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We use our proprietary Clarity™ survey of emotions and cognitions to compare your company its products and services to both those of your competitors – and to the ideal company, product, or service that customers or employees can imagine in your industry. You will know, with quantitative rigor, exactly what you can do to be more ‘Ideal’ – and more competitive. You will understand, very specifically, how you could improve to better retain your current customers and employees – and be more attractive to new audiences.

Why Research Emotions?

You know that the performance of your company is based, in large measure, on how your customers and potential customers feel about your products and services.  In support of that, psychologists and neuroscientists have shown that emotions are integral to human decision-making and are primary factors determining behavior. Our research confirms this and has verified that emotions – and the reasons behind those emotions – can be measured for large groups.


We find that people have feelings about every imaginable topic, however dry or technical. Some topics create emotional responses that outweigh logical reactions:


  • intangible subjects like corporate image, corporate mission
  • features of imagined, ideal products or services
  • reactions to products, product presentations, packaging, or logos
  • instincts contributing to habitual purchases of mature, low interest products
  • inherently emotional subjects like loyalty, satisfaction, and commitment
  • critical internal issues such as morale, engagement, or corporate climate


Clarity™ is a qualitative research tool that can accurately measure emotions and, at the same time, a quantitative instrument that can deliver statistically meaningful conclusions.  It is research that provides clear and actionable direction for improving the performance of your company.


Why It Works

Sherpa Insight uses the ClarityTM survey of emotions and cognitions to provide clear direction for improving the performance of a company.   The proprietary Clarity™ survey is unique in its ability to to elicit candid open-ended responses – responses that are rigorously quantified for statistically significant samples of its customers, potential customers, and ex-customers.  The ClarityTM survey is typically used to compare a company and its products and services to an imagined "Ideal" and to competitors in the industry.


What results is a very clear understanding of what a company could do to improve – that is, what it could do to deliver products and services that are closer to the ideal.


And, most importantly, the Clarity™ survey has been shown to have significant predictive validity.  That is, if a company can make the improvements in its products and services that the findings of the survey recommend, then that company will benefit with improved sales and increased loyalty.


Bottom Line:  The Clarity™ survey is business research that takes the guesswork out of attracting and pleasing customers.   Customers and potential customers tell you what they would ideally like to experience – and then how you and your competitors compare to that ideal.  From this comparison you know exactly what you need to do to improve – and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition.   It could be anything from the people who answer the phone, to the packaging, to your billing procedures, to your service after the sale.  And these insights will be prioritized by their importance to the customer. The Clarity™ survey  will tell you what you need to do to increase the performance of your company.


Brain Science

The inclination to purchase a product or service from your company is first experienced at an emotional level, not a logical or rational level of understanding. Yet, the majority of business research focuses on how the cognitions associated with your company and how the rational features of a product or service impact a buying decision.


Psychologists and neuroscientists have shown that emotions are integral to human decision making and are primary determinants of human behavior. Our research corroborates this and, more importantly, has verified that people’s feelings about a given topic are stable and predictable when measured across a sizable group.


Perhaps more importantly, our research has shown that buying behaviors are predictable, based upon these, now measurable, feelings and emotions.


It is thought that every concept the mind can create, acknowledge or remember is stored in, and subserved by, a unique array of brain cells or neurons that interact in a specific way. All neurons function in an essentially digital manner meaning they are either on or off and either firing or not. This array of neurons and firing patterns serving a particular network of brain cells is known as a neural net. Every time it is activated the concept that it supports is experienced consciously, or possibly, unconsciously, by its owner.


The emotional component of each neural net is located in an area of the brain known as the limbic system. A concept, for example a brand name, will almost immediately elicit the emotional combination that it has been associated with in the past. This combination can include varied and even opposing individual feelings that can compel equally discrepant approach and avoidance intentions. The “gut reaction” individuals have to stimuli and their corresponding concepts are the sum totals of all of those varied emotions.


