Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology

Tomiwo Ojo
Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology
Benard Gavana and Japheth Dibo, Dial Afrika Founders

Business owners may continue to preach endlessly about the solutions their services provide to customers, but the fact remains that the ultimate goal of every enterprise is to make profits. According to a study by Bain & Company, when businesses increase customer retention by 5%, it can increase their profits by 25-95%

However, many small to medium enterprises struggle to retain their clients even when their services are of premium quality because they lack the customer support tools to connect and respond to customer needs effectively. with these customers. Businesses build these connections on a foundation of constant communication with the customer to understand their experience and tailor the service to meet the specific needs of each customer. 

Africa has about 1.3 billion consumers right now and that population is projected to grow to about 1.7 billion by 2030. Naturally, the number of SMEs serving these consumers is also growing rapidly. This is where Dial Afrika comes in. 

Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology
Dial Afrika Founders L-Benard-Gavana, R-Japhet-Dibo

Founded by Benard Gavana and Japheth Dibo, Dial Afrika provides tools for African entrepreneurs to communicate with and retain their customers and grow their businesses.

What we’re trying to do is more than giving them tools to enable business owners to communicate with their customers, we also provide insight using data analysis through artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Related post: Exciting trends shaping customer support in 2023

Dial Afrika; The origin 

Ben and Japheth have been friends for about five years with diverse backgrounds in customer support. They aligned on their goal to passion to create solutions for African businesses, not only to increase customer satisfaction but also to provide insight and analysis on customer behaviour and help businesses grow. 

“We were both working in different startups back then, But then, for me, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in is just trying to understand how best you can, help businesses improve, how to retain their customers.”

But then I started with setting up customer support across all the different countries in which my company at the time was operating. I looked at the hardware we were using and the company needed $700,000 to be able to fully implement it. They had to bring many experts to the different countries that they were operating in to set it up for the staff on ground. 

So it got me thinking, why can’t we help businesses build this and why can’t we help these small brilliant businesses and these smart founders who’ve come up with different ideas to be able to basically have software that can support them and help them grow their businesses.

So that’s how we started building Dial Afrika.

Dial Afrika goes beyond communicating with the customer, it also allows businesses to understand the consumer better so that they can answer the most important customer-related questions in business. Is this consumer happy with the services and how can we improve this customer’s experience?

Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology
Bonga CX by Dial Afrika 

In East Africa, Bonga basically means ‘to communicate, so it is not surprising to see that the product of the Kenyan-based Dial Afrika is named thus. “Bonga CX is the software, the software we built that enables businesses to be able to communicate with their end consumers through multiple channels” the founders explain.  

The first channel is voice. With Bonga CX, businesses can call out or receive multiple calls from their customers. You could have up to 10,000 calls coming in and the software is stable enough to still support that kind of traffic.

But Bonga CX is more than a calling platform. In this age when many people prefer to communicate via texts and other social media platforms, the product allows businesses to interact with their customers across multiple channels using the same convenient platform. 

We live in a society where most businesses cater to consumers who are millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha, who basically want to reach you as a business through a channel that they feel more connected with. For instance, most of them want to reach you through WhatsApp, some of them would want to reach you through Instagram, etc. 

So what we’ve done with Bonga CX is to enable communication through social media and social app channels as well, which in turn now just ensures that you as a business have multiple ways you can be able to communicate with your users back and forth without really restricting them on a specified channel. 

So from the software, you, as a business owner, can monitor all customer communication, regardless of the means using one single interface. Social media, phone calls, WhatsApp, whatever means the customer wants to talk to you, you can access it on Bonga while getting the necessary data you need to be able to fully understand them. 

Bonga CX takes communication to another level by allowing businesses to integrate their own internal communication platforms on the same interface that allows connecting phone calls with messages from social apps. 

There are still other companies that have mobile apps or websites that allow customer interactions such as requests, etc. What Bonga allows you to do is to integrate these messages in such a way that if someone comes to your website, they can still reach you through the live chat functionalities on your website.

If someone comes to your mobile app as well, they’re able to raise tickets and interact with you directly from their mobile app and you can manage these messages with Bonga.

Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology
Incorporating AI into customer support. 

As the ultimate tool for customer satisfaction, Bonga uses artificial intelligence to help business owners retain customers by analysing the data made available by the customers and recommending actions that guarantee retention.  

At the end of the day, you don’t want to focus on only new acquisitions, but you want to focus on your bottom line, the service that made you a business in the first place.  This equates to figuring out how satisfied your customers are so that they will stay with you for a longer time thereby generating more revenue from them. 

One of Bonga CX’s selling points is how it has incorporated artificial intelligence into its product to not only automate communication processes but also provide analysis and recommendations. The AI, Nia, is specifically trained to read customers’ messages, analyse them, and pick out sentiments in real time to allow the business owners to make data-based decisions. 

In essence, business owners can determine which customer is happy, frustrated or speaking negatively about a service the business offers, etc. That way, business owners can prioritize a customer’s issue. For instance, businesses will know how to tailor their responses urgently to the needs of customers they have a higher probability of losing.

Predictive analysis can help businesses tailor special offers, advertisements, and campaigns to specific customers depending on their probability of retention. What’s more? NIA actually suggests specific actions for each customer to increase the business’ retention rate. Some of the recommended actions may include, sending a retention-based campaign, offering discounts, offers, etc.

