Akonte Ekine, Chief Analyst BrandXchange, convener of the Consumers Value Awards tags the annual event an empirical Initiative with the consumers digitally determining where the pendulum swings. In this interview speaks with the media after the successful hosting of the second edition of the Consumers Value Awards. Excerpts
Congratulations on successfully hosting the second edition of the Consumers Value Awards. Can you share with us your initial vision when you first conceptualized these awards, and how you feel about reaching this milestone?
Thank you, the media should be commended for playing such a huge role in sharing the messages with the consumers.
The vision is to simply bring to the fore the consciousness of consumer rights and the need for service providers and manufacturers to uphold the simple promise made to bring to the market a certain approved standard that gives the customer that basic satisfaction for spending the hard-earned money.
The Consumers Value Awards have gained significant recognition over the past two years. What inspired you to create an awards platform that specifically focuses on consumer preferences and satisfaction?
We are on a journey, yes, we are gaining recognition but I like to be sincere on the word significant as we know that we are still struggling with even consumers understanding the message and the reason for being. It is one step at a time for us.
The inspiration comes out of the many disappointments with manufacturers and service providers in financial service, automobile and aviation sectors to mention a few. I have had a series of market disappointments that even when I tried to reach a government-established body to mediate it was a very poor response. As a result, I said maybe if we start calling our service providers and manufacturers through competitive voting of consumers, while at the same observing government regulatory agencies we might get these segments of market stakeholders to have a rethink in their journey to the market with products and services.
Can you highlight some of the key accomplishments and highlights of the second edition of the Consumers Value Awards? Were there any particular moments or winners that stood out for you?
Thank you, we got the attention of the Governor of Lagos State (Babajide Sanwo-Olu) and the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency. That is the very first time a state governor would be recognized as a champion of Consumer Rights based on what the government of the state has invested in the market in relation to Consumer satisfaction. Our hope is that other governors will find it important to establish state agencies like Lagos State. It was a great moment to see two permanent Sectaries of two different ministries (information and Strategy and Commerce, Industry and Investment).
Another high point is the recognition of Professor Umar Garba Danbatta the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Nigeria Communications Commission for the great job he is doing with Nigeria Communications Commission, I am sure all of us as consumers of Telecommunications service can attest to the fact that it is probably one of the responsible government institutions responding swiftly to consumer issues
Every moment was great and I can say that there are winners that made it even more colourful, like Glo winning two awards as Best Value Money ISP brand and Best Value for Money Telecommunications Brand. We have LeadWay Assurance and Leadway PFA, Oral-B won the Best Value for Money Toothpaste while Rights Food was a winner in 3 different categories showing the shift happening in the market.
It was a great moment all the way, with over 50 winners out of 300 brands that were nominated by the consumers, there is no better way to know that consumers are gradually taking the message.
The awards aim to recognize and celebrate businesses that prioritize customer satisfaction. How do you believe these awards contribute to improving the overall quality of products and services?
Yes, that’s one of the many aims of the awards; however, it is too early to say it is already influencing product quality. What I will say is that service providers and manufacturers knowing that such an award is in the country will send a simple signal to them to wake up. In the long run, we will get such but for now, we are concerned with ensuring that even consumers through the voting understand their rights and are able to own them against the backdrop of what we see daily from various service providers and product manufacturers. In the long run, it will surely do and that is one significant right of the consumer to contribute to every product development.
What criteria and processes are in place to ensure the fairness and transparency of the awards selection and voting process? How do you prevent bias or influence in the decision-making?
First, it is all about the consumer choices. So, from inception, the consumers nominate the brands to be voted for. All brands are nominated first as value-for-money brands then based on the nominations, we will do classifications into different categories and open the portal for voting. It is completely open to the public to monitor the votes. We have a system backup that ensures that you must input your email address and get OTP to complete your vote. You can only vote once with one email address. It is configured to prevent double voting and it is open to the public to see the voting as it happens.
In a rapidly evolving market, how do you see the role of the Consumers Value Awards evolving in the future? Are there any plans to expand or introduce new categories?
We do hope that service providers and manufacturers will appreciate this added value feedback we are providing without them paying for it as you will see in the result, there is a major shift in the carbonated industry with Bigi Cola’s win which is a call to another brand to wake up. So, one role is to enable service providers to see what is coming if it is not hitting them already and it is also important to say that beyond the brands, we want the government regulatory agencies to be more proactive in addressing consumer rights.
Again, it is all in the hands of the consumers to make that happen during the nomination stage, once we get a service recommendation we look into it, for instance, we already have a call to look at the sanitary pad brands among others and that we will do during nomination.
Can you share some insights into the feedback and reactions you’ve received from both businesses and consumers regarding the awards? How have they responded to the recognition?
The result says it all, there is a shift happening in the market and consumers are responding to services beyond the appearance of the product. There is a behavioural shit to product acceptance. Look at the toothpaste or Oral health category. The way Oral-B toothpaste came to lead the pack is amazing, Carbonated Drinks and multivitamin categories are good signs of the new market shifts that we will expect the brand owners to watch.
We saw the celebration of some of the winners, the attendance was great and it is growing in acceptance. We had less than two hundred nominations in the first edition and this edition, we got over three hundred brands in the 2023 edition, so we are making progress.
The Consumers Value Awards have the potential to influence consumer choices. How do you see this platform shaping consumer preferences and encouraging businesses to prioritize customer satisfaction in the years to come?
Yes, it does, and it is a process that will earn its reputation over time. For now, it is attempting to bring a movement into the consumer space that will invariably enable consumerism in the country to the extent that both consumers and manufacturers will have that natural bond that is expected in the marketplace.
We do look forward to a situation where the winners will wear the badge of honours on the product labels and then we can rightly say the acceptance is fully on autopilot.
Also, we are looking even at ethical business engagement which is another critical issue in the consumer rights space and you will notice businesses are not too comfortable talking about ethics and that is one thing that we would like to see happen in the manufacturing sector and electric power sector just for a start as the aviation sector is already acting on some consumer issue.
The bottom line is that the Consumers Value Awards is an empirical initiative that is in the hands of consumers. Consumers decide everything through voting.