The cognitive or rational components of a neural net supporting a concept are located in an area of the brain known as the cerebral cortex. Brain recording called electroencephalograms (EEG’s) are electrical recordings made of the complex neuron firing patterns that occur in the upper, surface layers of the cerebral cortex. Repeated presentation of the same stimulus, e.g., a company name, has been found to cause a repeatable pattern of neuron firing that can be measured (an Averaged Evoked Resonse).


The neural net evoked by a company name or product is elicited very quickly as the verbal or visual image arrives in the brain from the sensory systems. The beginnings of the emotion-based approach or avoidance tendency happen within three tenths of a second from when the name is either seen or heard. The cognitive associations that are part of that neural net start to arise in consciousness approximately one-half second later and consciously-directed decisions are arrived upon three-tenths of a second after that. Overall, it takes about 1.1 seconds for your brain to analyze the emotions and cognitions that are created by, and associated with, a particular company or product and deliver a consciously directed behavior.


Predictive Validity

“Does the Clarity survey identify the factors that truly drive consumer behavior?”


We know that, ultimately,  this is the most  important question any potential client can ask.   And, if we could not answer “Yes” to this question  we would not have had the success we have had. The Clarity survey has been evaluated many times  by business and academic researchers.  On every  occasion it has been determined to be robust and  valid. The Clarity survey is recognized for graduate program use at  Indiana University and the University of Missouri.  It has been  used as the primary research method in two dissertations  and one thesis.  All were published in peer reviewed  journals.


The validity of the Clarity survey.


The Clarity survey has been found to have:

      1.  Face validity – it appears to measure what it says  it measures;

      2.  Internal validity – it generates data that are  internally consistent; and, most importantly

      3.  Predictive validity – it identifies variables that subsequently prove to be important for  the creation of positive change.


“Predictive validity is the most important factor in business research.  How is predictive validity demonstrated?”


 There are 2 methods for evaluating predictive validity:

      1.  Concurrent - Demonstrate a significant correlation  between those variables identified by the survey and  multiple measures of a

           current real world event; and,

      2.  Longitudinal: Demonstrate significant and predictable  change in real world events into the future when  variables identified by the

           survey as important are  manipulated.


“Describe a couple of examples of predictive validity that were demonstrated in different industries.”


One of the unique, primary, summative statistics generated by the Clarity survey is an assessment of the degree to which a brand or product matches the respondents’ expectations for an imagined “Ideal” in that category. We call this correlation of “Real” with “Ideal” the “Ideal Index”.


Predictive validity is proven for a research instrument when a measure like “Ideal Index” correlates significantly with an important, real world, consumer behavior.


Examples of Predictive Validity: Concurrent


The Electric Supply industry:


The Clarity survey was used to assess customer satisfaction for thirteen electric supply companies.  In each case over 500 respondents were obtained. One important, real-world behavior for decision-makers in this deregulating industry is an expression of loyalty by consumers for their current supplier.  In this case, the expression of loyalty was a negative response to the question: “Would you switch to another supplier if you could?” The Pearson correlation coefficient between the “Ideal Index” and “intent to switch” for these 13 utilities was .97, which is significant to the .01 level.

The Wine industry:


The Clarity survey was used to assess customer satisfaction for ten popular brands of wine in the $10-$15 dollar price range.  More than 800 respondents completed the survey. The ultimate, real-world behavior for decision-makers in this industry is volume sold.  The correlation between the “Ideal Index” for these 10 brands and volume sold was .91 which is significant to the .01 level.


Examples of Predictive Validity: Longitudinal


 The Fast Food industry:


The Clarity survey was used to assess customer satisfaction for a fast food restaurant.   More than 400 respondents completed the survey. The ultimate, real-world metric for decision-makers in this industry is profit.. This organization changed its marketing and advertising strategies based on the results of the Clarity survey findings and showed an increase in profit of 23% in the next quarter.  This growth continued with 10% increases during each of the following three quarters.

Clarity for Marketing

The everyday challenge of marketing is presenting your product or service in a way that will MOTIVATE buyers to do something new – buy your product or service.But, new buying behavior is rare.  We prefer repetition – we prefer predictability. Recent brain science has revealed, however, that customers are more likely to allow new buying behavior IF the new product or service offers a significantly greater benefit.


