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Redefining Convenience for the People of Africa: an Exclusive Interview with Mr. Joseph Kuvor, Customer Experience and Marketing Group Head, Zoona Transactions International

At Customer Guru, we believe that Customer Experience (CX) should be the number one priority for all the Indian businesses so that they become more sustainable and successful globally. Thus, we are on a mission to spread this awareness, inspiring and guiding professionals to adopt and inculcate a customer-centric approach. We are certain that this is a first step to help organizations WOW their customers and create raving fans for themselves.

Continuing with our initiative of sharing experiences of top-notch CX experts, we have another gem of an interview with Mr. Joseph Kuvor. Mr. Kuvor is the Group Head of Customer Experience and Marketing at Zoona Transactions International, a financial services organization based in Africa. Owing to his rich experience in business planning, marketing management and customer experience designing and measurement, he is currently leading a data-based approach to deliver top-notch CX in Zoona’s operations across Africa to help the underserved communities thrive.

In this candid chat with Customer Guru, Mr. Kuvor shares the various challenges that the people face and how Zoona is trying to do their bit of serving such communities, keeping the needs and interests of these people in mind.

We invite our readers to comment and ask questions on challenges that they might be facing in their organizations when it comes to setting up systems and processes to deliver a great experience. This article is framed in a question-answer format; please feel free to share your feedback on the article too.

Can you tell me what Zoona is? What are you doing on the field?

Zoona is a financial services start-up. We harness the ambition of entrepreneurs in our market and provide them with business-in-a-box as the solution and support, for them to be able to deliver financial services to the population in our markets.

In Africa, it is already known that an access to financial services is not available to all the people because of requirements of the banks across Africa. It is not always that the people do not have what it takes to have access to financial services. It is just that the current banking system excludes a lot of people. Having said that, one would also find a lot of entrepreneurs across the market, who are willing to take risks to provide people with support. Zoona wants to help such entrepreneurs to make a difference within these communities. We engage agents and equip them with the basic technology to enable them to access very reliable, state of the art financial services to send or receive money, save money for emergencies or towards a goal and pay bills conveniently. Additionally, we have mobile wallets accessible via an app or USSD (unstructured supplementary service data) where people can keep their money, make transactions, pay for the utilities and the like. The ambition is to develop an eco-system of financial services that enhances the financial well-being of our people.

At the end of the day, the experience that is delivered to the agents is going to be critical to the end service that is delivered to the consumers. What is your vision on that?

We engage in a franchise relationship model, where the proposition is to help our agents in setting up outlets and employing people in order to improve employment and job-creation in the underserved communities. Apart from that, there are other agents who are the entrepreneurs. We support these guys to run these outlets. We treat all the agents as customers. We do not just say this because these are nice words to say. We address them as our customers because we treat them very differently from how our competitors treat them. Our competitors might see them as just another channel and it becomes a matter of survival of the fittest. On the other hand, we provide business management and business development tools to our agents because we are interested in supporting them realize their ambitions.

Could you tell us more about the initiatives that you are driving to ensure a win-win situation for all the parties involved?

There is no customer experience without a good understanding of the customers. Thus, we spend a lot of time, effort, and money in understanding our consumers. There are various programs that allow us to always listen to our consumers. We have pictures of our customers in our offices to ensure that we are always walking in our customers’ shoes. Moreover, our CEO too has spent 6 weeks on the road recently, staying with the agents, and making transactions from the outlets himself. Additionally, all the members of the executive committee go to these outlets and deal with transactions to experience what it is to be a teller. On a regular basis, we send out all our staff members to the market, making them go through the processes that our agents undergo. The staff members then share their experiences for understanding customer needs better. This is one of the biggest initiatives in the way that we operate. Customer centricity is in our DNA and we are not sparing any effort to get to the bottom of this. Recently, we have launched an insights engine program to improve our customer-centric initiatives, just to ensure that every employee always thinks about a customer and all the things that need to be done while developing products or helping a customer in any form. When Zoona was first launched in Zambia in 2009, there was a post office and money transfer service called Swift Cash, but it used to have very long queues and high charges. This left people extremely dissatisfied with the experience. We took advantage of that and launched a service that was very convenient to these people. That is how we grew. We are learning that the market is redefining convenience, therefore, our product is evolving. This is the reason why we’re launching things like wallet and savings product.

