Use the Data You Have: Presenting and Persuading

You’ve arrived at the third and final Post in this series (Use the Data You Have, following my presentation at SupConf 2016) – if you’re just starting now you may want to check out the previous few Posts, covering the importance of data in being a successful support professional, asking the right questions, and one way to approach answering those questions.

We’re arriving now at the crux of my talk – how to use the answers you’ve found to persuade others within your organization to add value for you, your customers, and your organization’s bottom line.

I could talk a lot about the importance of data visualization in persuasion and digital charisma – and likely there are many Posts in the future on that topic – but for now let’s focus more on the bigger approach, and less on whether to use a histogram or a pie chart.

(Not to belabor the point, but use a histogram.)

Many folks rush to the more sexy idea of visualization before they ask the bigger questions, and building the right foundations. It doesn’t matter how pretty your animated d3.js donut charts are if the underlying data is not something your audience cares about.

At this point in this series, you’ve considered your biggest beliefs as a support professional in your organization, you’ve converted those beliefs into hypotheses, and you’ve confirmed or denied those hypotheses using your company’s existing data, be it through Google Analytics or Mixpanel or whatever.

Now, as a data driven support professional, you’ve arrived at the hard part, at the part that I can only guide you through in a general way, because I lack the tribal or communal understandings of your workplace.

You need to find a way to explain this data to the folks who can enable change in a way that is motivating to them. This means setting your own ego and possibly your own perspective aside in the pursuit of being persuasive – folks in your organization are going to have problems and motivations that may be alien to you, but in presenting an argument, sharing a victory for both of you is far more important than being 100% true to your own perspective.

Sometimes this means going back to the drawing board – sometimes you need to do some more digging to find information that will speak to different parties. This is OK. Better to do more research than not enough – at least in this situation.

(There are times when enough is enough, for now, I’ll trust you all to know when you’re in an unproductive research rabbit hole.)

Ask yourself: what is most important to this decision maker today?

Then, figure out how to show them that the issue you’re championing can have a direct impact on what matters to them.

Are you in a high-growth startup, where moving the Monthly Active Users needle is the very most important thing? If so, you need to see how your issue can impact that needle; what does Active mean? Do Active users tend to experience this problem? If so, how can you reduce it? If not, is this issue the blocker for more Active users?

Are you in a mature company, struggling with turbulent retention rates? Show how this issue is related to or not related to customers retention.

The name of this short series is Use the Data You Have, and the importance of this cannot be understated: if you need to run a test or an experiment to verify that something needs to be solved or addressed, then you’re approaching it the wrong way. Big problems, problems that deeply need solving, are problems because they manifest in some way.

Go into your archives. Dig into your analytics suite. Find that manifestation and use it to enact positive change. Good support teams answer customers. Great support teams solve problems, and in so doing, build value for the customer and for the company.



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