Mind The ‘Customer Expectation Gap’


Step 1: Understand the gap between what customers Ideally want – and what they are currently getting.

Step 2: Give them more of what they ideally want – and you will sell more stuff.


Marketing = Motivating New Buying Behavior


The everyday challenge of marketing is presenting your product or service in a way that will MOTIVATE buyers to do something new – buy your product or service.


But, new buying behavior is rare.  We prefer repetition – we prefer predictability. Recent brain science has revealed, however, that customers are more likely to allow new buying behavior IF the new product or service offers a significantly greater benefit for them – for example, an IDEAL benefit that lights up our uniquely human Frontopolar Cortex. Humans can idealize – and if you know how customers idealize about products in your category – and you can associate your product with those expectations – new buying behavior – and the purchase of your product – is possible!


Sherpa Insight’s Clarity Survey will reveal both sides of the ideal Expectation Gap.  You will know – in detail – what customers really want.

You will know what they are currently getting from your product `and the products of your competitors. Insight into the Ideal will allow you to create ‘ideal messaging’ – messaging that associates your product or brand with an ideal benefit.  When you can offer an ideal benefit – the customer’s Frontopolar Cortex lights up – and buying your product becomes possible.


Customers don’t switch for minimal gain –


they only switch if they believe that their lives are going to be significantly better. They only switch if they believe that their lives will be significantly more ideal. And – Sherpa Insight is the only product and brand development company that delivers the ideal. Let us at Sherpa provide direction – and you will be able to Mind The Expectation Gap – and create the ideal messaging that is required to MOTIVATE NEW BUYING BEHAVIOR.


Clarity for Human Resources

Mind The ‘Employee Disappointment Gap’  You know the tremendous value of great employees!

Attracting and retaining the best employees means that you must fully understand the gap between what those employees expect and want from their jobs – and what they are currently experiencing.


As you fully understand what makes up this ‘disappointment gap’ – you are then able to address and close that gap. Sherpa Insight is pleased to provide Human Resource officers with employee surveys that fully reveal both sides of the ‘Disappointment Gap’.  The anonymity and emotion-first focus of the brief, open ended, online Clarity Survey allow your employees the opportunity to describe the whole truth about their imagined expectations – and then, the whole truth about their current day-to-day job experience.


Clarity will always deliver deep, candor-laden insights and rigorous quantitative reassurance in one fifteen-minute survey.  Sherpa can add any additional questions you may be tracking from previous employee surveys. The survey results will be delivered by Sherpa’s experienced HR consultants.


Let us help you close your Disappointment Gap -- and attract and retain the best people!

And – you know the tremendous value of great employees.


Case Histories

Doctors Referring to a World Class Hospital


The Clarity Survey was used to examine the emotions and cognitions that local referring pediatricians and family practitioners associated with making referrals to that hospital versus competitor hospitals that had been taking market share from the client hospital.


Results revealed that these physicians overwhelmingly believed that their patients would receive the best care, and had their best chance of surviving, at the client hospital. They also, however, described feeling intimidated by the world-class stature of the hospital’s staff, feeling that their previous treatment decisions might be viewed as inappropriate.  In contrast, when referring to a competing children’s hospital, these physicians described greater personal comfort and lack of intimidation.  Referring physicians also revealed that, ideally, they would like their profound empathy for their pediatric cancer patients to be recognized.


The client hospital was amazed at the candor of the responses and agreed that they needed to improve the referral experience, i.e., create a more positive, empathic interaction between hospital staff doctors and referring physicians.  The hospital aggressively trained staff physicians to treat referring physicians in more positive, accepting ways, and within months experienced an increased rate of referrals from local physicians.  These improvements resulted in a 38% increase in referrals during the subsequent twelve months.



Patients Choosing a Hospital for Cancer Treatment


The Clarity™ survey was used to evaluate the brand equity of a major cancer treatment hospital among current patients and the general population of potential patients in that region, that is, how do these people feel and think when considering this hospital.  Respondents also described their feelings and thoughts about other local competitor hospitals.  The decision process associated with choosing a cancer treatment facility was also examined in this study that was designed to supply direction for the creation of an advertising campaign.


