To understand whether firms run out of change because they do not fully internalize the profits they are losing, the evaluation proceeded in two phases. First, a field officer visited each firm on a weekly basis to administer a short “changeout” questionnaire, which asked a number of questions about change management, including the number of times they ran out of change (i.e. the number of “changeouts”), the number of lost sales due to changeouts in the previous 7 days, the value of these sales, how much time they spent searching for change, and how often they gave or received change from nearby firms. The survey also asked about total sales and profits. Although the survey did not provide any training or information about change, or any direct "reminders," it may have served as a catalyst for firms to start altering behavior, as lost sales and profits due to poor change management became more salient. To measure this effect, the start date for the changeout questionnaire was randomized across firms. This enabled an estimation of the impact of the visits themselves, by comparing lost sales between those firms that started the survey earlier to those that started later.
The second intervention more explicitly emphasized the costs of having insufficient change. After following firms for several weeks, researchers calculated the lost sales for each firm due to insufficient change as well as the market average. This information was then presented to a randomly selected subsample of firms.
Results and Policy Implications
Impact on lost revenue and profits: Veteran firms, because they had fewer changeouts, also lost less income due to lost sales. Specifically, lost revenue for veteran firms decreased by 32 percent and lost profits decreased by 25 percent. Additionally, they also lost fewer sales while away from their shop to get change during the day. The information intervention also reduced lost revenue by 43 percent and lost profits by around 33 percent.
Impact on behavior: Firms that had been in the survey longer seemed to bring in more change to work each morning, but the results were not statistically significant. These veteran firms also visited nearby firms for change on average 2.4 fewer times per week and shared change with other businesses on average 1.1 fewer time per week. Similarly, upon receiving the information, intervention firms began receiving change 1.6 fewer times per week and sharing one fewer time per week. Estimates indicate that overall, behavioral changes resulted in a 12 percent increase in profits.
As the weekly surveys provided no skills training, nor any direct information, it is most plausible that they served as a reminder which made the importance of changeouts and the amount of money being lost more salient. While the information intervention provided some new information (the average behavior of other firms), the firm-specific information would have already been known to firms if they had processed the information. Thus, a likely explanation for the results is that firms were not paying attention to the lost sales to change, and the interventions reduced the cost of processing the information already available to them.
Photo credit: Hendrik Terbeck via Flickr