The Empty Chair:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, leaves an empty chair during meetings to symbolize the “the most important person in the room”—the customer. Craig Berman, another leader at Amazon, once commented: “It is simply in our DNA to approach our business by starting with the customer and working backward.”

Sounds great, right? It’s inspiring to want to be a customer-driven organization, but it can be hard in practice. In the most simplistic definition possible, Customer Decision Analysis is the art of listening to your customers. Not on the sporadic phone call, but in a way that’s reliable, ongoing, and deeply integrated into your organization and your products.

How do you hear the voice of the customer?

Modern cloud platforms have made data simple and cheap to collect—an outcome for business that’s both a blessing and a curse. These tools tell you what your customers are doing, but you can’t implement real change until you get to why. Perhaps you learn 95% of users leave the homepage without playing the video. But why? Or that customers engage with your app for 2 weeks on average before going dormant. But why?

This search for real answers to questions like these is why modern businesses are so desperate to supplement quantitative data with qualitative data. To go beyond analytics to meaningful insights.


What are the hurdles to getting customer insight?

It’s funny: customers actually want to provide feedback just as much as businesses want to hear it. Why is collecting feedback a problem? There are several challenges:



Our inboxes are all flooded with requests to take surveys. Often times, these surveys ask the same questions for the same behaviors (upon purchase or cancellation)  that many become to numb to these surveys.


Asking in the moment is critical to improving engagement rates. When you ask after the fact, the user has lost their what their emotional intent was, which can lead to poor data.


When you don’t do the work ahead of time to target to the right audience, you ask irrelevant questions to general audiences leading to low response rate and poor data.


The science behind customer decision analysis (and how to get it right)

Customer decision analysis is an emerging field focused deeply and specifically on four key components:


Studying user behaviors and interactions can uncover when you should ask.  The timing of when you ask questions have a large impact on response quality and volume.


As your organization collects free-form responses from customers, how do you process hundreds of responses to find larger patterns? How do you paint a larger picture of sentiment and emotion? How do you square conflicting opinions?


While companies all ask different questions, best practice patterns emerge around just how to phrase questions, what topics to cover, and what gets customers engaged and talking.


Once you’ve collected and analyzed feedback, the most important step is to get it put into action within your organization. Essentially, you need to present and use these insights to drive real change. How do you get everyone in the organization informed and onboard? How can you shorten the time from feedback to action?

Who should own it?

Customer decision analysis is unique in that it spans the lifecycle of a customer: from conversion rate optimization on the website to the steps in onboarding to day-to-day usage of your products and services. Most companies split the responsibility between product and marketing; great companies develop specific roles and disciplines around collecting customer feedback and sharing it company-wide.

It’s common to have a decided role of data analyst; we think we’re not to far away from most organizations having dedicated roles for customer decision analysis.

How do you start?

Here we’re a bit biased: we started Qualaroo to address the weak spots we found in the current toolset given the importance of this emerging field. We love this stuff, we’ve done it for years, and we’re always willing to talk to other like-minded companies and organizations obsessed with customer-driven products and services.

The good news is that getting started with CDA is fairly easy, and the momentum of the insight gained from a single early project can really drive the effort to get it adopted across your entire company. Our advice is to pick just one small area of the customer experience you want to improve and start there.

Helpful Content:

Getting to the Why

Why Surveys Can Be Dangerous

How to Get Customers to Respond in a World of Survey Fatigue


The Qualaroo team has years of collective experience in decision
analysis and can help you design and implement questions that get the
exact feedback you are looking for.