Results revealed the profound fear respondents associated with the illness and the irrational strategies that many individuals employed for choosing a treatment facility. These findings directed the creative process of a major advertising agency that created a patient focused campaign for which they received national awards.


These efforts resulted in a 22% increase in self-referrals from the targeted population during the next two years.



A Survey of Clients of a Major Financial Services Company


A major financial services company was interested in discovering the factors that separated their average financial planners from their best planners.  The Clarity Survey™ was used to assess the emotions and thoughts created among clients of “Top 10%” and “average” financial planners as they considered their planners.


Survey results revealed clear and meaningful differences in the quality of the relationships between the clients and their planners.   Average Planners were cited by their clients for their knowledge of investments, while Top 10% Planners were praised for their personal concern for their clients.


These findings led Sherpa Insight trainers to design a specific relationship-focused sales training that all new financial planners received. Over the next three years, new financial planners that experienced the research-based training sold 8% more during their first year than those who did not receive the training.



A Brand Extension Assessment:  New Card Shop Items


The Business Challenge

A major greeting card retailer was interested in adding a variety of new items for sale in its chain of retail card shops.  They were interested in determining which of 35 items were seen as compatible with the company brand and therefore more likely to be attractive to their loyal, predominantly female customers.


The Clarity™ Application

The open-ended Clarity™ survey of emotions and cognitions was used with loyal customers to determine, firstly, the emotions and accompanying thoughts that were elicited by “everything the (company brand) is and stands for”.  Secondly, respondents described their feelings and thought about a subset of the new items if they were offered in the card shops and under the company brand.



Results revealed a very clear, ‘brand-alone’ profile that included very positive emotions attached to the brand’s products, card shops, personal communications, relationships, celebrations and life events.


Results to the variety of new branded products revealed distinct emotion/issue profiles that could be directly compared to, and correlated with the ‘brand-alone’ profile.  The degree to which each new branded product option correlated with the ‘brand-alone’ profile served as an indicator of the acceptability of that product in the card shop channel.


Using this method, it was determined that 11 of the 35 products were ‘acceptable’ offerings under the brand and in the card shop channel.  Eight others were marginally acceptable and the remaining 16 were deemed unacceptable.  It was of particular value to learn that 4 of the 8 marginal offerings were deemed ‘acceptable’ in the card shop, but not appropriate for the company brand (i.e., ‘I want it to be in the card shop, but it does not fit with the company brand).


Business Consequence

After two years, sales of the 8 ‘acceptable’ products were all “significant”, while 3 of 4 of the ‘marginal’ products had been discontinued.


Specific Finding:  Two of the new products included in the research were ‘boxed chocolates’ and ‘unboxed chocolates’ (i.e., to be weighed out, etc.).  The Clarity results determined that ‘boxed chocolates’ were ‘acceptable’ and seen as a legitimate gift item – but not under the company brand.  ‘Unboxed chocolates’, however, were deemed ‘unacceptable’ as these female respondents described their fears that they would be tempted to buy them for personal use and not give them as gifts.



The Business Undergraduate Honors Program at Indiana University


The Business Challenge

The directors of the undergraduate Honors Program within the business school of Indiana University believed that the program was not attracting the numbers of applicants it should.  As a consequence, participation was far below expectations and the program was in some jeopardy of being eliminated.


The Clarity™ Application

The online, open-ended Clarity™ survey of emotions and cognitions was used to evaluate the feelings and thoughts of both current Honors Program participants and prospective applicants.  These respondents were asked to describe in their own words their feelings and thoughts about the school’s Honors Program.  They were also asked how they would feel and think if they were part of an ideal, best imaginable undergraduate business honors program.


All emotions and associated thoughts were coded by point of focus, corrected for the emotional baselines of the respondents, and the results were aggregated by expressed emotion intensity and valence.  The resulting issue profile for an Ideal program was compared to the profile associated with the current, real, Honors Program.  The gaps between the ideal and real profiles revealed those area where the program could be ‘more ideal’, i.e., ways in which the program, and/or the communications to potential applicants about the program, could be improved.



