One of the major challenges of brand handlers during a pandemic is how to retain customers. As a matter of fact, report revealed that, brands need to accommodate customers and partners with uncertain or reduced incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic or lose their businesses entirely.
Findings by National Economy shows that, many business owners and growth strategists are familiar with the age-old concept that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. This makes customer retention especially important for every business to master, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when customer spending is at an all-time low.
All over the world, brands are changing their policies and strategies to support their customers in these tumultuous times and Nigeria has not been an exception to this strategy which is not only essential as a social corporate deed at this critical time, but also engenders trust and brand loyalty.
For instance MTN Nigeria recently provided an update on the utilisation so far of its network initiatives to provide its customers and partners with connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to MTN’s direct contributions to support the fight against COVID-19, including support to CACOVID (N1 billion), Federal and State Governments (communications support) and the NCDC (Devices, airtime, SMS channel and data) MTN provided their customers with a range of free services to help make communication easier.
The brand gave more than 2 Billion free SMS sent by over 40 million subscribers; about 3,000 Terrabytes of free data utilised to access zero-rated health websites, and access to Ayoba – a partner messaging app; offered up till May 1st, over 1.7 Million free money transfers by about 100,000 people using the MoMo Agent Network.
Commenting on the update, CEO MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman said: “Since we began providing 300 free SMS’s per month to our subscribers more than 2 billion SMS’s have been sent by more than 44 million subscribers demonstrating the universal appeal and accessibility of SMS as a communications service. We are proud to have been able to reach so many people and are committed to continuing to provide this service. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we are focusing our efforts on trying to ensure no one is left behind.”
What MTN did is similar to what India, telco brand Airtel did, by extending prepaid validity for more than 80 million low-income customers by almost a month even after it ended and added the equivalent of US$ 0.13 to customers’ talk time so they could continue to make and receive calls.
Companies are also flexing their approaches to dealing with suppliers and customers alike, changing contracts and payment terms to support partners when cash flows are less reliable. They’re also looking out for society at large.
In China, Bytedance offered premium business plans for its Lark enterprise messaging and productivity tool for free and made the three-year business premium plan free for hospitals, schools and non-profits in Hubei province.
In Nigeria, FirstBank apart from deploying its fully functional digital infrastructure, to serve its customers through electronic channels, also rolled out an e-learning intervention initiative in the education sector.
The bank’s intervention helped to close a gap, which was set to be disproportionately widened by a lack of existing supportive structure to enable shutting down of public schools and a seamless switch over to online learning mode.
“While the needs of children can easily be forgotten at a time like this, we consider it important, therefore, to make provisions that ensure they have access to learning resources and ensure they remain fully engaged so they can compete favourably with their peers internationally,” said the Bank which has spent over 15 Billion Naira in over two decades to positively impact communities across the Six Geo-political zones in Nigeria, adding: “Education is something we are big on and can demonstrate consistency over the years”
While having the potential of elevating the standard of education post-COVID-19, the FirstBank altruistic e-learning initiative is building on milestones of raising a new and young business savvy and financially independent generation.
The bank provided students a choice of two models – the online model offers students online access to the solutions through apps and web options on a subscription model payable monthly, while the offline mode is designed for indigent students who may not have access to devices.
According to the Bank: “The partnership with Lagos State has seen us provide low-end devices for students preloaded with Roducate offline; content which include Government accredited curriculum for primary through secondary and several university courses. This solution will see Lagos state offer children in the lower bracket who may not have access to devices or data from home the solution preloaded on the cheapest smart phones. The phones in partnership with MTN have SIMs and limited data usable for and tied only to the learning product, which means the recipients cannot browse but can submit mock tests etc. FirstBank has provided 20,000 of these devices to Lagos State and committed to doing more.”
As the Bank further noted, the initiative is capable of facilitating innovation around education “and impacting forever how our children are educated in Nigeria, with the complementarity this brings. For example, no need for expensive text books etc. for those who can’t afford it. It also is a potential platform to promote financial inclusion – a core strategic goal of the bank through financial literacy of students.”
In X-raying customer retention strategies, a customer relations expert, Edna Idowu said; “there are several retention strategies you can use to separate yourself from the competition and keep customers engaged with your business – especially during this economic downturn. Promoting your brand initiatives is key because people are more likely to buy from brands that they believe in and feel personally invested in. Use this time to promote the “why” behind your company and connect your customers with your company mission.
She stated that it is also important to communicate your value to your existing customers. Instead of filling their inboxes with generic emails about how “we’re all in this together,” limit your communication to valuable insights that can help them during this time of need. Providing valuable resources is a great way to remind your customers that you are there to help them.
According to her, a great way to stand out amongst competitors at this time is by assessing how your business can uniquely pivot to address a greater concern or need. Instead of trying to sell a product that is currently irrelevant to consumers, analyse what you can do differently to meet consumers where they are now and address their immediate concerns.
Culled from National Economy