Using data for business development and strategic decision making

Ashely Speyer, Lean Data Senior Associate, Acumen

Last week GrowthAfrica hosted Ashley Speyer, Lean Data Senior Associate at Acumen who took a group of entrepreneurs through a Masterclass on: Using Data for Business Development and Strategic Decision Making. The session had great insights and we want to share them with you!

Lean Data is an impact measurement approach pioneered by Acumen that uses new technologies and human centered frameworks and involves two main elements: A shift in mindset away from reporting and compliance and toward creating value for a company and its customers and the use of methods and technologies for data collection that emphasize efficiency and rapid response while still achieving a sufficient degree of rigor.

For the Masterclass, the focus was on using data for business development and decision making and focused on gathering data about customers.

Customer centric operations

Embedding customer-centric operations is very critical for any company and the proliferation of mobile phones and platforms that allow businesses to easily make calls and send SMSs has made it easier than ever to listen to the voices of customers and to get their feedback on what is working and what is not working making it easier to react to their needs.

To achieve customer- centric operations, you must: Start with your team (sales agents, etc.) – Discuss the value of data collection and why it is important with entire team; make it tangible by potentially linking incentives; Leverage existing processes at purchase and after sales support – Leverage existing touchpoints in customer journey and experiment with new technologies that are customer-friendly; Synthesize data across different sources – Don’t just rely on customer data, include non-customers, sales agents, staff, passive data, e.g. from MIS systems. Also think about customer vs. consumer vs. end-user and; Use data to drive sales/marketing decisions – If the data isn’t actionable, stop collecting it. Iterate to ensure driving value.

Entrepreneurs during the data masterclass


Collecting customer feedback

Customer feedback can be collected at two points. That is, at the point of purchase of your product or service and post purchase. The importance of gathering feedback at these two points is that it is a good opportunity to build a relationship with your customers and to set the precedent that you care. This is an important driver of positive referral rates. During the point of purchase, you can: Establish customer awareness about your product or service; Research about your customers alternative product or service to yours by determining if the alternative is better that yours, its ease in availability and performance vis-à-vis yours; Get information on why your customer chose your product or service as opposed to the alternative; You can also gather insights on the customer’s purchase experience.

The post purchase point is useful in determining the customer’s buying journey of your product and service, which is achieved by asking them questions on: Use- How satisfied is the customer with the product or service? Has your product or service changed their quality of life and how; Support- Have you had any challenges and what are they? How can we improve? and Refer- How likely are you to recommend someone to use our product or service and why.

Some of the technologies that entrepreneurs can use to gather data from their customers include: Phone – which is great for customer support, building relationships and in-depth interviews; SMS Panel – to test awareness of your product or service (You can ask “Have you heard of product X?”) and to understand your customer’s perception of your competition. The SMS panel is also good for 1-8 questions surveys; IVR (Interactive Voice Response) – This is an automated telephony system that interacts with callers, gathers information and routes calls to the appropriate recipient. You can use this channel to ask 1-4 questions to your customer; Online – This is great for quantitative and qualitative data, you can use email, google forms, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Data collection steps

 If you would like to gain relevant and credible results while gathering Lean Data the following steps are crucial:

  1. Get started -establish what you hope to discover through your lean data project.
  2. Choose your technology – determine the technology/ method to communicate with customers quickly and efficiently.
  3. Choose your questions & method – choose your question sets and devise an execution plan
  4. Take action based on your data – use the data that you have gathered to decide on concrete actions and next steps.

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