Ebohon: There is Need to Address Household Concerns, Using Digital Technology

CEO, Wrkman, Mr. Tunde Ebohon, speaks about the need to address household concerns, using a digital platform that will connect customers to artisans in few minutes, while addressing the issue of trust. Emma Okonji who was there, presents the excerpts:  

As someone who understands the home service space, what is your view about engaging artisan through platforms like Wrkman?

Wrkman is platform that uses app to connect users to verified and reliable service providers like artisans within minutes. The app connects users to service providers at the point of their needs. What we did differently, is to change the dynamics by connecting directly to users and making sure that the connection is successful always. We are in a digital age where the needs of everyone can be addressed digitally without calling friends and neighbours to help call someone to fix some things at home or for car repairs. This is what Wrkman is set to address. 

As more people use the app, the more reviews the artisans are able to do, in order to understand their customers better. The platform is digitally connected to serve people better.

Aside artisans, we have merchants who sell spare parts and other items on the platform, and this will help people know the exact cost of goods and services.   

 What has been the feedback from users since the platform went live in Nigeria?

From the feedback we are getting, users of the app are excited to connect with people who need their services and people are happy to connect with artisans and merchants on the platform to address their needs. Most of them said it was easy using the app to locate artisans close to them to make some repairs on their faulty home appliances. Some also said they were aware that other platforms were doing something similar, but they told us that the Wrkman platform was different from others, because the platform showcases skilled artisans across all fields, which makes it easier to use the app as a one-stop-app where all domestic needs are met.

Tell us about the payment structure. Who receives payment from customers after a job has been successfully completed?

We made payment for goods and services free of charge in the first year that the app went live. We did that to test-run the platform but in September this year, we started charging all artisans and merchants 10 per cent of every successful job and for every sale made by merchants. Once a user requests for a service, someone from our customer service department will reach out to the user to discuss the process and connect the user to the closest artisan that is available at the time and when the deal has been concluded between the customer and the artisan, the customer then transfers money to a designated bank account controlled by Wrkman. Payment is made to the artisan after the customer is satisfied with the job. The same applies to customers who want to buy items from any of the listed merchants on the platform.

What are the criteria for on-boarding artisans and merchants on the platform and how do you manage the issue of trust between artisans and customers?

We recruited agents who go out to interact with artisans and merchants and get them registered if they meet our criteria for on-boarding. In registering them, we get full details of the artisans and merchants, including their home and workshop addresses. To answer the question of trust, I will say it is absolutely impossible to trust people, but what we do is to carry out background checks on all artisans and merchants before on-boarding them. We also put an eye on their activities and transactions with customers to ensure that customers get satisfaction for every transaction they have with artisans and merchants. So we have built Wrkman platform to fit into the lifestyles of customers. One thing we have done is to ensure that no artisan takes any property out of the house for repairs. All appliances are repaired in the customers’ house, but if the artisan have need to move the appliance out of the home of the customer, there has to be an agreement between the artisan and the customer and Wrkman will also be aware of such arrangement. We have obligation to call back an artisan if the same appliance that was repaired, developed fault few days after the initial repairs, and we do have a section on the app where customers can lodge complaints about job dissatisfaction and we take it up from there. Our customer service is always ready to take up any complaint and ensure customers’ satisfaction always.

How user friendly is the app and how technology savvy are the artisans and merchants that have been on-boarded on the app?

The Wrkman app is the easiest app to use, because it is customer-centric and easy to navigate. The first user interaction with the app comes pretty much simple, because we designed the app to meet customers’ needs, irrespective of the technology background of the user. Once a user logs into the app, the user finds varieties of options to choose from. The list of all the artisans and merchants are popped up as soon as the user opens the app, and this gives the user the choice to choose from the varieties of artisans and merchants that are registered on the platform. Nigerians do not want complications and they prefer to operate a simple app than a complicated app. With that in mind, we decided to come up with an app that is very easy to navigate and to search for artisans. We actually started three years ago, but we did not launch the app until 2021, and within that period, we kept updating the app based on the feedbacks we were getting. We were doing all of that to ensure that the app is easy for customers to use.

How long does it take the customer care department to handle dispute resolutions on the platform?

