During the days leading up to my recent presentation on the practical application of data at the 13th Digital Dealer Conference, I became a bit more mindful about the reasons why we ignore evidence. It became even clearer during several conference sessions surrounding Big Data, and my conversations, thereafter. Facts scare the sh*t out of us.
Perception is not quantifiable. Outwardly, most of us can be classified as a hipster, a thug, a slob, a Brooks Brothers Republican, and everything in between by the way we dress, the car we drive, or the neighborhood we live in. However, on the inside everyone is slightly different. We all discern what we see in dissimilar ways. We cope with things differently. Based on our experiences, we interpret things in our own fashion. Our ego is how we distinguish ourselves from others, and who we project ourselves to be. It’s our perception of ourselves.
While it would be easy to get into Freudian psychoanalysis (man, that would be fun!), I’ll keep it light. We all view ourselves differently. Some of us take quiet comfort in our accomplishments, while others have praise heaped upon them. At any rate, our lifetime of experience has given us the perception of expertise at something. Whether it’s raising kids, wilderness survival, or thirty years experience as a dealer, we perceive that we are capable of offering sage wisdom on a certain topic.
When I first got into the car business, I had to make massive adjustments to my perceptions. On the positive side, I came to realize that the bulk of the people I worked with were fantastic individuals, not anything like the horror stories and stereotypes suggested. In fact, I received a lot of good advice from managers at other dealerships (even direct competitors) while completing dealer trades. However, on the negative side, if the truth about gross, contacts made, vehicles sold, and average monthly sales were a penny, it would be stretched into copper nanofilament. To this day, I’m not sure if it’s a case of “fake it until you make it,” or puffy-chested, boys club, bovine feces.
The same could be said at the dealer advertising level. For the longest time, many dealerships promoted that they had the lowest prices, the widest selection, or highest customer satisfaction. For some unbeknownst reason, these points are yelled during radio advertisements, and accompanied by wild finger pointing in TV commercials. Undoubtedly, these techniques worked at some point in time, however the world has moved on.
From the time of walking upright until about 20 years ago, it’s been easy to feel like an expert. Your kids didn’t grow up to be serial killers, you didn’t die in the woods, and your dealership hasn’t closed yet. Everything was just grand until we entered into the information age. Now it’s easy to track everything we do, from how many phone calls we make, to how many steps we take in a day. There are a few staffing companies that even track key strokes and monitor one’s presence at a computer. Several companies now exist to collect and analyze data (most of which consist of people who’ve never sold a car). The massive quantities of data, just by sheer volume, can tell a completely different story from what you are used to reciting.
With just a few keystrokes a consumers, and managers alike, can confirm that you are telling the truth or being “creative.” A few more keystrokes can yield what dealer has the lowest prices, the widest selection, and/or the highest customer satisfaction. Likewise, a couple clicks at the dealership can tell a manager who sets the most appointments, who has the highest gross, and who sells the most cars a month on average, in real time, for any time period. This has only been getting easier to do over the last ten years, and the messages, perceptions, and egos haven’t changed. You can no longer hide.
What does your ego think of data? Does your ego tell you data are just numbers? Does your ego tell you that statistics can be skewed? Does your ego tell you that data is being used by your ego’s enemies to undermine your ego’s authority? (OK, that’s a stretch.) Or, does your ego readily take that data? Does your ego tell you that data analysis leads to information, using that information creates knowledge, and comparing new data to knowledge creates wisdom? Is your ego less concerned with what it was and more interested in what it could be?
Big Data is not some doomsday-bringing overlord sent solely to destroy individual experience. Don’t let your own perceptions get in the way leveraging data to become better. Don’t let egos interrupt the way of truth, even if it means calling someone out. Data is only dangerous when it’s ignored.