So what?

Two simple words that can feel as rude, provocative or even downright dismissive as a question. But, in the world of customer insight research, there’s arguably no better question to ask.

Customer research and insight are always interesting, but can they answer the ‘so what?’ question. If they can’t, the research and insight probably has not done its job correctly.

Irrespective of the insight, it means the report is likely to end up in someone’s bottom drawer or archive folder, never to see the light of day again. Feels like a waste, right?

Quantity doesn’t answer so what.

Recently, I was on a train and with time to kill I reviewed some customer research a client had shared. 15 slides in, I happened to glance at the powerpoint overview. I was only part way through a 90 slide deck. 90 slides.

To add insult to injury, the executive summary, all of 2 pages (not a bad thing) were slides 80 and 81. I’m never getting that time back again!

Now, the slide deck was very professional and the research was thorough, I’ll give it that. Though the 90 slides and the executive summary still hadn’t answered the ‘so what?’ question. Year on year some scores were up, some were down, and some had stayed the same but so what? Clearly any measure that had declined might be a cause for concern but so what?

So what’s the impact on the business?

So what is the impact on profitability?
So what is the impact on reputation?
So what is the impact on customer experience?

levels of enquiry

So what?

What do we think we know? What do we actually know? These are two very different things which lead us down two very different paths.

Measurement for measurement’s sake is pointless., but still a very very common practice and an all too often repeated one ‘because we’ve always done it like that’. There needs to be some serious challenges to that, and questions asked.

For starters;

  • Who uses the data? What’s it for?
  • Why do they need it?
  • More importantly what’s done with it?
  • How does it drive the business forward?
  • How does it inform decision making and at what level?
  • How is it shared across the organisation?

Unfortunately, the all too common answer to most of these questions is ‘we’re not sure…’

It’s easy as an outsider for me to ask these questions. Admittedly, it’s harder for the organisation to turn the mirror on itself and ask ‘so why do we measure that?’

Clarity of purpose is key

If the answer is ‘we’re not sure’, then that’s ok. But, there is a strong argument to stop measuring until you can answer all the questions above.

Stop measuring until there’s clarity about why you’re measuring. Stop measuring until you know what you’re going to do with the data. Stop measuring until you know how it will benefit the business.

You need to be able to answer the ‘so what?’ question about the data you’re collecting and the insight you’re generating.


Hungry to learn more? 

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Article by Richard Kimber

Richard is senior manager (insight) at Comotion. He's our resident data scientist, an expert in asking the tough questions and knows a thing or two about businesses becoming customer-led.