A person standing and giving a presentation to two other people in the room. An image of Bit the Raccoon is on the right of the photo.

By Rick Delgado

How do customers feel about your company? It’s probably not the easiest question to answer definitively. Customer opinions can vary greatly, and even those who have a positive view of a particular business may like it for different reasons. There are even many who feel that trying to quantify an opinion is missing the point. Even so, many subjective observations must be taken into account when making important business decisions. If customer opinions about your company are trending in the wrong direction, it would be unwise to ignore it. Taking all of these types of observations into consideration is a crucial part of business. It’s the qualitative data that can often mean the difference between success and failure.

Qualitative data

Qualitative data is much different from quantitative data. In fact, when many people think of data, they only picture the quantitative portion of it. Quantitative data usually encompasses statistics that can be effectively measured with numbers and concrete metrics. Companies know exactly how much revenue they make, how much of a product they sell, or how many employees they have. These are numbers that aren’t exactly up for debate, so making decisions based off of quantitative data usually comes down to how best to use the numbers for future growth.


Harder to use?

Qualitative data is much trickier to effectively utilise. By its very definition, qualitative data can have many different interpretations and no solid solution. Customer opinion, as referenced above, is just one qualitative factor. The strength of your brand or the morale of your employees are others. Many businesses have spent years trying to quantify the qualitative. Some examples of this include surveying customers to get their feedback on certain products and services. As can be imagined, quantifying an opinion is far from easy, which is why many surveys ask customers to rank their answers on a scale of 1 to 10. In essence, it places a number that can be seen and calculated to something that is difficult to visualize succinctly. Even with this technique, it is still difficult to form a clear picture that can be used to base future decisions from.


Big data analytics

This process of quantifying the qualitative data has actually seen a boost thanks to the advances made in big data analytics. Big data has meant that companies can get a better measure of the qualitative data that’s been so elusive to them. Qualitative data often comes in the form of unstructured data, and analytics makes it possible to identify trends and patterns easier than ever before. With social listening, text analysis, and clickstream data, businesses can collect information that helps create a clearer view of customers along with their thoughts and behaviours. While there are many challenges with big data that have to be confronted, the benefits that come from gathering big data are enormous. Suddenly, qualitative data takes on a more effective role in informing the biggest decision makers in any organisation. Qualitative and quantitative data work in combination with each other to influence how these decisions are made.


To be considered

There are numerous factors that go into each business decision made with qualitative data, something to keep in mind as your company begins to use that type of data more often. The quality of the data has to be taken into account, as well as the source that all the information came from in the first place. Organisations also need to consider all the variables that play a role in collecting that data, as well as what instigating event lead to the data being generated. It’s true that qualitative data, even with big data’s growing influence, is still a highly subjective item, but the insights gained can be impactful in multiple capacities.


Qualitative data will always be important

If there’s one important takeaway from this, it’s that qualitative data always has a place in every business decision. It may be more difficult to collect and calculate, but failing to do so only gives you a portion of what is going on. Qualitative data should be used to inform every decision-making process. Whether it’s wondering if you should install a new flash storage array or roll out a new product with upgraded features, qualitative data can play a vital role in giving you more information when making a choice. There’s nothing wrong with being more informed, and using qualitative data is much better than only working with half the picture.


Transform big data into intelligent action with advanced analytics – Microsoft Virtual Academy

Design and implement big data and advanced analytics solutions – Microsoft Virtual Academy


A photo of Rick DelgadoRick Delgado feels blessed to have had a successful career in the tech industry and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of writing. He’s started doing freelance writing where he occasionally works with tech companies like Dell Computers. He enjoys writing about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.