Thursday, December 16, 2010

3 Ways To Build Brand Loyalty - Lessons From a Makola Woman

I want to share 3 business lessons that I've learned from Auntie Rosemund, a fabric seller in Makola Market.

1. It Pays To Be Nice
We needed to buy fabric for AfroChic. Adwoa (my business partner) suggested we ask Woodin to sell to us at the wholesale price since we were buying lots of fabric. As it turned out, Woodin only sells at the wholesale price if you're buying at least 100 pieces of fabric. (A piece = 4 yards or 6 yards). That was about double what we wanted to buy. 

So the Woodin shop in Osu referred us to two Woodin dealers in Makola. Both of them had left business cards at Woodin so they furnished us with business cards. Adwoa brought me the business cards and I set about trying to contact these women. I called the first number. The woman on the other end of the phone sounded almost abusive in demanding how many pieces I wanted to buy. I tried to set an appointment to go see her.She told me that they're there so when I'm ready I can come. She was almost shouting at me. Okay...

I called the second number.That number was for TROSEMUND ENT. The response was more friendly. warmer. The person at the other end asked when I wanted to come. I suggested a day, and she told me to call her when I get to Rawlings Park in Makola so that she'd send someone to come get me.

That's when the first unfriendly woman got eliminated from the list. It wasn't conscious. I didn't decide to not go to her shop,but when the day came to go fabric shopping, it was to TROSEMUND that I went. Who could blame me? I'm  human. I prefer to deal with people I like...not those who will bark at me.

TROSEMUND kept their promise and sent someone to walk me from Rawlings Park to their shop. After buying, Auntie Rosemund got someone to carry the fabric to the car for me. I was happy. I left their shop and would have forgotten all about them until my next purchase.

2. Follow Up With A Thank You Call
After about 3 weeks, I got a call from Auntie Rosemund! She had saved my number the first time I called. And was calling not to ask me when I would come and buy from her again...she called to find out how MY business was going. Wow! In a whole year of buying lots of fabric from lots of Makola women, this was the only time someone had followed up with us. I was impressed. It made me feel like an important customer.

Now I'm sure Auntie Rosemund does not call every single person who enters her shop. But  having spent over a 1000 cedis at her shop, she realized I was a customer worth keeping and she made me feel important.As she should. It took very little for her to do that but that small act set her apart from all the other fabric sellers. I was blown away. 

And the next time I'm going fabric shopping, guess who will be  at the top of my mind?

3. Give And You Shall Receive

When I got to her shop, I was hungry. So I told her I would be back. I wanted to find something to eat. I asked where I might find food. What did Auntie Rosemund do? She bought me lunch. Free. 
After I had eaten, I shopped. This time I didn't need to buy as many pieces of fabric as the first time. Yet I found myself trying to buy as much from her as possible. I even bought a few pieces of fabric for personal use. 

And now I can't wait for January when I'll again be buying lots of fabric for AfroChic. I can't wait to reward her for treating me like an important customer.

See, Ghanaians often complain about customer service because we think of how people made us feel or wasted our time or whatever. How about seeing it from her perspective. Because she was nice on the phone, because she followed up with me after my first visit, because she bought me lunch...think about how much more business I'm going to send her. 

Think about me putting her name on this blog and holding her up as the go to person for fabric in Makola. Her number is 024-443-8788. 

Auntie Rosemund set herself apart from the other fabric sellers in a business where the offerings are pretty much the same. The fabrics you'll find in one shop aren't that different from what's in the other shops. The prices are also about the same among the wholesale dealers. From the outside looking it, it would seem obvious that in such a business where there isn't much product or price  differentiation, you need to give your customers a reason to choose you. The reason can be your relationship with them. Relationships can make the difference between successful shops and those that struggle. 

Here's my advice for you.

If relationship-building is key for your business like in fabric-retail at Makola, then learn 3 tips from Auntie Rosemund. Number one, be friendly. Number two, follow up, and Three attend to your customers needs even if it means buying lunch for them. It seems obvious...yet remember that in a whole year of buying fabric, only Auntie Rosemund did it. 

It seems obvious. But are you nice to your customers? Do you call back the ones who give you big business to thank them? Have you ever done something nice for them as a way to build relationship? It seems obvious but I know I haven't done these things consistently. Last Saturday at AfroChic, we launched our Festive collection. There were customers who bought 10 clothes at once. Even if I can't call everyone who bought to thank them, I should call these big buyers. All the tips seem obvious, but if I hadn't written this blog post today, I wouldn't have acted on them.

I wish you the best with your I go to make some phone calls. I should take my own advice:)


  1. Beautiful piece, next time am in makola, i'll look her up.

  2. "I tried to set an appointment to go see her.She told me that they're there so when I'm ready I can come. She was almost shouting at me." haha, classic Ghana style customer service! I've never understood why most sellers in Gh act like it's customers who need them. Maybe it's a carryover from the import licence/kalabule era but it's so weird. My favorite is someone going to open a bank account, with a wad of cash in in hand, and having the bank officer tell her something like "oh if you won't do so and so then take your money away". Thumbs up for TRosemund and others like them showing the way.

  3. Well said. Customer service is often the reason I choose to shop or dine at certain places over others. Good luck with your business!

  4. Wow! The woman is streets ahead! I'm saving her number. Next time I'm in Ghana, I'll check her out.


  6. No word of a lie oh but the world is small! I used to buy cloth for dresses from the very same Auntie Rosemund. I still have on old blue Woodin leopard print dress sewn from cloth bought from her, a very kind, gracious and now I know astute woman. Thanks for the good life lessons post.

  7. Well guess what Auntie Rosemund....I will have to holla at you one time.

    Esi, let her know that her customer base is going to increase to one additional customer!

  8. Oh wow, you guys are totally rocking. I went to Auntie Rosemund's shop again today. I was hoping to buy some fabric I'd seen there 2 days ago. It's all gone! lol.

    You should check her out.

    And Thomas, talking about banks and customer service, watch out for my next blog post.
    Btw, passed by the Legon Calbank at ISH today. Saw Ivan Cronze. The guy's like a big man now o. Charle. I was quite pleased with the speed with which they completed the transaction.

  9. Oh Esi I'm so pleased to hear that our man Ivan is doing well and managing his branch better than most. I look forward to your next post about Gh banks :)