Improving Customer Service in a Nigerian Musical Instrument Company

Introduction

Nigerian consumers are reluctant to use online shopping carts for local purchases. The main reason for this is the fear of becoming victims of online fraud (Onaiwu & KPMG 2013). This means that any company in the country seeking to trade online has the uphill task of creating customer confidence before the successful deployment of shopping carts. An option in this regard is to use shopping carts as an online ordering system, and then to handle payments using mobile money. Mobile money is more reliable because it is possible to trace the owners of a local mobile money account, unlike online payment systems (Onaiwu & KPMG 2013).

Data Analysis Technique

The quantitative data collection method chosen to analyze the data collected was the induction method. Induction is an application to qualitative data analysis where the researcher studies the responses presented by the respondents to identify relationships in the data (Eriksson & Kovalainen, 2008). In some cases, researchers use coding to classify data sets into groups that carry similar themes. In this research project, the number of respondents was not very large to justify elaborate coding (Creswell, 2008). In any case, the researcher was open to limited coding in the interest of making the most sense out of the data collected.

The procedure for use in data analysis was as follows. The first step was reviewing the data collected to get an overall feel of its nature. This step helped the researcher to check the data for completeness. It is very important to ensure that data collected in quantitative research have all the elements needed to make useful conclusions.

The second step was identifying data segments that could be grouped. This was essential to allow the researcher to find the major themes arising from the data. For instance, the question asking about the favorite product bought by each respondent yielded a prioritized list of items. This made it possible to quantify some aspects of the research. This process yielded the pie charts showing the percentages of certain responses. The pie charts were developed using Microsoft Excel based on the number of mentions of certain items.

The third step was to analyze each question and to find the relevance and implications of the findings based on the research questions. The gist of deductive data analysis is that a researcher finds relationships between datasets in order to derive conclusions. This is very important because qualitative analysis focuses on relationships, and does not extend the occurrence of a phenomenon. This does not mean that qualitative research does not care about quantities. It only means that the finding quantity is not the main objective of quantitative research.

[Additional Research Question]

Is e-commerce a viable inclusion in the company’s customer service model?

Findings and Analysis

This section presents the findings and the analysis of the data collected from the respondents. The analysis is based on the four research questions guiding the project.

Visibility of Igno Merchandise Company

The first question dealt with how the respondents came into contact with the Igno Merchandise Company. The purpose of this question was to find out if there is any correlation between how people find the company and its current promotion efforts. The most common way of finding out about the Igno Merchandise Company was through friends. More than half of all respondents mentioned their friends as the link persons to the company. Other respondents said that they found out about the company through contact with its products, advertisements in mainstream media, and industry events. One respondent found the company randomly while driving.

Perceived Competitors

The researcher asked the respondents to list three Igno Merchandise Company competitors. From the frequency of mentions, it appears that Igno Merchandise Company’s strongest competitor is Fred Nature’s Company, followed by PSV Company and then Goodfellow Limited. The graph in Figure 1 below shows the companies recognized by the respondents as the Igno Merchandise Company competitors.

The Perceived Competitors of the Igno Merchandise Company.
Figure 1: The Perceived Competitors of the Igno Merchandise Company.

Attractiveness of the Company

The researcher asked the respondents what attracted them to the company. The objective of this question was to determine what competitive advantages the company had in relation to its competitors. In addition, this question was meant to find out whether customer care was a key consideration for the customers of the company. The respondents gave several reasons to explain their interest in buying products from the Igno Merchandise Company. The reasons the respondents gave varied. Some of them came to the company because they were happy with the company’s interaction with its customers. Some customers said that the layout of the stores is what attracted them. Others said that what attracted them to the company was the price of products relative to the prices offered by competitors. There was mention of the range of products offered by the company as well as the special offers given by the company.

Popular Products

When asked about the products bought from the company, the respondents gave the responses as shown in Figure 2 below. The most popular products sold by the Igno Merchandise Company were mixers, accounting for 25% of all the products the respondents mentioned. Megaphones and wireless microphones each accounted for 19% of the most popular products. One respondent mentioned the “public address system” as his/her most popular product. It is unclear what the respondent was referring to because a megaphone is also a public address system, just like a unit consisting of microphones, a mixer, and loudspeakers.

Popularity of Products Sold by the Igno Merchandise Company.
Figure 2: Popularity of Products Sold by the Igno Merchandise Company.

Sources of Competitive Advantage

The researcher inquired from the respondents what the company should do to stand out from its competitors. This question sought to establish the sources of competitive advantage that the company needed to leverage in line with the demands of the website. The main issue raised by the respondents was advertising. In this regard, many respondents felt that the company was not doing enough to advertise the products it had on sale.

