Feelings Are Data Points

It feels, at times, like we’re drowning in data. The reality is, however, a little more nuanced. 

We might better articulate the real challenge as this.

  • We’re drowning in data
  • We don’t have enough context.

Context, in this case, is how clients are feeling. More specifically....

  • It’s not about how clients are feeling generally but how an individual client is feeling.
  • It’s not about how clients are feeling over time, but how they are feeling in the moment. 

Feelings reflect how clients see the world, their choices and how they make – or act on – decisions. My argument is, therefore, quite simple.

Feelings are critical data points.

And there is, to put it mildly, room for improvement in how our industry captures and uses that data in a meaningful way. 

What Kind of Feelings Exactly?

The idea that feelings are data points might feel unwieldy, at best. So, no, we’re not focused on how clients feel about their mothers-in-law or avocado toast or TikTok. But we should focus on:

  • How they feel about their financial future.
  • Their confidence that they can, or will, achieve their goals
  • The things they worry about
  • Their level of stress, or
  • Their fears and hopes

From ‘Feeling’ to ‘Data Point ‘

My guess is that you already touch on these things as part of your conversations with clients. Fair point.

But for those feelings to become real (and meaningful) data points, we need to think about the process differently. We believe that we need to apply the same rigor to capturing, analyzing and accessing feelings data as we do other client data. 

There are a few things that get in the way of treating feelings as data points.

  1. We think of data as driving the planning or investment decisions, but we forget that data should also drive client conversations. 
  2. We believe that feelings are “soft” and therefore disconnected from the need for a formal process to capture that data.
  3. Gathering data on feelings is harder because it sits in the hearts and minds of clients.

It’s true that feelings are intensely ‘human’, which makes them both fluid and harder to capture. But that simply makes it challenging, not impossible.

An Example

To bring this to life, assume you’re a realtor and I’m considering upgrading to a bigger house. You have all the hard data you need. In this case that might include my budget, the size of my family, my preferred area, my income and my credit rating.

On that basis, you might show me a wonderful home, in a perfect neighborhood, that you know I can afford. 

  • But what if I grew up in a household riddled with debt and worry about a mortgage, even one I can afford?
  • What if, for some reason, I don’t feel I ‘deserve’ such a big house?

If I was experiencing these feelings, you’d be confused when I wanted to keep looking at more and more houses and couldn’t seem to pull the trigger on any. That's because you didn't have the right data.

But what if:

  • You had started the process by understanding more about my history or my feelings?
  • You tracked those feelings and used them to define the agenda for our first meeting instead of viewing five different houses? 
  • You shared an article on ‘imposter syndrome’ that you thought might be relevant?
  • All you did was help me understand and label how I was feeling and what was getting in the way?
  • You carried these ‘feelings as data points' forward to drive the conversation five years later, when it was time to move again?

By gathering, tracking and using those feelings to drive your conversations, you’ll deliver a better outcome for the client (and for yourself).

The Return on Investment

We believe that there is a real return when you take a rigorous approach to capturing, analyzing and using client feelings to drive decision-making, planning, communications and conversations.

By addressing client feelings, in a meaningful way, you are likely to:

  • Create a better plan
  • Achieve better adherence to the plan
  • Drive deeper engagement
  • Encourage faster/better decision making for clients
  • Increase referrals
  • Differentiate yourself from other advisors

The Future

Of course this isn’t just about gathering the right data, but using it effectively by embedding it your decisions and client interactions.  

We believe that the very definition of what it means to be a ‘data-driven organization’ needs to change to reflect the humanity of the work you do for your clients. Day in and day out.

You’re probably doing much of this already; the gaps are in the process and tools to make it easy. That’s the challenge we live and breathe every day.

Related: My Name is Not ‘Valued Customer’