• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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‘Customer experience is more than smiles, it’s about removing frictions’

kenfield

While at MIT collecting data for his research on how to use information to make decisions in remote areas when you have no data, Kenfield Griffith, CEO and co-founder, Ajua (formerly mSurvey), went from computer-aided manufacturing to realise a problem: insufficient data to understand context. His biggest epiphany moment was when he saw residents of Kiberia in Kenya giving intense good quality feedback on the platform he created. It challenged everything, from conventional wisdom to World Bank statistics, about literacy. He saw a scalable means to get feedback. In this interview with Tayo Fagbule, Editorial Board Chairman, Griffith explains how Ajua as an integrated customer experience company helps clients win through a better understanding of their customers.

 Could you talk about your experience, how you started Ajua?

We started Ajua with the impetus to solve the data gap in Africa, and obviously the best way to solve it is to figure out who people really are. And a very old method of doing that is through surveys, which is usually pen and paper in our market; it has its flaws: it’s not scalable, you’re unable to reach the invisible consumer.

Folks are transacting informally in cash. Obviously, they are offline. The best way which was scalable is through mobile in the sense that you can reach anyone whether on a smartphone or a simple phone; that’s why we had to integrate with mobile operators to make that possible.

Today, we can reach anyone in Nigeria, anyone in Kenya, anyone in the market that we are in, anyone who has a mobile phone to give feedback on anything. We started with that to solve that problem. And then we realised that we’re doing much more than that, especially when you’re seeing a trajectory of business growth. The information we got helped businesses to make better decisions, to win, i.e., create better efficiency, to retain their customers and to find new customers. 

We know that markets in Africa are massive, extremely massive, and we believe that opportunity is also massive. As we started looking at getting high-fidelity data for businesses, we realised that we’re bigger than just surveys. We had to rebrand as an integrated customer experience company to capture that.

Because the markets are so massive, one of the biggest hurdles of unlocking these markets is fragmentation. Everywhere you go across the continent whether it’s Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, you see a lot of things that are fragmented, in silos. How do you really capture an understanding of your customer? If you can’t see them, you can’t understand their lifestyle, you can’t understand their behaviour because the data is fragmented. For the first time, we’re bringing all that information together to highlight who your customer is inside the business and outside the business.

How does the rebranding to Ajua from mSurvey define you?

We’re positioning ourselves as world-class. Ajua is the oldest in Africa – it’s over 1,300 years old – it has been exported to over 90 countries and has 200 names. We believe what we’re doing is unique to Africa but has the potential to be exported globally because there are new things happening here that are different from elsewhere in the world. We believe there is a trajectory. Ajua was the right name for us because we’re building the foundation of the new technologies that will make that happen. Think of mPesa, think of fintech; Africa is defining a new approach and other countries are going to look to Africa. Ajua resonated for us in the sense that technology in Africa is going to be different, better. Africa has unique transactions and people to people connections we must solve.

What would you say is the big change between mSurvey and Ajua?

Before we just captured feedback. Now, a lot of our clients want to know, “Who are those customers from whom I’m getting feedback? I need to understand and segment these customers.” We built more software and products around solving that problem. Rather than just surveys, we help you understand your customers inside your operations and outside.

Think of it, customer experience doesn’t just happen within your business. The customer experience happened way before they even purchase. Whether they’re seeing a billboard about you or seeing any information about you, that’s your customer’s experience. We try to capture the best and high-fidelity data to really make good decisions, with precision, about that customer. We’re now in the customer intelligence space whereas before we were just really solving the data acquisition problem.

 Do your clients come to you with a specific problem or you already have flagship surveys that you carry out which say, “This is what we know about this customer”?

As an integrated customer experience company, we’re helping businesses transform using customer experience or CX as the foundation of transformation. We believe a hypothesis, based on data, that businesses that are customer-focused and customer-centric are going to win. We are using data to help them transform.

We don’t come and say here’s a survey, we come and say this is the best way for you to really understand the customer journey, understand the friction points, understand exactly how to retain your customers and how to acquire new customers.

All the data that we gather through our software is helping them make decisions. One metric we use which is more on the survey end is Net Promoter Score (NPS). Net promoter score is a proven metric globally, and we’re fortunate to have its founder as a board member and advisor. This is a key metric that’s very simple, but very powerful.