The correlation between this view and the previous question that asked the respondents how they heard about the company confirms that the advertising efforts of the company are not reaching the intended consumers effectively. The specific ideas gleaned from the answers to this question on how to improve advertising include increasing the number of adverts, increasing the number of advertising media, and using offers and promotions to attract the attention of customers. Other issues raised that can increase the competitive advantage of the company were increasing product quality, improving service quality (though there is satisfaction with the current levels of services), and making the sales process more convenient for the customers.

Source of Credible Information

Credibility is the main ingredient of e-commerce. Clients try to establish the credibility of companies in the process of making purchasing decisions. In this respect, the researcher asked the respondents about the sources of information they find credible in order to determine the relative importance of the website. The two main avenues that consumers use to establish credibility were company websites and mainstream advertisements. Figure 3 below shows the sources of credible information by the proportion of mentions.

Sources of Credible Information.
Figure 3: Sources of Credible Information.

Online Shopping Habits

When the respondents were asked whether they shop online, an overwhelming majority answered in the negative. The ones who reported that they shop online do not shop on Nigerian websites. One of the elements that arose during the literature review was the potential importance of fitting the website with a shopping cart. In markets where e-commerce is mature, online shopping is taking root very fast. The reasons that they gave for not engaging in e-commerce ranged from security concerns to obliviousness. The following table summarises the responses.

Reasons why Nigerians do not Shop Online
1. Security Concerns (Online scams)
2. Unproven systems (Perceived poor reliability)
3. Obliviousness

Table 1: Reasons why Nigerians do not Shop Online.

Preferred Web Content

In order to find out the preferences of the clients regarding the content of the proposed website, the researcher asked the respondents to state the elements they would like to see on the website. The main elements mentioned by the respondents were as follows. First, the respondents would like to see information about the products available in the store. In context, this was thought to be a more convenient way of finding out what the company had in stock, as compared to physically going to the store. Secondly, the respondents wanted to see information about the company. Thirdly, the customers wanted to see a page with customer testimonials. The final item that the customers would like to see on the website is company contact information to enable them to get in touch with the company whenever the need arises.

Top Website Features

The researcher asked the respondents to indicate the features that they would like to see on the website. The respondents gave the list of features captured in Table 2.

Preferred Website Features
Information about the Company’s branch network
Ease of contacting the company
Ease of navigation
Quick loading website
FAQ Page
Mobile-friendliness

Table 2: List of Preferred Website Features.

The customers also mentioned ease of navigation. It is usually better to have an intuitive design, arranged in a logical manner for easy navigation. The customers also wanted the ability to contact the company easily. Finally, the respondents asked the company to consider listing all the store locations on their website because most people were only aware of their head office.

Analysis

Based on the findings presented in the section above, the following is the analysis of the research questions in light of the findings.

The first research question sought to establish the kind of services the customers wanted in the context of a website. From the responses collected, the customers want reliable services. This aspect came from the way the customers answered most questions. There was disquiet regarding the efforts the company puts in place to reach them. It is clear that the customer felt that the company was not doing enough to reach them. While they all seemed happy with their purchases, they wanted to hear more about the company. The presence of an “About Us” page on the website stands justified on the grounds that the customers asked the company to avail more information about itself. The customers also suggested that the company should include work harder to reach them through advertisements whenever they had offers and promotions. In addition, the customers wanted a quick way of browsing through the store before going there physically. This means that the website can be a useful tool for the company as an advertising avenue.

The second research question was concerned with the aspects of customer service that are the most important to customers. The issues the customers raised were varying. Part of the answer to this question is found in the reasons why the customers chose to buy products from the Igno Merchandise Company. While those who mentioned customer service as their main point of attraction were the majority, the company must ensure that all the business elements such as a range of products, shop floor design, and a promotional strategy resonate with the potential clients. This implication of this realization in the development of the website is that there is a need to use a very good graphic layout for the website. In addition, customers are likely to be satisfied with the website if the site has a wide range of products.

Secondly, the analysis revealed that the strongest method of marketing of the Igno Merchandise Company has been through word of mouth. The implication of this situation is that the company needs to think about developing a robust social media campaign to take advantage of this phenomenon. While the company’s promotion potential is in social media, it needs to maintain a broad-based approach to ensure that it makes contact will all potential clients in its reach. A broad-based strategy is what will guarantee future business for the company. Company websites play a very important role in establishing the credibility of products sold by the company. Consumers browse the official websites of the companies to find out what the company says about its own products before making buying decisions. However, potential customers also look at online reviews of the products from other customers in blogs, forums, and social media.

