Formalizing client feedback forces action

Musika is a non-profit organization working with private sector companies that serve the rural poor in Zambia. It provides technical advice, business model support and subsidies to its clients to reduce the initial risks of doing business with smallholder farmers.

Keystone Accountability worked with Musika to help it better understand its market and customers, increase client loyalty and promote a client-driven culture. It wanted to find out how clients view the business opportunity presented by smallholder farmers, the nature of the client experience with Musika and how well Musika responds to client feedback.

Email surveys included questions like ‘Are Musika’s services adapted to your needs?’ and ‘If Musika were not supporting your company, how likely is it that you would be working with smallholder farmers?’. Respondents had the opportunity to explain why they gave their scores. These written answers provided more context – for example;

“Musika has helped us reduce the cost of doing business.”

“Musika is very keen on supporting activities that support the improvement of farming within the small-scale farming sector, which is good, but of late efficiency has gone down and sometimes this delays other programs.”

Jonathan Mwewa Musika’s monitoring and evaluation manager said: “Getting feedback taught us that there are some things we assume clients understand because we have explained them once, like procurement and grant processes, but actually they are not that obvious and we need to keep explaining.”

The feedback process was endorsed by the managing director who ensured staff follow up with clients. Jonathan Mwewa said that leadership from the top made it easier for the feedback culture to trickle through to all levels in the organization.

Monthly feedback reports were shared with the whole team and every member was asked to pick an area to address. Musika team members often went back to their clients to discuss the feedback either by email, phone or face to face. They also organized regional focus group discussions to share the feedback received and enable clients to provide more information.

“Gathering feedback in this way will improve our impact because we are addressing client issues in a timely manner.” – Jonathan Mwewa, monitoring and evaluation manager, Musika.

Musika had been collecting client feedback in an ad-hoc way through conversations with clients before working with Keystone. So in some cases while staff may have been aware of an issue before, having survey data provides more insight.

Following the more formal feedback process staff reported that having this data “kind of forces us into action because somehow it [the issue supported with feedback data] is suddenly more ‘real’”. Having the data gives greater evidence and weight to a problem.

“Getting feedback from people on how you are doing is not an easy thing. You need a mind-set that is willing to learn and you need to adjust how you do business. You must be prepared, some of the feedback was really hard on us as an organization and as individuals.” – Jonathan Mwewa, monitoring and evaluation manager, Musika

Musika intends to keep asking clients for feedback – having included a question about whether clients valued the process in their last survey round. The organization believes that integrating client feedback into all its operations is vital and will improve how it supports organizations that work with smallholder farmers.

 

 

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