The CX Circle: Insights from Everybody Lies

Filed in Blog, Customer Experience, CX Circle, Technology by on December 14, 2017
CX Circle

To finish out the CX Circle year, we chose to read Everybody Lies: Big Data. New Data. And What The Internet Can tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. When we first picked up the book, we thought it would be primarily about personal data and how it can be used to target certain individuals and learn about them. However, this book proved to be much more revealing than we had thought. Hidden within the pages of Stephens-Davidowitz’s research are some great insights on society and in the field of social science as a whole. What you may write off as innocent or simple Google searches that you make each day, could really reveal much more about your personality and how you view the world around you than you ever thought possible.

What We Learned/Key Takeaways:

  • Everybody lies…seriously:  I had never given much thought to the difference between what I say and do in life and what I Google, but the more I read, the more I saw it.  We’re all liars!  It was fascinating to read all of the statistics and differences between self-reported data and “actual” data.  Which leads us to our next learning…
  • Big data gives you big insights, but surveys still give you insights too:  Surveys still have their place in this world.  Although they can be biased, there is still a use when it comes to making business decisions.  They are good tools to support decisions made by big data insights.
  • Finally, someone confirmed what why we seen differences between telephone and online surveys:  As a survey research company that started out doing telephone interviews, in the past 5 years we’ve moved to online surveying.  We saw differences in the results and the author does an great job crystalizing the reason.  “The more impersonal the conditions, the more honest people will be.  For eliciting truthful answers, internet surveys are better than phone surveys, which are better than in-person surveys.  People will admit more if they are alone than if others are in the room with them” (p. 108).
  • Testing your hypotheses is as important as coming up with them:  Stephens-Davidowitz provided an example of how Google utilizes A/B testing to determine ad effectiveness.  “Testing fills in gaps in our understanding of human nature.  These gaps will always exist.  If we knew, based on our life experience, what the answer would be, testing would not be of value.  But we don’t, so it is” (p.217).  This is a great reminder in the value of A/B testing when developing products, services and strategies.  It is something easily forgotten when you’re in the think of it.
  • Correlation does not imply causation: It can be easy to get caught up in correlation between data sets, but it’s imperative to remember that this does not imply causation.  This was a similar theme we uncovered in our last CX Circle book, Sensemaking.  Context around the findings gives life to the insights and can explain causation.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this big was the author’s ability to take a typically un-sexy topic like “Big Data” and make it compelling and interesting through a wide variety of examples he used to illuminate his points throughout. Whether he was breaking down “Big Data” geographically by looking at the popularity of hateful and/or racist search terms, or looking chronologically and comparing the how old a child was when their favorite baseball team won the World Series to their propensity towards being a fan in adulthood, Stephens-Davidowitz always found his way back to a main argument. What I took away from this book as being one of the author’s main points was that if we are going to use “Big Data” to influence decisions, we have to commit to following it. We cannot half commit or say we are going to listen to “Big Data,” if we have no real intention of doing so. The author ends the book on this note, “…I conclude this book in the only appropriate way: by following the data, what people actually do, not what they say” (p. 284). In the world of market and consumer research, it is easy to get caught up in what people are saying or telling you as the truth, however it is essential to follow the trail and look at what they are actually doing. Do the choices that consumers are making match up with what they were telling you in their response? If we want to know our consumer best, we need to start looking at their actions in addition to what they are saying and identifying how, why, and when any mismatch occurs. That is where there is opportunity to advance and increase satisfaction.

In any form of research, it always important to recognize a bias that your sample may have. So when speaking with consumers and gathering their thoughts on a certain product or service that your business offers, it is important to realize that what their conveying to you may not be their true feelings at all. While this is not the case for all consumers, some may be tempted to sugarcoat their responses or even over exaggerate on the negative parts of their responses in hopes that they receive a response from the brand and/or company. While first person responses do have some value in making decisions regarding how a business is run and how consumers needs are being met, I think it would only benefit companies to look at the gaps between what a consumer is saying and what they are actually doing. As the old saying goes: “Actions speak louder than words,” and in the world of consumer research that is no different. It would be interesting to start looking into why consumers may say one thing and act in the exact opposite manner. This could present many companies/brands opportunities to develop more personal relationships with their loyal customers and improve the experience they offer.

Well, there you have it, our final CX Circle book choice for 2017 proved to be one of the most interesting yet. This one certainly sticks with you and if you read it, you’ll think twice about what you’re typing in to Google before you hit ‘search.’ It will be interesting to see going forward how companies can leverage all of this search data to assist consumers and ensure a positive customer experience in any transaction. As always, if there is a book that you’d like us to read in the New Year, please reach out to us on Twitter @TCFCR and let us know. We look forward to reading with you!


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