What’s the difference between quantitative data (numbers) and qualitative data (experiences & emotions)?
Keep reading to find out why these are both essential parts of overcoming barriers as an owner, and examples of where to look for vulnerabilities in your business.
WWB 006: Interpreting Numbers and Experiences [Podcast]
05/21/2020 – 18 minutes 0 seconds
Highlights and Take-Aways
How can you translate numbers into making decisions for the future? We’ll be talking about the differences between quantitative and qualitative data in business, and why it is so important to understand the sources of this data and how to apply them for business growth.
One of the biggest challenges for business owners – regardless of what they provide – is figuring out how to attract more customers to purchase, but also how to make sure that you are making a profit. You want to keep a portion of the money you’re generating, and it shouldn’t cost you more to run the business than what you’re earning in sales.
If you enjoy math, you’ll love hearing about today’s topic. And even if you don’t like numbers, you’ll want to listen as I explain things that even math lovers don’t enjoy talking about.
Quantitative and Qualitative Data: What’s the Difference?
Math is an important part of running a business, even if it’s not your favorite subject. We count and keep track of quantitative things:
- What occurred in the past,
- what has increased or decreased,
- where customers have purchased more services & products,
- where there is a dip in interest, and
- we can determine why these changes occurred.
The data can be translated into information that allows us to make risk intelligent decisions.
Another way to analyze your business is with qualitative data: the emotions and experiences that happen when customers buy from you, or when others interact with you: how the public perceives you, or how people perceive your brand online. It’s more difficult to measure qualitative values in numbers, but there are definitely results that will happen based on those events.
These two sources of data – quantitative numbers and qualitative experiences & emotions – can help us to make decisions that are risk intelligent. It helps us to be aware of unknowns, of potential threats that could cause your business to have loss or damage.
Increasing your understanding of what could be going wrong will allow you to make decisions that further your business outcomes, and also that drive you toward your strategic goals.
Quantitative Data Examples
These are objective measurements that can be mapped out on a graph.
- Money (where money is coming in and out, in which categories)
- Time (which events are important, how quickly you get paid)
- Height, Length, Weight
- Area and Volume
- Age, Gender, and Occupation (helpful when determining your Ideal Customer)
- Positioning and Status
Qualitative Data Examples
These include things that may be more difficult to graph out objectively, but they provide insights about purchasing decisions, communication methods, and underlying motivations. They can be used to influence purchase decisions, or for a non-profit you could identify new ways to increase involvement, volunteering, and engaging with your customers.
- Verbal and Written Feedback
- Narrative Stories
- Visual Images and Models (especially for those with a visual Learning Style)
- Descriptions (color, texture, smell, taste, appearance, feelings, intuition)
All of these subjective experiences are useful when we’re looking at the whole picture of evaluating decisions for the future of a business. They may not easy to map these out on a graph (although it is possible to convert qualitative data into measurable quantities); but it’s important to review the ways in which people interact with your company.
How Does This Apply?
You might be wondering:
“What does this have to do with MY business? How do I translate these into making decisions for the future?”
By asking this question, you’re already considering what to look for and how to increase the likelihood of achieving success.
Strategic risk management is the process of identifying areas where your business is weak or has vulnerabilities, and also a strategic view on how to anticipate new opportunities around the corner. By combining both things—a strategic perspective of the future and a risk management perspective to stay safe from threats—you’ll have a 360-degree view of your business.
Quantitative Questions to Ask
- How long has the average customer has been an active purchaser?
- What is the longest or shortest duration for customers you serve? (1 day, or 5 years?)
- How often has each customer purchased your services?
- What do your Ideal Customers buy?
- If you’ve had turnover: What were customers purchasing before they left?
- What is the correlation between a decrease in purchases and the loss of customers? Were there signals that they were about to leave?
- Which customers are purchasing a large volume of services or products?
- Which customers are buying services or products with the highest profit margins? (profit margin is the difference between what you’re spending and what you keep after deducting expenses)
- What are the trends for customer attrition or employee turnover?
- Events or specific circumstances
- Competitor’s new offering that you don’t provide
- A time of year with more churn
Qualitative Questions to Ask
We can look at quality in a variety of ways: through interviews, narrative stories, group discussion, unstrauctured surveys, and content analysis. Ultimately, the goal is to gather experiences so we can understand the sensations, emotions, and beliefs and apply them to improve communication and the value of what we produce for a customer.
- What do customers describe as the reason they take their business to a competitor?
(Most customers aren’t going to tell you exactly what’s wrong; they may hint or give a “red herring” reason. But if you have developed a strong relationship and your customers are willing to be honest with you, they may share their concerns and the root causes for why they’re leaving. This will enable you to adjust the way your company operates, or how you provide your services to appeal to a wider base).
- Do you ask your staff why they think customers have left?
(This can be a painful process if your company culture does not welcome bad news. It’s a valuable way to discover why your company is not as effective)
- Do you look at past customer complaints and communication prior to them leaving?
- Have you surveyed current customers to determine whether they are satisfied and what they would like to improve?
(Asking these questions is challenging, because it means you’ll need to rethink the way you have been operating; but it can result in huge success).
A tool that I recommend every leader consider using is the “Employee For a Day” experience. This is something I did as a director of an organization that had some challenges with communication and operational inefficiency. Our top leaders weren’t able to understand the root causes of problems. So instead of conducting a root cause analysis, I decided to step into the role of my staff and meet with them. I got to hear and see first-hand what happened in their role, how communication flowed between the department, where they were experiencing problems, and how the staff would make changes if they were in charge.
By stepping into an employee role, you’ll get a perspective that you probably don’t get as a top leader. This will give you a much better idea of where the real problems are and recognize threats that aren’t visible to those at the top of your organization. You’ll also hear first-hand why customers are dissatisfied.
When you gather feedback from staff in every role in your company, and if you especially focus on Foundational Staff (those in menial, low-paying jobs with no supervisory capacity who are typically overlooked by the executive team), you’ll get very valuable insights about why things are going wrong.
- Do you have feedback mechanisms to collect the ideas and opinions of your staff?
I recommend using the 5-step Healthy Feedback Loop process to hear from both satisfied and dissatisfied employees.
These steps are:
- Empathetic Leaders.
Agree to step into the pain of your Foundational Staff.
- Non-Retaliatory Culture.
Intimidation should never be used in response to hearing feedback.)
- Structured Feedback Mechanism.
Collect information from several methods, and carefully monitor and test these.
- Analytic Framework.
Evaluate the information in order to make risk intelligent decisions.
- Visible Follow-Through.
Not seeing any change is discouraging; so to complete the loop, make sure you implement the changes and communicate the decision. Also monitor the new process.
- Empathetic Leaders.
- Have you conducted an in-depth analysis of your Vision, Mission, and Values statement? AKA your VMVOM
(Our words are very powerful. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are communicating values that are deeply entrenched in our subconscious. You might be surprised to see a number of violent terms in your company’s strategy statements—forceful, aggressive words. Or you could be using very passive terms that don’t convey strength. A Yin-Yang Analysis of your word choice is helpful).
- What does your Company Culture say about your core beliefs?
Check out my 2-part series:
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 1: Surface Culture
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 2: Deeper Culture
For more information about data analysis, check out:
That’s it for this episode! Do you have a question you’d like answered on an upcoming show? Record your message at https://anchor.fm/laconteconsulting/message
Interested in discussing your company’s turnover challenges? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.