So you’re able to help protect the customers you have so that as you’re growing as a business, you always, always keep focusing on new guys. While the products or services you offer are helping you protect those that you already have.

Exciting trends shaping customer support in 2023
DialAfrika team at the Nigerian Communications Commission event; Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content Expo (NTICE), Lagos Nigeria
Tailored for Africa 

Japheth and Ben point out that the African population is growing exponentially and there is a need to help the SMEs servicing this population grow and do better. While there are many CRM tools in the space, Dial Afrika has designed Bonga CX to serve the very price-sensitive African market. Dial Afrika has built its products to understand the African space and tailored its pricing to actually fit the African economics so it is relatively more affordable than the competition.  

Most of our competitors are international and they have one centralized global pricing. However, the economics in Europe are not the same as the economics in Africa so charging businesses on both continents, the same amount for the same product doesn’t necessarily make any kind of sense.

Product pricing is determined by how much is spent on expenses to bring these services to the customers. Most of what Dial Afrika spends on is cloud infrastructure thereby taking that responsibility away from the customer. There are also several discounts, trials, and offers that encourage customers to sign up. Even better, Dial Afrika implements PPP. Understand that Pay Parity Policy in subscription businesses refers to implementing pricing strategies that take into account the living standards or purchasing power of customers in different countries or regions. 

When we attempt to break into any new market, we do a lot of research. We try to get a lot of demand from that market, first securing at least three to five new customers and having a rich pipeline within that particular market so that we understand the different pricing dynamics while interviewing these customers and collecting a lot of feedback and then that also a coupled with would benefit drives how we are able to structure our price points really bit.

The Dial Afrika founders believe that a lot of businesses in Africa need Bonga CX, and the adoption rate has been largely positive since its launch in 2022. While the fair pricing has helped, many customers are also happy that the product makes it easy for customers to sign up, get on board, and use the data-generated insights to make business decisions. 

Also, business owners don’t need to really have technical expertise such as digital marketing to launch campaigns or data analysis to understand the product because its dashboard is user-friendly with comprehensive features you can integrate across different channels. On the contrary, if you’re using a different CRM, a different voice platform and a different ticketing platform, then you have to struggle and compile all of that data. 

This is why Bonga CX uses artificial intelligence to basically automate those processes so business owners do not have to deal with segmented data. 

The product is designed in such a way that business owners across multiple sectors can get the results that they need to improve customer support. Customers can easily customize the software to fit multiple industries. This means that it’s not solely built for businesses in one space. Insurance businesses, fintechs, and logistic services can all use the product to suit their specific needs. 

The beauty about that is although it cuts across multiple companies in different industries will have different operational matrixes. So businesses have the freedom to customize it further to fit internal operations. This is something that most of our competitors do not offer or they offer as an extra service for more money. 

Regardless of what you’re doing, you need to be able to support your customers, you need to be able to help them stay happy.

Dial Afrika; Redefining Customer Support for African Businesses using AI technology
Challenges for Dial Afrika 

One of the prominent challenges that Dial Afrika faces is the lack of education among its potential customers. So the team has to put a lot into educating its customers and potential ones about the benefits of ensuring adequate customer support using Bongo. 

In many cases, you see SMEs founded and shut down after a few years while the bigger, older companies that have been in that sector for a couple of decades still stay dominant regardless of whether their services are better or not.

Regarding this, the Dial Afrika founders explain that this is mostly because those bigger companies have operational metrics in place that these smaller companies do not yet have or do not even know that they need.

We constantly figure out how to train these business owners to understand that there are processes that they can put in place to make sure that they are as competitive as the foreign companies that are coming to set up shop in Africa as well. 

Also, finding the right team to constantly work on the product has been challenging for the founders. But they admit that this is a problem that all founders have. “As you grow as the team grows, it’s a matter of it’s always a matter of for the company to keep on growing, you always have to get the right talent in place.”

One of the biggest challenges that we always face is getting the type of engineers that we need.  Of course, there are a lot of quality engineers on the continent but to build some of the products that we have in mind, many engineers do not understand them or their knowledge is not as broad as we would like. So what we do to try and mitigate that is to bring on new interns that we try to train every three months and we retain some of them. That way, we impart the skills we need to the interns and the more people we train, the more people we can tap into and then we keep growing the engineering team. 

What next for Dial Afrika 

Dial Afrika has a team strength of over 50 people with offices in Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Customers who use the product are spread across multiple African countries but Japheth and Ben are not ready to rest of their laurels so far. The company is hoping to expand fully into Nigeria and other countries in West Africa, empower more women founders, train NIA to become even better at social listening, and raise a million dollars in the near future. 

We’re focusing mainly on East Africa and then also West Africa. So Nigeria is going to be some sort of Headquarters for the West African operations, to also help us push within this particular market because there are a lot of businesses that could leverage on what we’re building.

But then also, eventually we’re looking to tap into the Southern African market. We’re having conversations with a couple of other industry players who we can partner with for this particular market.

“We built this for the underdogs, for all these brilliant founders who have great products, great services, but they do not have access to these tools to help them grow their businesses.”

Currently, new customers can get a free trial for the first 14 days after they sign up but the founders explained that they are exploring making this trial period last longer for Women-owned SMEs 

We’re looking at basically working with different startups and also women-run startups, basically businesses that are funded by women such that they can then leverage on the software and basically they can use it for more than 14 days, even as they’re starting to build up their business.

Watch the full interview

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To learn more about DailafriKa reach out to [email protected], [email protected]; [email protected]

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