Smart decision-makers care about data. How many people came to this event? Did they enjoy themselves or feel miserable? Did we do better at this event than our last? How can we do better in the future?
To answer all of those questions, you need data. More specifically, user feedback. The most obvious way to obtain user feedback is by asking the visitors or attendees what they thought of the event, right? Not exactly.
As humans, we are awful at explaining how we feel. Emotions are hard to verbalize and put into a text box. When we experience something, we don't remember all the details, and often our memories are plain wrong.
Let's look at how people remember major events such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City, USA. Many Americans claim to have very vivid memories of the minutes and hours leading up to when they first heard about the attack. If you ask someone where they were when they first heard about the attack, they will likely have a rather detailed answer.
Two problems occur in this situation.
- Most people can't recall what happened on February 12, 2021, even though it is nearly two decades more recent.
- Many memories people have concerning the September 11th attacks have been skewed, combined with the stories of others, and are often simply incorrect.
That creates a problem for those who need to gather detailed and correct feedback from our events, such as church outreach events, worship services, or guest experiences. When we ask someone what she thought of Sunday's church service, how can we know what she says is what she experienced and detailed enough to take action?
That's where the wise saying, "Actions speak louder than words," comes into play. If you didn't like a song on Spotify, what are you going to do?
- Are you going to find the artist's website and send feedback through a form?
- Are you going to find their Facebook page and leave a bad review?
- Are you going to tag them on Twitter to tell them how passionately you disliked their song?
Of course not. You skip the song and keep listening to more music. When we do (or don't) like something, we communicate that feeling by taking action.
When the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii during WWII, Americans lined up to enlist in the military. However, after the September 11th attacks, the U.S. military didn't see a great surge in enlistments. Instead, Americans chose to respond with unity and by expressing patriotism. Following the attacks, the New York Blood Center received over 35,000 units of donated blood. Both responses were appropriate in both situations.
In a speech following the attacks, Rev. Billy Graham urged Americans “not to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation,” but “choose to become stronger through all the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation.”
What can we learn from those stories to help us capture the emotions of our visitors and convert that into data we can use to make decisions?
The first step is to acknowledge that we can't ask people for feedback and expect accurate results.
If a decision-maker only relies on feedback forms to understand how well they are doing, they won't understand how they are doing. Yes, you read that correctly.
In a book I read recently, the author urged writers not to read their Amazon book reviews. That idea may seem strange, but if you believe that actions speak louder than words, you will understand. Reviews and feedback are vague, uneducated, biased, and don't reflect the user's true experience; therefore, an author shouldn't use them as metrics for success.
To understand how a church or event is doing, a smart decision-maker must rely on data based on quantifiable metrics that can be clearly defined and measured.
The second step is to define what a positive and negative action is. Does the amount of visitors a church receives serve as a good metric to track the effectiveness of implementing a change in your service? Instead, consider the percent of visitors who sign up for a next steps program.
The problem with many churches' decision-making is that they make decisions off of vague metrics they can't define. Are salvations a good metric for determining success? Not really, because a 3rd party can't say whether or not someone is saved. Should attendance be the primary metric used to determine success? Not this one, either. Take a church of 50 and a church of 5,000. Which one is more successful? Which church is a growing church? Attendance alone doesn't answer either of those questions. The church of 50 may have had 20 last month, and the church of 5,000 could have had 10,000 two years ago.
To obtain valuable metrics that you can use to measure the success of your church or event, you need to measure actions that matter. Define actions that can be measured to show growth and improvement over time. Comparison metrics such as Instagram follower count and weekly attendance only exist to puff egos. If your church wants to make informed decisions, it must ignore the distractions of comparative analytics and focus on measuring actions that signal progression, growth, and improvement.
The third step is ignoring all vague feedback. Receiving feedback that says, "I don't like the songs they sing" or "Church was boring" doesn't give you any data that can be converted into insights. The only non-action feedback that matters is specific and well-thought-out advice.
When someone gives you vague feedback, they're not on your team, and they don't want what you're doing to succeed. This feedback should be ignored. Detailed feedback from someone who has taken the time to explain what they don't like is often given because that person is on your team and wants you to succeed. This kind of feedback is valuable, and while it may not be true or helpful, it can give you a window into what your audience wants and how they feel.
Does the term "Actions speak louder than words" now have more meaning to you? Rather than asking you to reply below or send me an email, I'm going to measure the success of this article based on my analytics and how many of you decide to subscribe to The Church Factory for free by clicking the Subscribe button in the lower right-hand corner. Thank you for reading.