This amounts to electronic word of mouth (eWOM). eWOM is the virtual version of word-of-mouth advertising. In a previous question, the respondents said that they heard about the company through their friends. This shows that eWOM can also play an important role in marketing the company to new clients. This finding shows that an online presence, based on a website and supported by a social media strategy will help to market the company. The Implication of this finding on the web design project is that the website should encourage consumers to share information with others. Word of mouth works for the company, therefore there is good reason to think that eWOM will also work for the company. One of the ideas the company can pursue in its social media strategy is to establish product forums for its customers. The company has the choice of establishing a forum for the customers or collecting and posting testimonials from clients. Forums that are user-controlled tend to have higher credibility, but they also carry greater risks. On the other hand, company chosen testimonials may come off as self-praise and choreographed testimony.

The third research question dealt with the best way a website can work for the customers. The main theme underlying the responses given by the respondents was easy to access to services. The customers want easy access to information about the company and its products. The respondents spoke of the little awareness among the general public about the locations of the company’s stores across the country. What the customers were asking for was more convenience when dealing with the company. The elements they mentioned include listing all the branches of the company on the website, coming up with a quick means of communication, and more contact with the customers through adverts. The impact of this finding on the project is that it is sensible to list the most sought-after products on a slide show on the home page of the website. In terms of the actual content of the web pages, the sense the customers seemed to communicate is that there is very little corporate information about the company. More information would make it easy for them to identify with the company. These features resonate well with the issues unearthed in the literature review.

The specific issues tackled in the literature review section also arose in the features the customers wanted to include the need to have a mobile-friendly website. This arises from the fact that most internet connections in Nigeria are mobile-based. Secondly, the slow speeds require design choices that will support the quick loading of the website. The presence of a FAQ page was also tackled in the review. This confirms that a FAQ page is a desirable element of customer service. However, in the case of Igno Merchandise Company, the customers did not raise it as a matter of priority. This could have been because they were not asked in specific terms whether they wanted a FAQ page. At best, it is inconclusive as to the exact need for a FAQ page on the site. This feature was omitted from the design for this reason. On the issue of the store locations, a map, based on one of the free maps services can help to resolve this issue. Google maps are very robust, while Bing maps are also catching up. The site design should have a page with a map pinpointing the exact locations of the stores. In conclusion, the features that customers want to see on the site were based on ease of use, ease of navigation, quick loading speeds, and relevant content.

The fourth research question sought to determine whether e-commerce is viable for the company in the Nigerian context. The viability of e-commerce in the current business environment is not high. Out of all the people interviewed, the only ones who buy things online do it on non-Nigerian websites. The main reason they gave for this was that Nigerian websites are not reliable and there is a high incidence of fraud. The respondents gave little evidence to support the presence of robust e-commerce in Nigeria, especially based on first-time buyers.

Secondly, there are good grounds for not including an online shopping cart on the website at the moment, until online shoppers reach critical mass. However, there is more promise in the use of mobile money to facilitate online transactions. The website can act as an order placement system with payments being handled via the more reliable mobile phone network. The emergence of Mobile Money in Nigeria can help deal with the security concerns many people have when it comes to e-commerce. In addition, the company can put up a small-scale e-commerce platform to support early adopters. This system should be easy to operate, be secure, and should have minimal maintenance needs. Failure to have an e-commerce platform will be a strategic blunder because, in time, e-commerce will become a prominent feature of Nigerian commerce. What is not justified at the moment is heavy investment in such a system.

For purposes of strategy, it is not wise at this point to commit resources to e-commerce. The company needs to think about a small scale system that can handle small scale sales via the internet. At the same time, it is strategically improper to ignore the potential. This means that the company must find an innovative model that will require fewer resources to set up an e-commerce platform. This will make it possible for the company to cash in on the early adopters when the Nigerian market starts accepting e-commerce. The customers who do not buy goods online mainly cited cyber security and a perceived lack of reliability when it comes to Nigerian websites. This means that if there was an e-commerce system that was reliable, the customers may consider buying goods online.

The main issues arising from this inquiry are as follows. First, Igno Merchandise Company customers want reliable services. This deduction arises from the responses to the questions regarding their comfort levels with e-commerce, their response to how they found the company, and the features they want to see on the company’s website. Another that arises from the analysis is the need to notify customers whenever there are promotions and offers. The customers are essentially looking for the best prices when they shop.

In conclusion, this section has made it possible to validate earlier design choices made after the literature review and has also ensured that customer priorities form part of the final design of the company’s website. The following section will explore the features of the website arising from the design issues proposed above.

Website Design

The analysis presented in the section above formed the basis for the design of the website as shown below. The tool used to design the website is an online web editor available at www.wix.com. This tool allows users to develop websites using templates and graphics rather than using programming languages. The advantage of such tools is that they do not require someone to learn a programming language before building a website. The website designed for Igno Merchandise Company has five main pages. These are the Home page, About Us page, Products page, Stores page, and a Contact Us page.

The Home Page

The Home page has a slideshow featuring three images of the most popular products. The research showed that the top three products sold by the company are mixers, wireless microphones, and megaphones. This informed the decision to include the three products in the slide show. Each of the photos is hyperlinked to the product page, on the section that shows the full range of products within the representative category. For example, clicking on the mixer as shown in Figure 4 below takes you to the page that has the complete range of mixers in the stores.

