Humans behind the data

Thoughts on the New York Growth Marketing Conference, May 2017.

By Judith Byers

Some thoughts from the New York Growth Marketing Conference, May 2017.

I was lucky enough to attend the Growth Marketing Conference East, held in Brooklyn at the beginning of May. There were many interesting speakers, including a fascinating talk on what AI means for growth hacking and several presentations touching on the importance of automation to scale and keeping a competitive edge.

However, it was one particularly energetic talk from Steli Efti, CEO at, that really stuck with me. He warned that all this focus on automation, AI and even digital metrics could push us further away from our customers. It got me thinking about the last time I’d spoken to a Skyscanner customer. I’ll be honest and say the last time I personally sought out customer feedback was a while back, when a group of us visited our local Starbucks and traded gift cards for customer feedback.

From “Talking to Humans.” Photo credit Tom Fishburne

So I started to think about whether we’re running the risk of losing touch with our customers across the business, but was quickly reminded of when taking the human approach to a blip on our site won us a few extra customers, and some awesome PR. Not only do we have an amazing Social team, but we also have an equally impressive User Satisfaction team. Their role focuses on increasing trust with our partners and our users, and making sure their voices are heard across the business. All this feedback is shared internally with the relevant teams. In addition to this, some of it also gets shared with everyone across the company. In all our offices, we have TV screens displaying important information, this includes some of the feedback from our users.

The whole company gets to read about users who give us 5 stars, as well as users who are frustrated with a website change, or a price inaccuracy. Sometimes we even get some insight into the random requests our User Sat team have to deal with — “I very much like your airline, please may I have a job?”

I don’t think we at Skyscanner are at risk of losing touch with our users any time soon, but I do think there are a few points to keep front of mind, particularly in Growth;

  1. Don’t get too obsessed with the metrics, or you lose sight of what they really mean. Remember there are humans behind those numbers! In everything we do at Skyscanner, we try to keep our focus on solving travelers’ problems.
  2. Surveys don’t always give you the full picture: have real conversations face-to-face and let customers drive the conversation. When people feel badgered, they stop talking, and you stop learning.
  3. Make a day of it. Every few weeks, go and talk to your customers in real life. It can seem time consuming, and maybe even a little daunting, but it will definitely be worth it.
  4. Find a balance between automation and human interaction that works for your company. Automation helps us scale, but human relationships is what really makes a brand.

Essentially, finding a balance in your company between quantitative and qualitative understanding, and taking this into account before making decisions, is crucial to driving growth.

Always have your users in mind with every end goal

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About the Author

I’m Judith, I’m part of the Growth Strategy Squad at Skyscanner. I’ve been with Skyscanner a little under 3 years, hired to lead digital marketing for the Americas and then shifting into a global role as part of the Paid Growth Squad. Now I’m part of a team that helps bring our growth strategy to life through sharing learnings, insights and best practices across all our growth squads. There’s an ongoing joke at Skyscanner that ‘the only constant is change’; it’s true and I absolutely love it!

Judith Byers, Skyscanner