Data analysis or listening to people?

How many times have you looked at a fact or some type of information that you just don’t believe? This can’t be true, no way, no how.

We live in an age of unlimited data collection. We have facts and figures that go on for miles, reasoning for any type of situation, a database fed and stirred with information, simmered until done. We then shape our decisions, sometimes rightly, and other times … hmmm.

At times, some of the best information comes from personal interaction, not preconceived ideas or solutions based on a database. It’s not that the information is wrong — most of the time it’s spot on — but there has to be more to it.

On a dealer visit recently, I had all my data, facts and figures checked, with reasons for this and solutions for that. At the same time, the dealer was doing the same thing. He knew everything that was going to transpire before I arrived (fair is fair) based on available information, preconceived thoughts based on the data he had.

Here’s the rub. We found that we both had the right data; we both had good reasons for why and why not, but our preconceived ideas were a bit off. A shift could not have happened without personal interaction.

The first preconception was our first interaction. I walked in and he said, “You guys are all the same. You come in carrying your briefcases and a cup of coffee.” Maybe I shouldn’t have arrived with the coffee (it was early though, and decaf). “Really,” I said. “Really,” he said back.

The data fencing commenced as we probed and jabbed quickly looking for reasons why and why not. Our preconceived ideas and solutions had to be right — we had the data; we had the right stuff!

Within about 15 minutes we both found mutual likes and things we agreed on. “You guys are all the same” was quickly forgotten.

This is good stuff to think about. There are a lot of folks out there (not just dealers) who believe that the data you bring them is a bunch of wasted facts and figures that can’t possibly be right. You hear, “We were off a bit that day,” or “My team would never do that.” At the same time you have the data folks saying, “The outcome is correct based on the information.”


The truth of the matter is, we can all be off a little at times, and facts can be skewed. Information is only as good as when it’s collected, the moment of the snapshot. But if it happens over and over, there is a pretty good chance that the information is right. And, if it’s something you don’t see over and over, maybe there was a reason that needs to be taken into account.

This visit had exceptional interaction. We looked at all the information and threw away any preconceived ideas we both might have had. We shared ideas along with the data: our visions for growth and what might be done using all the information that was available.

None of this would have happened without personal interaction along with the data. We should never have cookie-cutter approaches to anything. Our businesses are different; we are different, and the way we look for solutions and improvement can be different — and equally successful.

Mark Mooney is director, retail performance for Pied Piper Management Company LLC, a Monterey, Calif., company that works with motor vehicle manufacturers and dealers to maximize performance of dealerships. One of Pied Piper’s most popular services for the powersports industry is Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) sales mystery shopping to help turn more motorcycle shoppers into motorcycle buyers.


One comment

  1. Nice article Mark,

    After spending years in NADA 20 groups it is very important to realize where the numbers come from, how they effect the operation, and how they go together. I always got a charge out of our group when a new guy would come in with a sky high average new car gross and they all wanted to know “how he did it”. Almost always with very few exceptions his average gross in used cars was bad and when you averaged the two he was no better than most of us.
    After losing my Jeep franchise to the Chrysler Bankruptcy in 2009 and continuing with powersports I am continually amazed at the lack of analysis by dealers. I guess the lack of a monthly financial statement by the manufacturers does not force he dealers to look at the numbers on a regular basis……too bad.

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