A Big Question

Over the coming month we hope to address the following question in our new and existing sites: How can we increase customer retention to create regular customers who use chlorine for water treatment every day and return each month to buy more chlorine ?

First, let me clarify that this isn’t a new question for Kouzin Dlo. In many ways posing this question is going back to day one of designing Community Chlorinators. This has been a central goal of our business.

Kouzin Dlo is dedicated to delivering low-cost, effective technology to increase access to clean water while providing economic opportunities to women to generate income as small entrepreneurs in Haiti.

We designed our existing business model to try and address this question. Now that it’s on the ground and functioning, we have been able to see that this is exactly the challenge we expected it would be. Now, we have to ask how our business can be improved to reach this goal given a better understanding of the context, input from our Haitian staff and feedback from existing customers.

Although many customers thank the entrepreneurs and managers for bringing a new, effective and good tasting product to treat water, they aren’t returning to buy. According to our entrepreneurs and managers many its because of financial reasons.Customers claim they cannot buy another bottle because they don’t have 50 goudes (about 1 dollar). In some ways, I wish we had gotten other critiques or feedback. Household cash flow isn’t something we can fix and we are unable to lower the price while maintaining profit for our entrepreneurs.

In a meeting this week, Kouzin Dlo managers, Carline and Josette, from our two first sites, proposed a solution to the slowing sales and growing frustration amongst entrepreneurs seen in both communities - increase market coverage of the product by allowing entrepreneurs to sell around Cite Soleil outside of their immediate communities. This will in turn improve publicity of the product and reach more new customers. Over time, greater coverage will lead to more return customers as the product establishes itself as a common household good. My concern...this just creates more one time customers and not enough regular customers who are consistently protecting themselves from waterborne diseases.

Tuesday I’ll be sitting down with Carline and Josette again to work over the logistics of this idea and potentially pilot this week with a couple women before shifting over. Both Josette and Carline have shown incredible dedication to their work with Kouzin Dlo through launching a constantly developing business, improving marketing and now problem solving the road forward. Haitian Creole has a phrase tèt kole which literally means heads stuck together but signifies putting your heads together in collaboration and working together to attack a problem. So glad to experience this with my managers on a daily basis.

About the author:
Jessica Laporte

Jess graduated in May of 2014 from Tufts University with a degree in International Relations and a concentration in Global Health, Nutrition and the Environment. One month later she was in Haiti launching Community Chlorinators (Kouzin Dlo), as the Co-Founder of the Archimedes Project's first clean water social enterprise. Jess is passionate about social entrepreneurship as a mechanism to allow communities to meet their own needs in an aid dependent society. 

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