Off the Charts: Challenging the Hierarchy of Quantitative Assessment

Most assessments of business efficiency include both quantitative and qualitative measurements, although quantitative data is nearly always valued to a higher degree. Of course, quantitative is important—you can’t exactly expect to run a successful business without measuring your ROI, price-earnings ratio, inventory turnover, and overall profit. The following highlights three areas of business assessment that could benefit from a greater emphasis on quality over quantity, metrically speaking.

Customer Feedback

Leadership Coach and author of A Simpler Way, Margaret J. Wheatley argues that client/customer feedback is one area where quantitative measurements frequently fall short. For example, a string of three-star ratings from recent hotel guests doesn’t exactly provide action-guiding advice for improving the customer’s experience. Wheatley lists the following important distinctions that support why feedback should be assessed differently:

  • Feedback is self-generated.
  • Feedback depends on context.
  • Feedback changes.
  • Feedback sometimes reveals new and surprising information.
  • Feedback is life-sustaining.
  • Feedback supports movement toward fitness.


According to a survey of 119 members of the Risk & Insurance Management Society, “The greater quantification of risks is not always desirable if it comes at the expense of qualitative assessments.” Particularly when considering strategic risks, qualitative data often does a better job of capturing the potential issues and unexpected effects of certain actions. Any time a business tests out a new approach to something, the old quantitative methods of assessment naturally need readjustment. A more objective quantitative system can be developed from this information, but extensive qualitative assessment is a natural pre-requisite.


Particularly when it comes to social media marketing, quantitative measurements of customer engagement may not represent the full picture. According to Track Maven’s recent report, The Content Marketing Paradox, brand-generated content distributed across social media continues to increase, yet it yields the lowest engagement of any other outlet to-date. Quality over quantity seems to be the standard where social media marketing is concerned, but even then, the number of engagements might not mean much if they don’t translate to sales.

Although both are important, it is often difficult to develop an accurate quantitative assessment for your business without first turning to qualitative assessment. Like everything else in business, assessment systems must themselves be assessed for their capacity to effectively measure a constantly-changing organization.

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