CXO Speak: It’s Time to Go Beyond Averages, Says COO Bhushan Heda

CXO Speak: It’s Time to Go Beyond Averages, Says COO Bhushan Heda | Product Design & Innovation | Emeritus

When it comes to setting goals and improving metrics, we often focus on averages. Concentrating on metrics representing most users, such as improving checkout conversion rates, makes sense. We can create a smoother system over time by tackling the most significant issues affecting many users. However, relying solely on averages can lead us to overlook the small number of users who experience extreme pain. In this blog post, we’ll explore the limitations of averages and the benefits of shifting our focus to the worst percentile while analyzing customer data.

Why Should We Think Beyond Averages?

Focusing on averages allows us to address issues impacting many users effectively. We analyze the frequency of failures and prioritize tackling the most critical ones, improving the metric. This iterative process helps us refine and optimize our systems over quarters. However, averages fail to capture the experiences of a small group of users who face extreme difficulties. Their challenges may go unnoticed if they don’t significantly impact the average metric.

Consider a power buyer with hundreds of items in their shopping cart. If this user attempts the checkout process multiple times due to a glitch, it might not significantly affect the average conversion rate. Similarly, users with low bandwidth connections or from smaller countries may encounter issues with sales tax or shipping calculation. These users are more likely to escalate their problems to customer support. Unfortunately, teams solve issues for specific users when escalations occur without implementing systemic solutions. Paradoxically, these users who experience the most pain are often the most passionate about your product. By proactively capturing and addressing their issues, we can prevent escalations and ensure their satisfaction.

Time to Shift Our Focus – Leveraging Customer Data to Focus on the Worst Percentile

Implementing a metric that captures the experience of the worst percentile of users allows us to uncover a different set of issues. By setting goals to improve the experience for this group, we can identify and address pain points before they escalate. Not only does this result in happier users, but it also saves the team from the effort and emotional drain caused by dealing with escalations. High-pressure escalations can lead to morale issues within the team, hindering productivity and overall performance. By staying ahead of escalations and addressing the worst percentile of user experience, teams can focus on what truly matters — delivering a product that satisfies even the most passionate users.

While focusing on the worst percentile has proven effective for metrics like site speed (TP99/TP95), we should also extend this mindset to application metrics, especially while analyzing customer data. By identifying and addressing issues faced by the most challenging user experiences, we can ensure a higher overall quality of our applications and improve user satisfaction. 

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By Bhushan Heda

About the Author

Chief Operating Officer, Emeritus
With a career spanning three decades across startups and large companies, Bhushan has experience leading critical acquisitions and integrations, expanding tech product capabilities, and boosting customer return on investment. Prior to joining Emeritus, Bhushan held senior leadership roles at Intuit, Google, and eBay. Bhushan is a graduate of the IIT, Mumbai, and currently resides in California. He has served on the board of Financial Data Exchange (FDX), helping shape standards for financial data exchange across banks and the consumers of banking data. He is also an advisor to early-stage startups. At Emeritus, Bhushan drives the technology strategy and is responsible for creating a world-class technology platform to create a superior learning experience and leveraging tech to drive automation.
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