The directors of the Honors Program used the insights from the Clarity™ survey to improve the content of the Honors Program, as well as the communications to potential applicants about the program.


Within eighteen months after the Clarity™ research, the Honors Program had increased applications for the program by more than 100%.  Directors of the program credited the Clarity™ research as having been responsible for the increase.



Predicting Loyalty:  Electric Company Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty


The Business Challenge

Does the Clarity Survey™ have the ability to predict the future loyalty of current electric supply customers?


The Clarity™ Application

The open-ended Clarity™ survey of emotions and cognitions was used with more than 5500 customers of 11 large electric supply companies to assess both:


  1. The feelings and thoughts that they associated with the possibility of being served by the “Ideal” best electric supply company they could imagine.
  2. The feelings and thoughts that they associated with their current electric supplier. Respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with the following loyalty statement:  “If I could leave my current electric supplier for another company, I would.” The Ideal and Real findings for each company were compared and correlated with the degree of loyalty expressed by their customers.



It was found that the degree to which a company’s ‘Real’ profile matched the ‘Ideal’ profile was a very dependable predictor of expressed loyalty by its customers.


In other words, those companies that came close to meeting the ‘Ideal’ expectations of their customers benefitted with high degrees of expressed loyalty, while those that performed poorly against ‘Ideal’ expectations commanded only very low levels of expressed loyalty.

Overall, loyalty correlated to a highly significant .76 with the Ideal/Real ratio across the 11 companies.


Business Consequence

This mega study of the Clarity Survey™ results across 11 electric supply companies indicates very clearly that:

If a company can match the expectations of its customers (the Ideal/Real ratio) it will command high levels of loyalty.


Conclusion:  The Clarity Survey™ of emotions and cognitions can quantify both Ideal and Real customer satisfaction and deliver very clear direction to a company for becoming ‘more Ideal’, and, in fact, more deserving of customer loyalty.



An Underperforming Home Building Company


The Clarity Survey™ was used to assess the emotions and issues that were driving the negative corporate climate and it was determined that only 23% of the emotions of the salespersons were positive about ‘coming to work’, with only 22% positive emotions among executive and managers.


Clarity Survey™ Results

The negativity described in the survey contained many complaints about feeling inadequately trained and burdened with paperwork, including constant activity tracking. Salesperson and manager interactions were described as consistently negative as managers monitored sales interactions and demanded ‘ask for the sale’ statements in every customer conversation. Peers were viewed as competitors, positive recognition was seen as lacking or insincere, and compensation was seen as inadequate and laden with stress (100% commission – with no draw). Overall, the company was seen as a very unhappy and stressful place to work.


Corporate Change Initiatives

To his credit, the CEO moved aggressively to address the sources of negativity revealed by the Clarity Survey with a number of significant initiatives. The most important of these was a change in management style from a ‘demand’ strategy to a skill development strategy focusing on the development of ‘relationship selling’ skills among the salespersons and the managers.


This change in corporate focus was achieved by completion of the Sherpa Insight Sales Training by all salespersons and managers. This training encouraged personal and team goal setting and a focus on professional skill building. Through this training, salespersons came to connect their selling skills with their largest professional and life goals. And, as managers became more effective teachers of selling skills, salespersons came to view them as valued and supportive coaches and mentors.


Additionally, based on Clarity survey insights, the CEO also changed the compensation policy to a partial draw against commission (i.e., effectively reducing stress), and instituted a positive and meaningful recognition program for those who demonstrated improvements in their selling skills.



Because of these interventions, the corporate climate of this company improved dramatically with positive emotions about ‘coming to work’ increasing for salespersons from 23% at the beginning of the engagement to 64% after 6 months, and 77% after two years. Hiring practices changed, more experienced salespeople were attracted, and turnover was reduced by 70%. Of great satisfaction to all, sales increased by 5% during the first year (up from a 3% increase the previous year) and 12% the second year.




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