COMMENT | HENRY NJOROGE | There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Uganda in both an undesirable and positive way to some extent and this trend will continue– at least for the next couple of years.
The last few weeks have been uneventful for the larger part of private sector in Uganda, all because of the manifestation of the dark side of the pandemic that has left over 4.5 million global citizens dead and many businesses crippled.
Many shoppers were taken by surprise when Shoprite announced its exit from Uganda –closing its five stores. Just before the news could sink in, another major business in the telecom industry was delivering even more heart-breaking news to customers on its network, suppliers, the taxman and more.
While its obvious that many small businesses in Uganda have been disrupted by the wrath of COVID-19 its not very obvious to tell which midsized to large business are feeling the heat as much and when they will come out to follow those that are on their way out of the market.
To lose essential players and employers in the private sector is normally a great pain for a country like Uganda which enjoys a fairly good economic growth rate – compared to many other Sub-Saharan economies, a high youth population and growing regional market for its goods and services. The pain is even worse for the loyal customers of these exiting firms.
Losing a great source of supplies or services can be as bad as losing a great friend to another neighbourhood, country or heaven.
It takes time to sink in. It takes years to recover from the loss even when you know they can be a call a way. It’s therefore important for firms in the neighbourhood or same industry to do their best to comfort these customers by giving them a warm shoulder to lean on. And, without taking advantage of the situation. This can be to the advantage of both the customers and the business that takes on the challenge of filling the gap as the new service provider.
As a new service provider to the heartbroken customer, you need to put forward timely and worthwhile offer to the affected customers so that they embrace your service or products. For instance, Airtel Uganda has made it possible for customers who are at risk of not having a telecom service provider, to not acquire a mobile phone number that is close to their preferred number range – based on availability, but also offered the potential customers 50% bonus data on all weekly and monthly bundles purchased until the 15th of November 2021.
Customers who were previously served by another telecom now have the opportunity to choose between Airtel and any other remaining service provider in the telecom market that appeals to their communication needs.
Such initiatives demonstrate a brands willingness and commitment to walk the new journey with the affected customers and also help heal their service access pains. On the supermarket side, Carrefour has taken on the opportunity to serve the ex-Shoprite customers to ensure there’s no gap in delivering the goods and services they have been accustomed to over the years. It will be up to the customers to make the decision on whether to stay or go elsewhere.
It’s therefore important that these new customers are treated with some extra care and attention before they move to the next service provider. Extra care in this case would be things like new product discounts, better experiences, promotions which will motive them.
Getting customers of existing firms might even a walk in the park, the harder job to do, is keeping these customers happy and satisfied. It’s therefore important that any firm acquiring customers has a great strategy to keep the new customers happy and hooked until such a time when they start recommending others. The return on investment would certainly be valuable to the existing business and stakeholders.
The writer Henry Njoroge is the Director Marketing, Airtel Uganda.