My brother and I never complain when our father’s Air France Frequent Flyer Platinum card can get us into the fancy lounge or let us (rarely) upgrade to business. I also take it for granted that I will get my medium latte for free every two weeks when I recharge my Peets coffee card. These are all schemes that companies use to keep their clients faithful. And they work!
Of course, it never occurred to Paul and me to suggest that Masomboly’s borrowers set up their own fidelity schemes. Mike Gannon, an intern who worked for us this summer in Madagascar, came up with this brilliant idea. He suggested that businesses, like the charcoal sellers, could really solidify their client base and even attract more buyers if they implemented such schemes. As he observed, the charcoal sellers already have an informal frequent buyer rewards program. They give a few extra pieces of charcoal to their favorite clients who come back often and know them. It is the same for individuals selling rice, topping off the cup a little more generously for their frequent customers.
The idea of formalizing this tradition that already exists between buyers and sellers is a brilliant idea. As Mike said, it’ll let the buyers know that they can count on a free extra charcoal bag every month if they stay faithful to that one seller. It also help the seller attract more clients.
This was one of Mike’s many suggestions that he provided to us as a result of his 3 week visit to evaluate Masomboly’s borrowers’ businesses. Some of his suggestions are more involved and would take time and experimentation to convince the borrowers to try out. But this suggestion was perfect in its simplicity and, particularly, because it just sought to formalize what the borrowers had already figured out would help their business.
OSI will shortly be posting on its website the report by Mike Gannon. It provides an excellent overview of the business environment in Ambalavao where Masomboly is in place.