To some organisations, feedback is as important as a growth opportunity. According to experts, feedback provides positive criticism that allows organisations to make changes for growth. This is why BranXchange is empowering Nigerian consumers on feedback to determine value for their brands in 2023 across various categories. Akonte Ekine, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Analyst of BrandXchange speaks on this, his programme of Consumer Value Awards where consumers are allowed to vote for their brand choice. He said consumers who spent their hard-earned money on goods and services deserve better experience. Daniel Obi brings the excerpts.
What spurred you into empowering consumers to give feedback on brands because it appears that only a few people care about consumer plight?
We know that sincere companies appreciate consumer feedback through different platforms. We have also done a series of work speaking from the brands perspective to consumers and we felt we should see the possibility of flipping the coin such that the consumers should be the one doing the talking that could bring some form of validity to the promises of brands.
And let us say the truth, we are consumers and we all care about our plights but the challenge is that we seem to have been wired to leave things to some elements, otherwise why do we look for services that we think should equal our taste and interest?
Also, there are many people contributing greatly to the consumer narratives, it is sometimes more work in the background than for the media to see, but we are all involved in ensuring that we have a better consumer experience in the country.
From Marketing Communication practice to Consumer Value Awards, what informed the transition?
There is no transition; we are still in the work of marketing communications because what we aim to do is to promote brand excellence through creating awareness for the rights of consumers. However, the journey started from my experiences in the marketplace in different sectors of the economy. I once spent my good money to buy a brand-new car through a bank and just two weeks after, the car developed a problem. I complained to the seller and to my insurance but they didn’t even show interest in the situation. I invited a lawyer to do a letter to the vehicle sellers/manufacturer’s representative here and they only said the lawyer will not even make them move. So, I was left dry spending money on the car. Another one was my flight from Abuja when I and another passenger were deprived of boarding because of one big man. I reported this matter to the Police station at the Airport. I could not make the flight that day. I wrote to Consumer Protection Council Lagos office, but never got a response then one day from nowhere I got a call that I should bring a witness or two to explain what happened. Unfortunately, the other man said he is not interested because his work will not allow him to do such a thing, I later found out he works with Standard Organization of Nigeria, which should make him more interested but alas he wasn’t. So, I have a catalogue of experiences like most Nigerians and then I have also followed Sola Salako Ajulo’s work to the point where I think she became a lone voice in this situation and we deserve to have more people involved in the cry for better service. It is not easy earning money in this country and then offer poor service.
You have held the first edition of Consumer Value Awards, CVA, what was the experience?
First, we thank God for the courage and opportunity to hold that first edition, I will use this platform to thank Adedayo Ojo for is leadership. The feedback was very encouraging judging from the remarks of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, National Food and Drug Control Agency, and Nigeria Communications Commission for attending and commending the initiative. That we got the 200-capacity venue filled is good feedback and I thank all those that attended the event and those that took time to vote.
We have also been advised to improve on the categories as well as the duration of voting and those are some of the new things introduced this year. We have opened the portal for nomination for a period of one month and two weeks ending on July 31, 2023.
What are the criteria for entry and assessment? Kindly talk about the process for participation?
All brands are eligible for participation. First, it is the responsibility of a consumer to nominate brands based on his/her experience. After the nominations, we compiled them based on categories. This year, we have opened the portal for voting from 1st May, and for the next three months, we expect brands to encourage consumers to vote. We are also on our part announcing voting is ongoing through various platforms. This is purely a classic case of the consumer as the judge and jury. It is the consumer that is supporting a brand claim with a vote and we are only collating and publishing.
What were the challenges you faced at the initial stage and how did you surmount them?
Life is about challenges and so this one is no different. The first subject is acceptability; we had people asking questions on why we are doing this and we made it very simple that we are trying to contribute to a body of knowledge that will enable us all to have a better experience.
Credibility issue came up and thus we designed the website for everyone to see the voting results as it happens and we did a monthly report of voting based on the voting pattern.
I think we can say that some people have seen the sincerity of purpose in our effort to contribute to the consumer narrative in the country and we are not there yet but we do know that our work might inspire some companies and even regulators to do better.
Now, you are setting the stage for the next edition, are there new things Nigeria consumers and brand owners should look towards for?
Oh yes, the market is very dynamic and we do hope to evolve with the market. The first thing is that we are looking at regulators involved in consumers management. On my flight experience, we found out later that if we had also carried Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority along, the story might be different. How many consumers are aware of the various regulators that affect them daily? So we plan to bring all regulators together for a short conversation and reward them for a good job. We have seen some State governors playing good roles in ensuring consumer rights experience through legislation and more and we think we should encourage them so that more people know that no matter the size of business the consumer must get a great experience.
From state level to individual, we are seeing better actions and it is only appropriate to use these individuals as well to create the right conversation through recognition and commendations.
Brand owners should look forward to an exciting time at the event but prior to then, they should visit the website and vote, encourage people to vote for them as well, if you are proud of your brand to see consumers validate the efficacy of the brands with Badge of Honour from the consumer.
As a Nigerian consumer, what’s your take on Nigerian consumers?
The consumer is the same everywhere. What he or she wants is simple quality service based on the brand promise. Sadly, some promise makers are not keeping their promises and you even see situations where people bring bad products to the market on the assumption that the consumer has no choice and he/she will buy simply due to price discount. Look at the telecommunications sector, with a series of data plans that assure you duration of usage on a number of days, and yet the one month or one day plan will not even stay up to the stated period, and when you want to complain you will be left with machines to attend to you. You will not even get good calls through but you will be charged, more like we don’t have a choice. The consumer is hard working honest individual who deserves to enjoy the services paid for. Look at even within government service providers, you beg for service, pay for poor service because you are left with no alternative. The consumer deserves more in this country and we just want to be one of those contributing to that conversation that will encourage service providers to improve.