NEWS3 May 2024

Focus on providing information not data, say Delta Airlines and American Express CEOs

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US – Researchers need to focus on the “so what” when providing data to business leaders if the information is to lead to action, the chief executives of Delta Airlines and American Express told the Qualtrics X4 conference.

Ed Bastian and Steve Squeri in conversation at Qualtrics X4 conference

Speaking at the event in Salt Lake City, Ed Bastian, chief executive at Delta Airlines, said that too often data was focused on the past, rather than giving him the information he wanted about the company’s future direction.

“I think a lot of data, still today, even though there is so much of it, is focused on what happened,” Bastian said. “I’m really not that interested in what happened – I want to know where we’re going and how we improve.

“It is trend data – it is the consistent presentation of data. I don’t want to see it sporadically – I want to see consistency in what you’re thinking, and I want to see in my team how they’re thinking by the data they present me. I don’t like reading big reports – I like having a conversation about where we’re going, what we need to be measuring and thinking about.”

Appearing alongside Bastian, Steve Squeri, chief executive at American Express, said that he wanted more context around data.

“Data on its own? I need data that gives me information,” he explained. “Giving me a bunch of statistics without providing the ‘so what’ about it, without providing the second and third-order questions that data that turns into information can lead you to, is not useful. Dumping a bunch of stuff on my plate is not going to help me.”

The experience economy is also booming, according to Bastian and Squeri, in particular post-pandemic and among younger generations.

“If you live in the experience world, the economy is very strong and very resilient,” Bastian said.

“We are still in the return from the pandemic, when people were deprived of those experiences coupled with the fact that they were spending all their money on things, rather than themselves. Today our world is all about where you are going, what you are doing and what you can experience.

“That is not just a temporary blip or recovery – this is our new normal, when you look at the economic data. The service economy has been stronger than the goods economy for many years – it flipped during the pandemic, and it still has ways to go to get back on its track.”

Squeri added: “Experiences are here to stay. What we saw during the pandemic was a big shift towards goods and services, because you couldn’t travel.

“I think people just got fed up with buying goods and services – there’s only so many things you can have in your house. You want to go out and experience those things, and we are seeing that with millennials and Gen Z. People are out there spending.”

People are at the heart of successful companies, Bastian added, explaining that technology could not adequately replace good service levels.

“If you don’t have a reliable service, it doesn’t matter how good your people do,” he said.

“Trust is built by relationships, and relationships are through people. It’s not virtual, it’s in person, and it’s not through technology – it is through the person you can count on to get you to where you need to be.”