Customer Experience in Microfinance Industry Key To Growth Of Africa’s Economy

Microfinance institutions have played a vital role in the growth of Africa’s economy over the past several years  by making financial inclusion easier to achieve. This growth has notably occurred within Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the Agricultural Sector.

However, despite having a strong mission and vision to empower underserved communities, many microfinance companies often miss the mark when it comes to acting upon their customers’ most urgent needs. This often stems from the lack of proper channels, consumer insights and customer data. 

In some cases, customers may fear raising some issues with staff and don’t feel empowered to express their dissatisfaction. Many times these inefficiencies often reflect on the customer experience.

Negative experiences tend to be taken personally by customers and can cause them to turn away from the service altogether. In the long-run, micro-finance companies that ignore customer experience are in fact slowing down the process of improving the socio-economic status of these communities and developing them to their full potential.

One micro-finance company that is defying this narrative and championing customer experience is Inuka Africa, a Microfinance based in Kenya that is focused on uplifting people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to credit. They have operated in the Kenyan market for over 10 years and have 50 branches countrywide.

They are focused on uplifting youth, women, small business owners, farmers and other players supporting agricultural activities. Inuka Africa works with Ajua, Africa’s first integrated Customer Experience company to help them identify their customers needs and streamline processes.

They digitized and automated their customer experience program by implementing Ajua’s flagship product, Ajua 360 across their business to get a 360° view of their customers, eventually rolling out the use within different departments including HR and IT.

Speaking on the need for a customer experience tool, Anne Maina, MD, Inuka Africa mentioned, “Customer experience management is fast-paced and shaped by rapidly changing technologies. We didn’t want to be left behind or worse, risk becoming irrelevant to the people we serve. Initially our customers would escalate issues that they couldn’t resolve at branch level by calling the head office, however, we knew that there were others who didn’t get an opportunity to express their concerns. We wanted to know exactly what our customers needed to be improved on so that we could take action immediately.” 

When Inuka Africa first engaged with Ajua, about 70% of their complaints brought attention to how staff were treating customers during field visits, in response they adjusted their payment cycles to suit their customers better and trained their staff on how to courteously handle debt recovery. In addition their HR department has been able to use Ajua 360 to strengthen their employee relations by widening their channels of communication between staff and keeping employees satisfied. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also spurred their digital transformation, Inuka Africa learnt from their customer data that over 50% of their customers wanted to access services remotely so they fast tracked their mobile offerings. Their IT department initially found it difficult to decide which systems to implement, they spent more resources trying to make sure that they realised the actual benefits they were promising to their customers. Now they use Ajua 360 to monitor the impact of any technological changes on their customers. They use the insights to guide their product innovation and projects.

In conclusion, micro-finance institutions need to prioritize customer experience. This  starts with driving a customer centric-culture throughout their organizations. With this in mind, unbanked small business owners and farmers will have a better shot at success and thrive, ultimately speeding the growth of Africa’s economy. 

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