Screenshot Showing One of the Photos in the Homepage Slideshow.
Figure 4: Screenshot Showing One of the Photos in the Homepage Slideshow.

About Us Page

Research showed that customers would like to know more about the company. In response, the website design features an About Us page made to enlighten customers and other stakeholders about the history and operations of the company. About us pages serve a very important function in many websites. It shows openness about the company, and it helps external parties to gauge what the company thinks about itself. The page also contains the vision and mission statements of the company. Figure 5 below shows a screenshot of the “About Us Page”.

About Us Page of the Igno Merchandise Company.
Figure 5: About Us Page of the Igno Merchandise Company.

Products Page

The Products page is the major page on the website. This page will require regular updates to reflect changes in prices and availability of stock. On this page, all the products listed have a product description that allows customers to peruse the features of all the products in the range. The inclusion of the description and pricing is in direct response to the demands made by customers in the research phase. Figure 6 below shows a screenshot of the Products page.

Products Page.
Figure 6: Products Page.

Contact Us Page

The Contact Us page gives the customers several options regarding how to get in touch with the company. This page has a form that customers can fill out if they want the company to send them information. It works like the email system discussed in the literature review section. The page also has the physical address of the headquarters as well as the phone number of the company that enables them to call whenever they need information. These features appear as seen in Figure 7 below. This page still requires social media integration and the addition of a chat facility for instant communication. These two aspects should come into play when the company is ready and willing to commit resources to manage the two services fully.

The Contact Us page.
Figure 7: The Contact Us page.

In addition to the contacts, the page also contains a physical map showing the physical location of the company’s headquarters. This will make it easy for clients who want to visit the store to find it.

Stores Page

The Stores page was developed to answer the concerns about the lack of information regarding the stores of the company in other parts of the country. This page will have a list of all the locations as well as their contacts to make it easy for customers to access the Igno Merchandise Company outlets.

Evaluation

The main achievement of this project was the development of a website that answers consumer needs and meets the business objectives of the Igno Merchandise Company. The entire project was developed as a means of improving the level of customer service provided by the company. The website will now answer the needs of the clients as unearthed during the research phase.

The second achievement of the project was the discovery and clarification of the company’s sources of competitive advantage. The company now has a clear idea regarding customer expectations and what constitutes its sources of competitive advantage. The research was not geared towards analyzing the business environment. Therefore, there is a need for more research into the competitive climate of the business.

The web design phase did not include social media integration and it also did not include e-commerce options for the company. Social media integration is not just a design issue. It requires the careful development of a strategy to counter the risks that come with a social media presence. In addition, it needs full-time monitoring and management to take full advantage of the opportunities availed by social media. The company did not indicate whether it was ready to make this investment. On e-commerce, there is a need to carry out further studies to find low-cost, or no-cost options that can position the company for e-commerce without unnecessary administrative costs. e-commerce is almost absent in Nigeria but can become a force to reckon with at any time given the increasing uptake of the internet. It is strategically sound to develop the capabilities before e-commerce takes off in Nigeria.

The management of the company was very happy about the insights the whole project gave them in relation to the position of the company. However, they were reluctant to take up the site developed as part of the project citing the need for further thought into the issues raised in order to develop a more effective website. They also mentioned that the site was too basic in terms of graphic layout. They felt that in general, the information provided to them through this project was invaluable, but the website component required a professional touch to ensure that they got it right. The management will use the site as the basis for discussions with a professional web developer to decide on the next step.

Conclusion

The objective of this work has been to investigate which aspect of customer service can be delivered by Igno Merchandise Company through an interactive website. The research carried out showed that customers essentially seek reliable services, ease of access to the services, and a notification whenever there are special offers in place. The project shows that a website can help to deliver these aspects of customer service. In addition, a website gives a company many choices such as social media integration, e-commerce options, and an extra avenue for running promotions. The web design component of the project illustrated the ease of designing a website that can respond to consumer needs.

The main limitation associated with this work is that the research was done on a subject that is very evolutionary. Before applying its conclusions to any other business, it is important to check the work for context as time moves on because of the rapid changes associated with the internet.

The researcher predicts that e-commerce will become an important part of the Nigerian economy based on current internet uptake trends. There is good reason for companies in the country to position their businesses in readiness for e-commerce. However, heavy investment in e-commerce platforms is not advisable at the moment. Companies should only aim for presence, not dominance.

Reference List

Creswell, J 2008, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 3rd edn, Sage, London.

Eriksson, P & Kovalainen, A 2008, Qualitative Methods in Business Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Onaiwu, E & KPMG 2013, Mobile Money in Nigeria: Identification and Security, Web.