could be from something out of your control — like an unexpected media mention. The key is to learn from those efforts or happy accidents and use those experiences to develop repeatable wins.

At Census, we made significant changes because user surveys on our website told us people were having too hard of a time finding what they wanted on our site and using the information once they got it. Next week, I’ll keep the momentum of analytics going by talking about the types of stories that can be told using the numbers.

Stephen L. Buckner is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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