Setting up Our Engagement Team
One Acre Fund currently serves more than 130,000 farm families across rural Kenya. Because many of these farmers live in extremely remote areas that are difficult to reach, we need a quick and easy way to communicate, and make sure our clients remain satisfied. In 2012 we founded the customer engagement team to address this important need.
The team’s mission is to serve a bridge between farmers and One Acre Fund. The department has three hotline numbers, which farmers can call or send SMS messages to. The team receives an average of 100 calls per day from clients, with questions about everything from solar lights to funeral insurance. Sometimes, farmers call the hotline to talk about credit repayment, or to ask about crop-related issues. A lot of people call with positive feedback about the program!
How The Hotline is Used
When a farmer calls the hotline, the agents record the issue or complaint, and then arrange to follow up on the client’s concerns. Each case is followed up differently since the topics vary greatly. Each week, agents dedicate time to calling back farmers to update them on the progress made towards resolving their issue. The farmer is also contacted once the case is resolved to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome.
In 2012, the customer engagement team had only two agents handling all calls. Back then, the team would receive about 20 calls per day. Today, the customer engagement team has grown to eight staffers. The hotline has become more popular than ever, with agents receiving over 100 calls per day! Farmers have learned that they can call with any issue, however delicate it is, and that the team will work hard to solve any problems they have.
While the hotline is a way for One Acre Fund to troubleshoot customer service complaints, it also functions as a very useful feedback loop. For example, in 2013, the team reported that large numbers of clients from Nyanza province, Kenya were calling the hotline to report that weather patterns in the region had become more erratic. They suggested that One Acre Fund’s pre-established seed and fertilizer delivery dates were no longer ideal, as they were too close to the arrival of the rains (when farmers needed to be planting). Our agents were dispatched to confirm farmers’ concerns, which ultimately led to One Acre Fund moving the delivery of seed and fertilizer to Nyanza province up by one month.
The hotline also helps field staff— who are responsible for working with upwards of 100 farmers in person across large distances— keep tabs on what is happening in the areas they cover. When farmers call the hotline to report that they are experiencing problems, the customer engagement agents will contact the field officer who is in charge of that area, and recommend that she or he pay the farmers a visit. One time, a farmer called to report that his maize crops were not germinating well. The team immediately reached out to the field officer, who went to see the farmer. The field officer realized that the farmer’s field was waterlogged, and advised him to make terraces to drain the excess water. Later, the farmer called our hotline to thank us for sending the field officer who helped him get his maize crops into shape.
Besides identifying and resolving issues, the customer engagement hotline also serves as a repository for positive feedback. Every week, farmers from all over Kenya call and text to share their appreciation for One Acre Fund’s services. Farmers also share their satisfaction with the hotline itself—they like having a place to air their grievances and also share their success stories.
Receiving positive feedback from farmers is a huge morale boost, and provides the customer engagement team with personalized, anecdotal evidence of the program’s impact. For example, a farmer from a remote village in the western part of Kenya called simply to share his own success story. He explained how he had planted 2kg of bean seed, and harvested a whopping 62kg of beans. Thrilled with the biggest harvest of his life, he vowed never to leave One Acre Fund!
Individual success stories gleaned from our customer engagement line help add a personal touch to the impact statistics One Acre Fund monitors and reports on. The complaints and constructive feedback we receive from farmers are also integral to the organization’s decision-making process, helping us identify and troubleshoot issues as they arise.
The next big thing we’re working on to improve customer service? An interactive voice response system that will allow us to serve even more clients faster. As the organization continues to grow, we’ll keep striving to provide even better service to Kenya’s smallholder farmers.