Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Catherine Kanu, is the Chief Executive Officer of Feedback Hall, an online firm that enables consumers and producers give and receive feedback on goods and services. The Feedback Hall website, which was launched in 2018, registered over 5,000 members in its first year.
Kanu told Daily Sun that Feedback Hall leverages on its fast-growing community which has active members across all states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to provide reliable and actionable difficult-to-find customer intelligence at unimaginable speed.
The website and the mobile app are structured, convenient and affordable means for consumers, businesses and other interested parties to give and receive customer feedback, the long-lived missing key to consumer satisfaction and business success.
In this interview, Kanu also discusses the potential of Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) against the backdrop of her startup in the feedback process.
There are some experiences consumers have that they desire to share. They just don’t want to keep the information. Sometimes, you feel like sharing the good experiences and sometimes the experience is negative that you feel like warning others not to go there. There hadn’t been a platform dedicated to this effect in Nigeria and that’s why we want to give the consumers the transparent opportunity to share.
As a consultant for many years, I have companies able to pay millions to conduct a survey for them. Some can’t afford it. In fact, some drop when you give them the bills but you still know that they need this. I just felt that people must have it even if they can’t afford it. Most of the companies in Nigeria are small and medium and cannot even afford to pay consultants. With Feedback Hall, you have consumers’ opinion free of charge.
The vision is to see a world of satisfied consumers. You are doing the business good when products and services get feedbacks. It soothes the business. We also have a vision of empowering the producers. We want to give the producers the opportunity to drive user-centred innovations. We want to have innovations that have consumers at the centre, by encouraging open-sharing and utilisation of consumers’ experiences, after due interactions with products.
Scope for startups
Feedback Hall is an online platform for consumers to share their experiences, both positive and negative, that they get from interacting with the Nigerian market and products churned out by SMEs and even big companies. The essence is to educate intending consumers. It is actually a community of consumers giving assistance to one another. While giving feedbacks from products, the producers are also there to get feedbacks. Nigeria did not have that yet until we came up. I think Nigeria needs a structured feedback mechanism for SME products and services. It is an important responsibility of business owners and it is also important for businesses to grow. We are focusing on strengthening the conversation between the producers and consumers. We are trying to create that mechanism that is meant to be between consumers and producers. Feedback is a gift, even when it is negative. It implies that the business owner can then take back the products and fix it. That is not a disadvantage to the producer at all. It is all profitable.
Prospects for SMEs
Apart from getting the consumers’ opinion free, it also helps in the innovation process, even for upcoming entrepreneurs. For instance, if you want to go into milk production or mobile network service delivery, when you get online, you get to see the likes and dislikes of consumers and that becomes easier for you to develop a much better product. In Nigeria today, a larger percentage of new products fail. The real reason they fail is because they didn’t get adequate information before starting up. Small businesses need adequate information they can use to develop more successful products in the market. It has occurred to me that SMEs have been lagging behind in the area of feedback process. While working as a consultant, I discovered that small companies cannot afford paying for the surveys and they still need them for their marketing. You need a large number of respondents from a large number of consumers, for you to say this is representative of the consumers of your product. Many small companies can’t pay and that was my own personal experience.
Innovation and strategy
We started by trying to educate the people because we believe that education is everything. We created a content guideline on the site where people can get genuine, independent and comprehensive reviews. We try to tell them what to do and why they have to do it. We also try to tell consumers not to force consumers to patronise them, either by giving them incentives. This is because we want a balanced view about products and services. Besides that, we are also putting strict measures to check some abusive behaviours.
There is a flag once someone views a review. We have had over 6,000 reviews already and we keep getting more daily. If you feel that the review violates any of our policies, we investigate it and come up with a disclaimer on the true position. I give you a scenario. Someone once went on Facebook and complained that Jumia is owing him after a supply he did. Few days later, Jumia brought out a copy of a cheque issued to him. Today, the person now looks like a fool. One other thing is putting a confidence call on reviews. We also want to conduct physical surveys with real consumers. They also get to rate the products.
In other countries when they have very good products, they even have feedback hubs, let alone here where we have more low standard products and services. Feedback is what the Nigerian consumers desire from your products. When it comes to standards, our Feedback Hall is more on the social side. The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has technical standards for measuring products quality. We are more on the social side of the consumers. For instance, someone online said he likes a certain bank the most because of their cosy environment. If you ask the SON, it would say that customer service is about fast and efficient service delivery. We are more on what keeps your customers for you. We work with SON in the areas related. We want SON to be able to define what makes standard quality on all rounds. People should actually know what makes a good bank, a good phone, a good biscuit and the rest.
We encourage new entrepreneurs and small businesses on how to improve on their products and services. We have also employed about seven people and we keep trying to grow more small businesses and employ more too. We also encourage people on the need to embrace the information they can get on Feedback Hall that will develop their small businesses.