The Difference Between Try and Triumph is A Little Umph

Guapiles Travel Blog

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Some of the women who answered our trial survey

The past week of my life has been filled with an abundance of hard work. Although I enjoy a challenge, I have been struggling to see the light in this darkness as the majority of my hard work has resulted in disappointment.

I have been working with another intern from the United States on a survey that measures client satisfaction. We constructed a thorough, two page questionnaire and tested it out on a group of clients in Guapiles. The group consisted of twelve women who all sold a variety of cosmetic products and clothing from home (pictures included). They were applying as a cohesive group for a large secondary loan at the time that we visited. Without thinking, we distributed our client satisfaction survey with the paperwork for the secondary loan.

Clients selling a cosmetic line
Clearly we did not receive the results we were expecting as the women all completed the questionnaire under the presumption that their answers would affect the likelihood of being approved for another loan. All of the women indicated that they were very satisfied with all the products and services we provide. We were not looking for 100% satisfaction; we were looking for controversy, for problems to solve. With a group of people who believe they have something at stake, what incentivizes them to be entirely honest? If these women need assistance, what will make them willing to point out our flaws? Ultimately, how do we explain coherently (and in Spanish!) that their answers will not impact their business with us, but rather will enable us to improve overall and to provide them with better products and services in the long run?

I spent the entire weekend pondering the aforementioned questions.

One night before bed I listened to a microfinance podcast about Grameen Bank and the ways in which they measure client satisfaction in Bangladesh. I recognized great potential in one method that the Grameen Bank employed. Instead of asking open-ended questions, Grameen Bank created and distributed a succinct, straight-forward survey with eight questions. Each question covered a basic facet of services or products provided by a microfinance institute (loan term, interest rate, office location, accessibility of employees, etc). The glaring difference that I saw between the survey we had distributed and the survey we needed to be distributing was the freedom of choice. By allowing people to write their answers in blank spaces, we essentially set ourselves up to receive the answers that people thought we wanted to hear. Instead, we needed to provide four options, forcing clients to circle only one.

Grameen Bank measures client satisfaction by focusing solely on client preferences. For example, they would ask “Which loan term do you prefer for your business?” and provide the following options for answers: “18 months, 12 months, 6 months, or 3 months.” If the client selected the loan term that they presently have, it indicates satisfaction. If not, it indicates that there is room for improvement. Overall, the entire survey is ranked like a grade point average on a 4.0 point scale. This enables Grameen Bank to measure the overall satisfaction for each component by providing a letter grade. An A indicates complete satisfaction, a B indicates satisfaction, but with room for slight improvement, a C indicates some satisfaction, but with obvious need for improvement, and so on.  I believe that the utilization of this style of questionnaire as well as this ranking system for the answers will provide us with the results we truly need, not just the ones customers think we want to hear. We will be working this week on constructing another survey with our new, guiding principles and ideas from the Grameen Bank Model.

From this experience, I learned a few very valuable lessons. First, I learned that I will never know if I am doing something right until I have done it wrong. Second, I learned that you cannot simply plow a field by turning it over in your mind; instead, you need to do some hands-on work in order to make any progress. Third and most importantly, I learned the various ways in which adversity and disappointment, two perceivably daunting emotions, can actually be used as motivating forces. Although I have been disappointed, frustrated, and a bit stressed out, I have been able to channel this negative energy to create positive results, to come up with a new idea, and to start anew.

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Some of the women who answered our…
Some of the women who answered ou…
Clients selling a cosmetic line
Clients selling a cosmetic line
photo by: mrgishi