Handling of dispute resolutions is pretty fast on the platform because we treat customers as king. Someone had a personal experience in his house, when one of the fuses controlling the light in his house blew up and cut off electricity supply to his flat. He logged on to the app and was able to find an electrician who was available to fix it. The electrician came and fixed it, but after he left, there was general outage and the customer decided to use his generator, but discovered that the electrician had tampered with the switch-over box such that the generator could not supply electricity to the building. The customer lodged a complaint on the platform and the customer care staff quickly called the electrician to return to the house to fix the problem, and the electrician returned same day to the house to fix it at no extra charge. The electrician did not hesitate to return to the house to fix the problem because he knew there is a structure and a legacy he must live up to, as long as he remained a registered artisan on the platform.

There is a huge gap in the area of job creation in the country. Do you see Wrkman bridging that gap by creating employment for people?

The Wrkman platform has created lots of job opportunities for artisans, by exposing them to more customers who are in need of their services. I would have established Wrkman in the United Kingdom, but I chose to come to Nigeria to establish it, in order to create more jobs for Nigerians and at the same time, meet the needs of customers who need the services of artisans at one point in time or the other. From Our research, we discovered that the app has exposed many artisans to more customers. Before now, most of them get one job per week, but since they were on-boarded, they now receive more calls from our customer care executives, who link them to customers who need their services. So they do more jobs on the platform, and make more money on the platform.  

Do you see the present need for the kind of services that Wrkman is offering in Nigeria or is it a business for the future?

The need for the kind of services we offer is now and also in the future. Customers are pleased with the service, going by the feedbacks we receive. I have not seen anyone since inception, who has said Nigerians are not ready for our kind of services. Some have asked whether the platform will work in Nigeria and I told them it would work, since the need is there. We structured the platform in such a way that we have been very meticulous about our service offerings, because we want to serve Nigerians according to their needs. We have gone far and the stage we are now is about creating awareness about our services, because we are convinced that Nigerians need the services and that the platform will benefit as many that know about it and its service offerings.

What is the current number of users that have been registered on the platform, and how do you intend to create the awareness in order to register more people on the platform?

Currently we have registered16 thousands users on the platform in Lagos and Abuja alone. The number of artisans and merchants on the platform is also increasing and we are registering more people by the day. From our reviews, more artisans log on to the app to register their trade and they get upset if they cannot find their trade on the platform. So our artisan base is increasing, including our merchant base.          

So what is the expansion plan of Wrkman outside Lagos and Abuja?

Our expansion plan is ongoing but we are taking it gradually because we do not want to run faster than we can. Although we have registered 16 thousand users in Lagos and Abuja, but we still have lots of areas to cover in Lagos, because the market is huge. We plan to begin radio jingle in Abuja next week, and we are expanding though our social media handles. We will want to cover Lagos and Abuja fully, before expanding to other cities like Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Benin-City, Calabar, Kano and Kaduna.

What categories of artisans have been on-boarded on the Wrkman platform?

Some of the service providers/artisans we have currently on the app include Electricians, Plumbers, Air conditioner and Refrigerator repairs, including carpenters, painters, Auto-mechanics, Makeup artists, Photographers, Aluminum workers, barbers, Hairdressers and many more.

What motivated you into establishing the Wrkman platform in Nigeria?

I had a bitter experience when I was travelling by road to Benin-City some years ago. The car we were travelling in suddenly developed fault when we were getting close to Benin-City, and we could not find any auto-mechanic around to fix the car. We could not even make call to any mechanic even when we had our mobile phones with us, because we do not know them. We had to push the car into the city and started looking for a mechanic, until we were able to find one. Time was wasted looking for a mechanic to fix a simple challenge that the car developed. After that experience, I decided to come with the idea to develop an app where artisans could register and offer services to customers that can easily find them on the app.

Wrkman recently concluded a promo on the brand. Tell us more about the promo? Yes, we just concluded a promo, where we gave prizes to winners. The promo was meant to celebrate our 10,000-user mark, which we were able to achieve in just one year of operations. The promo is structured around giving back to our community of users in forms we think they would very much appreciate and would add value to their daily lives. The first prize winner got N500,000 cash, the first runner up got N300,000 cash, while the second runner up got N150,000 cash. Consolation prizes were also given to other winners.  

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