Simple things can sometimes get complicated. For example the question, what’s important for customers? The easiest way of finding an answer is just to ask them. Accordingly, customers are always asked in interviews, ‘how important is this to you?’. Unfortunately this question is meaningless.

Several years ago, we had the task of explaining why orientating around what customers describe as important didn’t bring any improvement. We tried to develop a predictor model, which would be able to create a rule for every point along the customer journey. This rule put weight on the things that customers described as important. The result on the whole, was miserable.

We tried to improve the rule, by adding statistical correlation to the weighting. Much better! We then added modern methodology and learning logic. There was still always something to improve, especially regarding how to practically implement the results. We attempted this at several points, always with the same results.

Since then it has been clear to me that we don’t know, as customers, what is important to us. At least we don’t know where we will focus in the end when it comes to making a decision. However, we know really well how to make a good impression in customer surveys. We think differently before answering to how we do before making a purchase.

It’s about ‘stated importance’ versus ‘calculated importance’. Calculated importance is called influence. Influence can always be investigate. Importance only exists in our heads, but not in our gut.