By James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Last week I took my car to the dealership for some routine maintenance. Not only did they change my oil, they changed my entire approach on how I’ll share metrics with my clients in the future.

Here’s the story: I dropped off my car and did some work in the customer lounge while I waited. After about an hour, the service manager told me they were finished. I walked with him to the sales counter, gave him my credit card, and as he processed the transaction he gave me a 7-page report detailing the various “value-add” checks they conducted – everything from performance of the cabin air filter to examining the tread on my tires. This is a normal service. The different this time, however, was when the manager looked up from the terminal and said “Mr. Arnold, you really need to change your battery, it’s operating at 15-percent capacity. It starts now, but won’t for very much longer.” He told me they could swap it out or that I could go to an auto store to get a replacement, but that I should get it fixed, and quickly.

When I got home I flipped through the report they gave me, and sure enough, battery performance was listed as a line item. But I never would have seen it. I’ve honestly never looked at the reports they’ve given me over the years, beyond filing them in my file cabinet with the receipts.

It made me think of all the multi-page reports I’ve e-mailed to various clients detailing their online and digital metrics. I’ve created thousands of these over the past two decades. I’m not sure how many people actually read them, but I know for a fact that fewer than 5 percent ever asked follow-up questions.

Why so few? More than likely they were simply too busy. It’s possible they didn’t understand what was included in the reports. And maybe they trusted me to tell them if there was something I saw that required immediate attention – and shame on me for providing a forest of data without pointing out specific trees that, like my car’s battery, may have been dying.

No longer. Moving forward, I vow to take any analysis I perform to the next level, pointing out any actions large or small that my clients need to make based on the metrics I’ve collected. And what’s more, it won’t take much work on my end; I simply need to move the Executive Summary from the bottom of the report to the top.

The Executive Summary is just that: a short, concise narrative that explains what the data shows. It can highlight significant improvements that stand out as positive growth, such as a piece of content that performed remarkably well and should be replicated; or it can call out a significant loss, such as an unexpected drop in monthly web traffic that needs to be explored, explained, and corrected. All this information is readily available in the reports; it just needs to be called out to ensure that everyone is aware of what’s important and can act accordingly.

I’m also going to start playing with how I share the data. I’ll still provide the “full data meal deal” with all the metrics included so clients can dig in if they have the time and interest. But that Executive Summary should always be at the top, in color, with bold type, and in language that’s easy to understand. I might also include a 30-second video or audio clip that summarizes key findings in an easily digestible manner, so everyone will know they need to change the battery, so to speak.

Perhaps you’re already getting clear, concise, data-driven recommendations from your vendors and agencies. But if you’re not – if you’re like most clients who instead receive a regular, automated report filled with jargon and numbers that you dutifully file in a metrics folder for later review – I urge you to demand something more meaningful. Or give me a call and let’s start a more actionable journey together. I promise I won’t leave you stranded on the road with a failed battery.