By John Masiwe
I want to tell you a story about Jubilee Insurance (K) Ltd, Kiwi and Bata.
Let me start with Jubilee Insurance (K) Ltd. I am their client. On the morning of my birthday, I got a text message from them, wishing me a happy day. Of course you and I know that this is some sort of bulk sms system which they have automated. But it felt special and it communicated that they cared and most importantly, it communicated that they valued me as a customer and I am not simply a profit center for them.
My father sometimes worked night shifts. As little kids, we would really look forward to his return the next morning because he always carried gifts for us with him. I vividly recall playing football out in the warm morning sun while keeping an eye out for his appearance down the road. On his appearance, I would dash to welcome him and “assist” him to carry whatever goodies he had brought with him which always included that day’s newspaper. Now that I am all grown, the most vivid recollection I have is of him coming home with brand new shoes from Bata. Man, unpacking shoes from Bata was, and still is, a delight. The strongly branded polythene bag, then the box followed by the initial discomfort of the new shoes before they adjust to your feet is a happy delight.
Christmas was not Christmas without unpacking brand new shoes from Bata.
So for me these happy memories are intertwined with Bata shoes. The brand loyalty I have is strong. But unlike in the Jubilee Insurance case, there is no reciprocity from Bata. Apart from the annual sales promos meant for the masses, for which they benefit more than I, there is no way Bata demonstrates to me that they know I exist, that I am a valued customer. Sob.
But I am not blaming Bata entirely. They certainly have ensured I keep returning by doing what they do best: manufacturing attractive, durable, comfortable and affordable shoes including my beloved Hush Puppies. Maybe a means has not existed for them to reach out to me, their valued customer, and engage with me in a more personal way to show their appreciation for my years of being loyal.
There was a time that I took a hiatus from buying Bata shoes. In the nineties, the Kenyan economy tanked and suddenly it was not realistic to buy brand new shoes, particularly if you had many teenage kids. Enter Mitumba (second hand) shoes. So through high school I bought and enjoyed quality mitumba shoes. But I yearned to wear brand new quality shoes and when I landed my first job, I reconnected with Bata. For the past one decade, I must have bought several pairs for myself, friends and family.
Where am I going with all this? Be a little bit patient. Soon enough I will tie it all up neatly and you will see the point of it all. But before then, one last story.
One of my earliest bonding memories with my dad was of him shining his shoes in the evening in preparation for work the next day. I was 8 or 9 years old then. On noticing my interest, my dad would take the opportunity to teach me the correct process for shining shoes. First, brush off the dust or wipe off the mud with damp clothing. In rainy season, it was sometimes necessary to first scrape off the mud before wiping with a wet cloth. If wet, give 5 – 10 mins to dry but if not then immediately proceed to apply KIWI shoe polish using a dry shoe brush.
You can imagine my joy when at the young age of 9, he entrusted me with shining his shoes! I was super excited to be given grown up responsibilities and took to the task with zeal. And this is how I became sold to Kiwi shoe polish for it is the only brand my dad bought and used on his leather shoes.
Make no mistake. Back then there was a competing brand that my dad could have bought called Nugget. But he always bought Kiwi.
For me shoe shining and Kiwi do not merely represent clean shoes. To me it was and remains a dear childhood memory of bonding with my dad.
My family and close friends will tell you that I am fanatical about shining shoes. When I trace back this obsession, I remember the early days with the 3 of us: My Dad, Kiwi and I.
I have been a loyal Kiwi customer for over 30 years and all indications are that I will pass this on to my 2 kids. But maybe they might rebel and buy Golden Shine. It will be the end of an era!
Enter Customer Bora
Now to my point.
An exciting new IT Loyalty and Reward system has been launched. Customer Bora, to lift the definition off their website, is an SMS platform that uses the serial number on a products packaging to aggregate, recognize a customer for being loyal, responsible and consistent consumer of a specific brand over a period of time.
Bingo!! Now there’s a way that Bata, Kiwi customers and other brands whose stories I did not mention at the risk of this blog post becoming a novella, have a platform to engage with loyal customers like me. Detol. Colgate. Kensalt. Mumias Sugar. Tuzo Milk. Ketepa. Panga Soap. Nivea. All now have a way of engaging directly with loyal customers.
But wait. Customer Bora does more. For those who sign up, Customer Bora will arrange to collect the packaging of the product for environmentally friendly disposal; they take it to an arts gallery, Kuona Trust, where it is used to create art.
But that is not all! They say when it rains it pours. And so it is with this service by Juliani. Whether you are a big stalking fan like me of Juliani or just someone who follows the entertainment scene in Kenya, you know that he is big on philanthropy and giving back. It is therefore natural that there is a philanthropy angle to this new venture. Every art sold from the recycled garbage, the proceeds go to various charities.
Like the popular Kim Kardashian app that has lit a bonfire in the apps business, Customer Bora is founded by celebrity top gospel artiste, none other than Julani himself. What? Juliani writes code?! I knew you would ask that. Nope. Juliani does not write code and neither is he an app developer. All he had in his creative mind was an idea for this service and then he linked up with a team of developers from Nailab who built the product.
How does it work? Easy peasy. If you can hack using MPESA or Lipa-ing using a Paybill number, you will quickly get with it and start engaging with your favourite brands.
Register your full names via SMS to 21994 and each time you buy any branded product, you send an SMS of the products name, followed by # and the serial number or transaction number for a receipt to 21994. You can also register from their website, www.customerbora.com
So to give an example, the next time I, Mr. Kiwi and Bata man, buy any of their products, I simply send a text thus: Kiwi#12333333 (assuming this is the Serial Number) and then keep the package safely for collection.
You collect points from Customer Bora whenever you successfully complete a registration. You keep track of your progress by viewing reports on data you have submitted for the products that are active.
If you prefer to register online, you can visit their website and sign up. With an account, you can login regularly to keep track of points earned whenever you successfully register a product use.
Juliani is in talks with various firms to join the platform as partners, to use the platform to reward their loyal customers and help save the environment. Safaricom is one of the early partners he has on board given their chemistry with CEO Bob Collymore (remember Juliani once convinced Collymore to hang out in the inner cities and see firsthand how Safaricom products are used by the low income earners).
So go and register. Via SMS or through their website. Trust me, you will feel much better after getting into the programme and avoid writing long sob blog posts like this about unrequited brand love. I am not sure how Jubilee Insurance will interact with Customer Bora as it is a service and not a product with a barcode, but I am sure as more guys get on board, they will figure it out. In the meantime, Jubilee is not sitting waiting, they are using existing ubiquitous platforms to delight their loyal customers.
John Masiwe is passionate about how technology can solve human problems and create new ways to engage. He is always on the lookout for innovations that make life better. When not scouring the tech landscape for such innovations, he spends his days running Blue Gate Technologies Ltd, an IT Services company offering end-to-end ICT services and solutions to SMEs. Visit www.bluegate.co.ke for more details.