As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 17th 2016
I recall the first time I acquired a Safaricom line. I was preparing for my return having been out of the country for a little while in the early 2000s. I requested my sister to see if it was possible to get my 1990s Kencell line back and it was then that she introduced me to Safaricom. She simply said “nowadays we do not use Kencell, we use Safaricom”. I trust my sister and with those few words she acquired a 0723 line for me. I become a Safaricom customer and have since remained loyal. As Safaricom shared the full year results last week, I reflected on personal experience with the brand. Looking back the last 12 years there a lot we can learn from Safaricom on customer focus.
As the number of customers grew, it became a nightmare for many to access the 100 number. I recall training sessions in the late 2000s where examples of bad customer service by participants always had to do with the 100 number. This has since changed; it is very rare that I get a participant citing Safaricom. Today, Safaricom customers have so many options. In addition to calling for assistance they can use a self-service menu, they can visit a care centre and they can even use social media to interact with the brand. Ease of access is the first lesson we can learn from Safaricom.
There is something else I like about Safaricom; their effort to connect with regular customers. The first person to sign up for an Mpesa account was my mother. She had seen an advert and she no longer wanted us to conceal cash in a courier envelope. It took me a while to understand the mobile money transfer concept. However, after watching a number of adverts I was convinced that Mpesa was a game changer. I no longer watch much TV but I know that past marketing campaigns have touched the hearts of many Kenyans. Last year I attended the Safaricom Jazz festival and the crowd was electric despite being in traffic for hours. This crowd was made up of many Safaricom customers and there seems to be much more that the company has done to connect emotionally with its customers.
Having followed Safaricom closely on twitter, I consider it to be a listening brand. It seems to listen to its happy customers but more importantly to its unhappy customers. I suspect that most of the product improvements it has made have been based on customer feedback. New products too seem to be introduced with the customer in mind. Finally, Safaricom has taken a front seat on innovation. This innovation has extended from mobile money innovation to use of technology to make the customer experience painless.
Safaricom is certainly one of the strongest brands that our generation has witnessed grow. Just a few days ago I sat at a class with a professor of marketing at Columbia business school sharing with us the challenges Myanmar is facing introducing an Mpesa equivalent. The professor took the opportunity to learn more about Mpesa from a number of us from Kenyan. I look forward to seeing what direction the brand takes moving into the future. Where will Safaricom be in 2026 or even better will the majority of Kenyans remain loyal to Safaricom?
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy