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How d.light creates a delightful customer experience

In 2006, Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun set out to eradicate kerosene as a source of light in the developing world. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, Sam witnessed the damage kerosene could do when an overturned lantern created a fire that nearly killed his neighbor’s son. They also saw what a scourge the dirty fuel was for families without access to energy, eating up a high percentage of their spending.

Sam and Ned decided to start d.light design, a social enterprise that would solve this problem once and for all. With funding from Acumen and others, d.light set out to create a business providing low-cost solar lanterns to poor customers. Since then, the company has sold over 16 million solar-powered lights across more than 60 countries, and expanded their offering to include larger solar home systems.

To date, the Lean Data team has completed two projects with d.light: (1) a baseline and follow-up survey with 350 customers collecting data across the GOGLA energy metrics; and (2) a full day of customer insights training with the d.light call centre and marketing team based in Kenya.

We spoke with Karl Skare, Director of New Business Initiatives at d.light, about customer-centricity more broadly and the impact that the Lean Data results have had on d.light’s operations. Here’s what he said:

What does customer-centricity mean to d.light?

Customer-centricity is core to d.light, in fact it’s one of our four pillars at the company and it manifests itself in several ways. One way is in product development itself. Before we launch any new product, we do extensive field research. We’ll bring early stage prototypes to the field and get feedback from customers through focus groups or one-on-one interviews. We follow the full design thinking methodology popularized by the d.school at Stanford where d.light was founded. We will go to the field with initial, rough prototypes and then go back with more polished prototypes and make our product decisions based on that. We’re looking to figure out what is most important to customers and how we can deliver the highest value to them. That’s one tangible way that we implement customer-centricity.

Another way we implement customer centricity is in the way we think about the customer journey and process. Our expansion into PayGo solar has necessitated that we have an extended relationship with the customer from purchase through their final payment up to a year later. We now have a call center with over 70 people, which allows us to provide technical support on the product and payments as well as follow up calls for delinquent customers.  We are constantly experimenting at our call center and focusing on how we can make the full customer experience smooth, enjoyable, and ultimately delightful.

Did anything surprise you about the Lean Data results?

One of the things I found most surprising was that 36 percent of our customers that had experienced an issue with their product did not reach out to d.light. That was an eye-opener and made us realize that we needed to proactively reach out to customers, since they wouldn’t necessarily reach out to us even though we have a toll free number emblazoned on the front of each of our products.

Another thing that surprised us is that we had a net promoter score (metric measuring how likely a customer is to recommend the product to a friend) of 82. This is incredibly high, considering that Apple’s net promoter score for their laptop, iPhone and iPad were 76, 70, and 65 respectively in 2013.  The Lean Data team assisted our call center team in the appropriate methods for gathering NPS scores and we now collect it on a weekly basis and use it as a key metric for management to track our performance.

Did d.light make any other specific business decisions or reconsider priorities based on the Lean Data results?

One of the key insights from the Acumen Lean Data report was that 40 percent of our customers owned a solar lantern prior to their purchase of our PayGo solar home system.  This insight influenced our marketing promotions and we started making special offers to customers who had previously purchased a d.light solar lantern.

Most of the other changes that we made were related to reorganizing the call center and how we handle calls to customers who are late on payments for the pay-as-you-go solar home systems. We adopted the survey script that the Lean Data team created for us to be administered by the Collections team within the call center. This script is now our standard for these calls and we’ve seen results. Because of the more empathetic approach presented in the survey script (and because of the increased focus on departmentalizing the call center), we’ve seen a significant decline in overall default rates.

Interested in learning more about Lean Data? Sign-up here for our Lean Data Lowdown and sign-up for our Lean Data +Acumen course.

This blog is a part of the February 2017 series on Customer intelligence revolutionising business at the Base of the Pyramid in partnership with Acumen Lean Data.  Access the series for interviews with social enterprises Dr.Consulta and D.light, as well as blogs from Business Call to Action, Social Value International and many more.

Ashley Speyer
Ashley Speyer
Ashley Speyer is a Senior Impact Associate at Acumen, responsible for leading Acumen\'s Lean Data work in East and West Africa.

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