As a CEO, I spend a lot of time thinking about  metrics. Metrics are supposed to help you understand the health of your business. But  data gets complicated fast.

At the company I  co-founded, we watch hundreds of metrics. KPIs. Cohorts. Sessions. Impressions. Everything is tracked.

Data's supposed to give you a leg up. To help you spot trends, back up ideas, and define actions to improve.

But when there's so much to look at, you sometimes end up not knowing what to look at. It's the classic paradox of choice. When there's too many options you don't know what to do.

To make things simple, I wondered if there was one metric that could apply to every part of our company.

Unlike charts and graphs, this ideal metric would be so clear you could immediately tell how you're doing by looking at a single number.

We defined this magic metric as 'wow moments.'

A 'wow moment' happens when your company does something so much better than anyone else that a customer would say to themselves, 'Wow, that was amazing.'

'Wow moments' are important because they make you memorable. And memorability leads to sales. As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, said,

"If there's one reason we have done better than our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful."

You need to create a 'wow moment' to leave a stamp in your customer's brain. Produce enough 'wow moments' and people pay attention. Customers stick around. And refer their friends. Smart business owners know it's much better to keep a current customer than find a new one.

Many of the most valuable companies in the world have gotten where they are not by creating just one 'wow moment' but many.

The original Apple iPhone produced so many 'wow moments'--from apps to maps to a multi-touch screen--that in little over a year Apple grew from zero percent of the phone market to the third largest phone maker in the world.

Amazon's 1-click ordering was such a 'wow moment' for customers that it brought in billions in sales.

'Wow moments' are your differentiators. They're what make you significantly better than anyone else. So if there was a single metric you could rally your team around, your best bet would be to focus on the number of 'wow moments' your team creates. To quote Bezos once more,

"If you're customer-focused, you're always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, wow? We want to impress our customers -- we want them to say, wow."

Every person in your company has the potential to create 'wow moments' every day.

The beautiful thing about 'wow moments' is everyone in your company can create them. Every team and person can measure themselves on the number of 'wow moments' they create.

For example, our customer service team does not aim to answer questions within the same day. Or even within hours. The bar for exceptional customer service is higher than that. To 'wow' a customer today, our response has to be almost instant. So we changed a major part of our product so we can reply within a minute.

When it comes to our product, we constantly assess it for the number of 'wow moments' it creates. We break our product up into five main parts. Then we say, out of these five parts, which ones create 'wow moments" and which ones do not?

The best way to know where you're creating 'wow moments' is to test every part of your company with your team, from sales to customer service to product. Notice where you feel a strong positive emotion (that's a 'wow moment') or where you feel nothing. Even if you're not a customer of your own product, 'wow moments' are obvious. 

Granted you may uncover unique insights from digging through your detailed data. But if you've looked at that data and you're still not clear what to do, try using 'wow moments' as your guide.

If everyone in your company focuses on 'wow moments', you won't need to always look at a hundred data charts to figure out what to do. Your next move will be clear.

Published on: Jul 7, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.