Deleting data – is it a good idea?


Question_Mark_HeadThe Inspirometer measures one thing – the satisfaction of your customers (internal and external) over time.

We have occasionally been asked whether people can remove data from their Inspirometer where the customer has clearly ‘got it wrong’, and we have spent some considerable time pondering this question.

On the pros side, it enables people to remove data which they feel unfairly reflects on their service. But on the cons side, it throws into question the integrity of the data. For instance, will we also remove data when the customer has ‘got it wrong in our favour’? And who is to decide whether the customer ‘got it wrong’ – is it the individual, or the boss whose department has a lower score than it might otherwise have, or do we have a review panel? And are we saying that the customer was not unhappy at that point in time – even though they were (albeit mistakenly)?

The truth is that, at a certain point in time, a customer felt that the transaction failed to meet their expectations. The fact that the Inspirometer owner was able to spot this, and correct it, perhaps simply by gently pointing out the customer’s own error, does not change the fact that the customer was unhappy at the time. However, it does provide the Inspirometer owner with both the information to quickly address the issue, and the incentive to minimise the risk that future customers might also make the same misinterpretation of things – and that has to be good for everybody.

And if we look again at the pros side, does it really unfairly reflect on the results of your interactions? The Inspirometer does not measure you, it measures your impact on your customers – for good or ill. It is primarily a learning tool. To use this data effectively we need to engage with it objectively and dispassionately. If we create a sense that a good score is more important than the potential for learning we promote an environment where our people are tempted to seek to explore only what casts them in a good light, and forgo those opportunities to really understand their areas for improvement.

Most people are self-motivated to do well – but sometimes that motivation can cause people to develop blind-spots in regard to themselves, and this can be further exacerbated by a corporate system which rewards appearances. A system which deletes valid data to create attractive numbers risks sending a message that is not conducive to real learning.

If you would like to ponder this area of thinking further, you might take a look at: The dangers of confusing feedback with criticism.