As we are data-driven, we have a good understanding of the various attributes of our agents; we know what hygiene factors are required in our markets. One of the key hygiene factors is liquidity of the agents and the other is the reliability of the network. We monitor these factors vigorously. Thus, we build products that support our agents and tellers in managing liquidity. We convey this information through face-to-face training and digital delivery of training to ensure that they are mastering these hygiene factors. If one visits the market, one will observe a clear difference between Zoona tellers and other tellers. This is because we spend a lot of time training and supporting them with the tools that enable them deliver good service to the people.

What are the challenges that you’ve faced in this journey? Please share it with our readers.

There were a lot of challenges that came our way. We have invested in a good analytics system that enables us to look deep into transactions of data for a better understanding of our customers and agents. A lot of insights also come from our quality team, from the market, and from the perception side of things. When a consumer makes a transaction, there are processes that he has to go through. That is why we invest in the external sources to track perception measurement, which is done through the customer satisfaction surveys. In a developed market, where a lot of people are on digital platforms and most of them are very literate, it is very easy to measure experience after the service delivery. For instance, right after an Uber ride, the users are sent a simple survey to rate the service on the app itself. However, for our kind of market, a lot of the customers are not very literate and do not have access to digital platforms. Thus, it is quite a laborious process to come back with that kind of survey regularly.

Across Africa, the quality of network connectivity is poor. For completing a transaction, there are a few components that are needed – a reliable USSD connection delivered to the agents and tellers by the MNO’s (mobile network operators), a financial processing platform and service co-creation ecosystem. While our financial platform would be available 99.99% times, few times the MNO’s USSD times out or the data is not available, which is a major problem. Thus, we educate our agents to have multiple access points to be able to connect back to us. This is an ongoing struggle.

A lot of our customers are either in rural areas or need to send money to the rural areas. Imagine how most of the markets in Africa work. There is a growing middle-class urban population, with dependents (parents or other extended family members) living in rural areas and not having access to banks or other products. So, if they need to send money for emergencies, they depend on us because we are the primary service providers in those locations. The connectivity in those areas is poor, thus making it a challenge for the agents to get access to liquidity to complete a transaction. The road network is also not so great, making some of them travel long distances to get to a place where they are able to keep the cash safe. However, we are a very agile company – we are developing partnerships that are helping us to change these challenges into opportunities.

There is another challenge, which is consumer fraud and safety of money. These services are co-created; there is a role that a consumer has to play in terms of making a transaction and ensuring that the money is safe. The concept of OTP (one-time-password) is quite strange to some of our consumers. That is exactly why the trust of our brand is really important and these people tend to put a lot of trust in our teller. In a developed market, one won’t find people going to a bank and shouting out their password to the teller. However, in our markets, it is a very common sight that people go and shout out their reference number and PIN to the teller openly. Some people take advantage of such situations, so fraud is evolving, making it one of the challenges. We are working on co-creating safety for the transactions, keeping our consumers’ interests and comfort in mind.

What would be your advice for an organization trying to embark on the journey of customer centricity?

I would advise them in being customer-obsessed and putting customers in the front line of importance. This means that they need to listen proactively, anticipate the needs of the people, and turn all the learnings into actions quickly. This is exactly what customer experience is all about. In terms of communication, processes, product, and the like, people need to feel that these organizations are actually paying attention to their needs and concerns. Learning about the customer needs isn’t enough; they should act and get back to these people.


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Customer Experience?

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