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If it sells elsewhere it might still not work for Africa

It is an exciting time if you are a solution provider to enterprises in Africa OR one of the IT guys implementing technology in Africa. I was in East Africa recently and travelled to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania to explore, as I went about I just kept on asking myself How Africa is looking at Customer Relationship Management?

During the trip I got a chance to meet a lot of Banks, Telecom Operators, Insurance Companies, Internet Service providers (ISPs), and Utility companies. It was pleasing to see a concentrated focus on Customers and CRM process overall. Given that the markets are opening up and Government is focussed on Quality and Inclusive growth, Africa is lucrative market for these Customer facing businesses. However, this also means that they have to face tough competition as the fight today is for Customer Acquisition. Unlike some of the other regions, African businesses have to adapt very fast to demands of Customer Service due to fierce competition from global enterprises.

A lot of large companies are implementing CRM systems, ERP systems and Helpdesk solutions but the traditional approach does not satisfy the needs of the market. Large vendors like SAP, Siebel, Microsoft Dynamics, Avaya, Cisco would not find it easy for two major reasons. The first is that needs are specific and budgets are tight. Secondly these large companies are relying purely on local partners competencies OR the lack of it.

This presents an opportunity for other players to go close to the customer, understand the pains and adapt a gain share model. Open source solutions like Asterisk, Sugarcrm (open source CRM), openERP (open source ERP) and etc, would find that these markets are hungry for knowledgeable consultants who can implement these systems.

Unfortunately the skill on open source solution is not easy to obtain and a lot of fly-by-night unreliable consultants have spoiled the market. This presents opportunities to solution providers like us to go to Africa and position our offerings to these Enterprises. A reliable, tailored and cost effective solution is what the African market needs.

My recent visit showed me some very interesting ideas in implementation of Helpdesk, IP Telephony, ACD, Predictive Dialer, IVR Self Service being discussed in some of the presentations. An example is if a customer is calling into the call center multiple times how do we make sure agent or Customer Service representative is able to know that beforehand. Another example is how do we make sure that service differentiators can be created example for postpaid vs prepaid or High ARPU vs Low ARPU customers. The Customer in Africa asks a question What is a CRM? or What is an ERP? and does not take the standard notions as accepted. This is relevant as well as important because they need solutions to real problems quickly before overhauling an entire process which might be expensive and unviable. Immediate reaction of the reader might be that this will be a quickfix but what if the business really needs a quickfix that can be moulded into a process rather than a process on which quickfixes can be applied later (which is what happens in other markets.

What is exciting is that such systems have not been implemented even in some of the tech savvy economies like India and Indonesia but for Africa these are not luxuries. These innovations are the only way for African businesses to be competitive.

Another interesting trend is excitement around domestic outsourcing. Models are already evolving on consolidating the process knowhow and scale to implement Customer Service, Self Service in an outsourcing model for call centers.

I have been privileged to be amidst this action as it is happening in Africa and all I have to say is Asante Afrika

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