Lean Data Goes Deeper

One of the most interesting questions we’re grappling with right now on the Impact team at Acumen is how to develop a more robust, rigorous, and transparent form of quantifying the social value our companies create. While I don’t believe we will ever fully understand all the social value created – and while there will always be room for debate and interpretation – I do think today we have the tools to get a lot closer to customers and hear how they value products.

And if we can figure this out in a clear and compelling enough way, I believe that would open the door to creating a true marketplace for social impact.

What we’ve learned with our Lean Data Initiative is that we can, thanks to the prevalence of mobile phones and other enabling technologies, now quickly and easily gather data directly from our customers in ways that drive insights for us and our companies – everything from customer loyalty metrics to poverty levels of who is being reached to customer satisfaction.

What we’ve been kicking around – and where I’d love your help – is the best approach to quantifying self-reported value.

Meaning, after a customer has purchased a product (a solar light, safe drinking water, an improved seed) and experienced the benefit, what are the best, most reliable ways to ask her how much she values that product? Because she is the one who is living it, accruing benefit from it, she is best placed to explain what it’s worth to her.

We’ve been having fabulous conversations on our team, conversations that get back to the basics about things like consumer surplus and why demand curves slope down; conjoint/discreet choice analysis to get to revealed preferences; and things as simple as asking how much, having experienced a product, someone would have been willing to pay for it.

To clarify the kinds of things we’re thinking about and where I’d love your thoughts:

  • How to best phrase questions that help Acumen’s customers accurately articulate the value they get from a product or service
  • Whether there’s a best way to ask “how much would you have paid” after people have a product to understand how much they value it
  • Prize-based, conjoint approaches where we give a subset of folks $100 to spend on one of a few bundles of goods / services, to understand real rank-order preferences

I’d appreciate ideas for approaches that might help us get the answers we’re looking for. Suggestions welcome in the comments or please just email me directly.

5 thoughts on “Lean Data Goes Deeper

  1. One fairly well-known approach of which you may already be aware is the Net Promoter question:

    “How likely is it that you would recommend X to a friend or colleague?”

    See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Promoter for more details.

    While I don’t put much emphasis on the interpretation of the resulting score, I find this technique useful to gauge the _change_ in sentiment before and after introducing X. WIth a group I’ll use body voting to show the initial response to the question and ask people to remember where they are standing. After they’ve experienced the product/service, I have them stand where they were before and then, on a signal, slowly move to their new position corresponding to their post-experience answer. This gives an excellent (and public) view of the collective reported change, which can be positive or negative for each individual, and can be videoed if required.

  2. Thank you! How would you do NPS in this case if in the “before” they haven’t got the product (solar light, etc)?

  3. Sasha, it would depend on the level of their prior knowledge and capability to visualize what the product might be like. If necessary I’d give people enough information so they’d have at least a practical understanding of its capabilities.

    Perhaps something like: “Let’s pretend that you own X that allows you to do A, B, C, D…” Provide enough information and examples to make X & A-D clear and vivid.

    Then “How likely is it that you’d recommend X to your friend/family/folks in neighboring village/etc. as appropriate?”

  4. My first thought was to say as a second buyer “we’d like to buy this product from you” And see see for how much they would ask for it. However, for some products this type of frame would not work. In that case, similar to the suggestion of “would you recommend it to a friend” to ask as a friend of the consumer, “I’m offered this product for x price. Would you say I buy it?” Getting access to this third-party data would have to be thought out.

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