Lessons learned from ADC implementations

This post is written by Debbie Watkins, SBI Resident Adviser for the bKash project in Bangladesh. This is part of her ongoing series on “The Goal.”

As discussed in my first article, many implementations of ADC worldwide have failed to deliver. As a lot of these have been launched by commercial businesses rather than NGOs or foundations, they have been somewhat reticent to share their mistakes with others – which is a shame, as no one is perfect and if new projects could learn from what has gone before it would only be of benefit to the people we’re trying to serve.

Lessons Learned by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr

However, a few on-the-ground contacts in various locations have been willing to share some of the real-world “lessons learned,” a selection of which are illustrated below.

Selling to the wrong people: A lot of time, effort and money was spent promoting a money transfer service to garment factories with the aim of recruiting their workers – who send money home on a regular basis. In the country concerned, though, the decision maker in the family was not the young, typically female worker but the father at the receiving end – who also dictated the money transfer channel she should use. No one spent any time talking to him!

Relying on securing partnerships that don’t benefit the partner: MFI field staff were identified by this company as “the perfect customer sign-up resource” – however, the pitch to the MFIs was centred around paying the field staff a commission for each signup. The MFIs rejected this as it would distract their paid staff from their paid role, and the company instead suggested that the MFI would be paid the commission instead – which would result in more work for the field staff and no ongoing benefit for the MFI after the initial commission. The offer was declined, with the exception of one MFI – who subsequently made a trading loss that year for the first time in its history and decided to suspend the arrangement.

Assuming a new product will work because you lead the market with other products: This market-dominant telco launched an agent-based bill payment service which enabled its users to pay household bills, in cash over-the-counter, at any of its airtime sellers.  However, the typical customer didn’t trust the typical agent enough to pay for something in cash without being able to immediately verify receipt of their purchase – and the SMS message they received wasn’t enough to convince them that their bill had actually been paid to the utility company.

Advertising that confuses the customer: Expensive and beautifully-designed billboard advertisements talked about having a “bank in your pocket” – and confused customers who did not understand what the product was or how it could be used. The choice of images and people in the ads looked great, but also portrayed mobile money as a premium service for high-end users.  (Point to note here: most ad agencies are more concerned with designing beautiful ads that get THEM more clients than they are with designing relevant ads that get YOU more clients).

The key message behind these and many other mistakes made by previous ADC implementers goes back to my previous articles – the value add equation and getting inside the customer’s headand can be summed up as “assumption is a dangerous thing.”

Assumption making is egocentric. Assuming people will think or behave the way you do and designing a whole business on that basis could probably be described as uber-egocentric. Avoiding “obvious” mistakes (those ones that you kick yourself for later and end up in an article called “lessons learned”) requires a sociocentric approach to permeate all levels of your business. To be discussed in my next posting!


One thought on “Lessons learned from ADC implementations

  1. This is really excellent and it just shows how hard it is to get it right and sometimes it is as much luck as judgement. One can do plenty of market research – and while it is certain that often this is completely underestimated – one can still get it wrong and ask the wrong question or the wrong person. So assuming that one makes mistakes, the question must be how to set up systems so that one can identify them quickly and recover quickly.

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