Any business, small or large, can understand the simple metric, it goes from minus 100 to 100. It helps you to know exactly what you’re doing, where you are. We help businesses learn how to use it, and once they understand, leverage it to learn more of how to use other sources of data, that’s what we bring to the business.

 

How long were you in Kenya? When did you make the decision to commit to Nigeria?          

If you look at our trajectory, we really found product-market fit around 2015/2016. We’ve been at it for a while, but we had to do a lot of research, to find market fit. It was around 2015/2016 that we realised we’re solving this big problem. The decision to come to Nigeria was around 2016/2017 when we started thinking about what other markets we could look at. Our customers helped us with that decision; we don’t go into markets if our customers are not there. And obviously Nigeria is an attractive market and not just because of size. Nigerians are very passionate; we need to capture those sentiments. No one is capturing those sentiments. How do we capture those sentiments and lead the way and say this is the brand that Nigerians enjoy?

 

There’s less talk about demographics and more about psychographics. How does Ajua help its customers do that?

We have our own proprietary data. We have longitudinal data – we measure the pulse of consumers over time. We take that data and pretty much bring it all together to understand who your customer is. Looking at customer behaviours within your business, obviously, we’re seeing exactly which touchpoints they are interacting with and their feedback on those touchpoints. We can also see exactly if their feedback changes, we can correlate that feedback to that experience. We help you segment your customers in real-time, for instance, whether they are in a bank or mobile bank customers. You know exactly which segment of your customers is changing over time – remember segments emerge. Think of subcultures.

This is what we help businesses to see. We’re helping them to see the future, to see behaviours, to predict what will happen, to see what’s emerging. It may sound cheeky, but we like to say don’t allow your competition to know your customer better than you do. If your competition has more data on your customer, they are winning. The market is hyper-competitive; who you thought was your competition isn’t. African consumers are making conscious purchasing decisions every month.

 Some say the African consumer is modernising, not westernising. Do you see that from your data?

In Africa the relationships or transaction systems are different. And because transaction systems are different behaviours are different. And because the transaction systems are different, you’re going to see different innovations emerge. Modernisation, for instance, is more consumers coming online. They’re not using a computer but mobile phones. That is a way that modernisation is different. The question is: what is the trajectory, the prediction of the consumer’s behaviour when technology plays a part; specifically, even just mobile? Look at mPesa in Kenya, it transacts about $40 billion in a year in a population of 45 million. Think of that system being replicated in Nigeria or any place in the world. Nigeria could be transacting $150 or $160 billion dollars per year on a platform like that.

We see that something is brewing. How do you get a better pulse of it? Consumers are becoming more aware; consumers understand more that they have options. We’re trying to tell businesses: ‘Don’t be left behind when the consumer is going to decide.’ The only way you can do that is to have a better relationship with the consumer. Our job is to make sure you are seeing those changes.

 How have you moved your clients from being data unaware to a data epiphany?

It’s a journey. We start very simple because a lot of these businesses in Africa are going to leapfrog businesses elsewhere in the world. And because you have a clean slate, when you start a business you are ready to start getting feedback. A lot of businesses in the US are still trying to figure out exactly how to collect that data.

We believe that a simple metric like Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good start. It’s very simple to understand, anyone can understand it. If my score is 20, I want to improve it to 25. And everyone understands feedback. If someone is telling me I suck, I understand what that means. If someone tells me the service is great, I understand what that means. But more interesting, businesses are beginning to understand how to correlate that data with the different segments.

They know their promoters act like this, they know my detractors act like that, and they know their passives act like this. Once that’s finished – it typically takes about a year to normalise, for them to get used to that – we have other products that we lay on top of that, for instance, customer analytics. They realise these are their promoters, what they look like; how they behave, this is their demographics. It’s like a profile. We had clients whose growth tripled because of our platform. Users of Ajua not only transform their business but individuals too.

Our platform really enables individuals to become experts at customer experience; not just customer experience but customer experience with data. We are also removing the historical definition of what customer experience is. Customer experience isn’t when a customer smiles; customer experience is removing friction in that customer’s journey. Bolt exists because it’s removing friction, you don’t have to stand outside to call a cab.

The reason why fintech is hot is because there is a lot of friction in traditional banking. You queue when you get there. When you have the wrong information, you must go back. There’s a lot of friction. Obviously, we’re getting busier. The brands that can remove friction from your life are the ones you’re going to choose. And the younger generation have no time for that.