A man misses his flight after a traffic accident causes bumper to bumper traffic on his way to the airport. He sits down at his gate, frustrated that he will now have to catch a later flight. If only he had taken a different route. 

A woman, afraid of missing her flight, gets to the airport two hours early and decides there’s no harm in sitting at her gate and reading a book.

10 years and two kids later, this happily married couple loves reminiscing about the serendipitous way they met. If he hadn’t been stuck in traffic…if she hadn’t left early, they wouldn’t be together today and their kids wouldn’t exist.

While this exact scenario may not have happened, it is an example of a phenomenon that is very real and very important for your business: the butterfly effect. 

The butterfly effect is the idea that even small changes can have significant, unpredictable effects.

Just like small seemingly unrelated and insignificant choices and conditions led to the couple meeting in the scenario above, your business is a complex ecosystem that can experience major changes based on one singular experience or pain point.

For instance, a poorly trained employee can prioritize stocking shelves over putting a wet floor sign next to a spill, causing one of your customers to slip, get injured, and sue your business.

To avoid making costly mistakes and to ensure that your business is operating efficiently, it’s important for you to be aware of key data points.

What is my data actually saying?

While it is true that the butterfly effect shows us that no action is without consequences, it can be hard to predict what actions will have dire consequences using singular data points.

In the scenario with the married couple, the man would never have been able to predict that the traffic jam that caused him so much stress would lead to his greatest joy, and the woman would never have guessed that her paranoia about missing a flight would cause her to meet her soulmate. They only notice the butterfly effect at play in hindsight.

However, hindsight is not good enough for your business because it leaves valuable information on the table. 

To make sure everything runs smoothly as possible, you must look at multiple data points to see how each point influences and informs another. This will help bring definition to the landscape, allow you to identify pain points and avoid making preventable mistakes.

You can’t define the relationship between data points that appear to be linked without gathering more information. Causation always implies correlation, but correlation does not imply causation. For example, you might think that poor training is the cause of the wet floor sign mishap, but it could actually be that company rules about stocking or company communication procedures that would allow employees to notify one another about a spill are the real culprits.

Data without context only supplies part of the picture, and that picture may be more Monet than van Eyck – seemingly a full landscape, but up close, losing all definition. Collecting data from mystery shoppers, employees, and customers is great, but this data can only be a “first step” in understanding your business and how customers and employees interact with it. Qualitative, subjective context helps inform your quantitative data, particularly in determining whether you’re dealing with causation or correlation. 

For instance, your customer, employee, or mystery shopper may have reasoning behind their answers that can’t be covered in a multiple-choice question at the end of a survey. It’s tempting to simplify data points this way, but ultimately you need more.

What if adding commentary to my CSAT surveys has not illuminated the relationship between data points?

Small details can tip the balance without being identifiable. According to a Farnam Street article,”We live in an interconnected, or rather a hyper-connected society. Organizations and markets ‘behave’ like networks. This triggers chaotic (complex) rather than linear behavior.” 

You can no longer look for correlations between two singular data points to make data driven decisions. If your customer satisfaction survey results do not illuminate the relationship between data points, you need to find ways to obtain more data to analyze.

Collecting data from multiple inputs — not just C-SAT surveys, but E-SAT surveys, mystery shopping, audits, etc — helps bring definition to your business landscape.

Long gone are the days when an inferior product or a high product cost are the main reasons why customers and clients choose to leave a business without making a purchase. Everything from the demeanor of employees to the name of the product to the type of music playing in the background of the store can influence purchasing decisions today. 

Being able to determine how a customer reacts to different aspects and changes within your business is essential. Customer expectations are high, and your business needs to be able to consider buyer personas, market behavior, and customer behavior if you want happy clients.

Similarly, input from employees from employee satisfaction surveys and audits can also provide valuable insights to improve company culture and make your business better.

In today’s complicated world where even insignificant changes can have a monstrous effect, making a host of changes without looking critically at multiple data points and surrounding context could be a recipe for disaster. 

What if I don’t want to read all that commentary?

Then don’t. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Generally speaking, unless you’re doing a top-to-bottom review of what works and what doesn’t, you’re only going to need commentary on “negatives.” Your data helps keep track of general trends so you don’t need to read every single comment. It’s only when you’re having consistent problems that you need insight into the “whys.” 

However, you don’t want to get to the point where you are having a problem, and you don’t have enough data to help you pinpoint a pain point and a solution. Make sure that you are asking the right questions and using multiple sources so that you can have the data you need if problems arise, even if you aren’t looking at it all of the time.

What FenixVerify offers: 

You might be wondering how can I use this information to improve my business?


Don’t worry, FenixVerify can help!

At FenixVerify, we have the tools necessary to bring the landscape of your business into focus and start to define its features. 

We can provide tools to collect data, quantifiable and qualifiable, from all aspects of your business so that you don’t have to try to mastermind the links between minimal data points without context.

We can help bring order and understanding to your complex system using employee satisfaction surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping, branding audits, and more.

FenixVerify is perfect for those who are looking for:


In today’s global economy, you can’t afford to be unaware of the butterfly effect and how your business’ changes can have a lasting impact, 

Visit FenixVerify to set up multiple data inputs to bring definition to the landscape and help identify pain points so you can master the “unpredictability” of the butterfly effect.

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