Thinking of using IVR to engage a low-fi community? Here's 8 top takeaways from our IVR pilot in Nigeria…

Girls Connect, an Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) solution for adolescent girls in Nigeria, was piloted by Girl Effect Nigeria in 2016/17 and launched in 2018, in partnership with iSON Group, one of Africa’s largest IT companies. The purpose of Girl Connect was to provide adolescent girls in Nigeria a way to navigate the challenging issues they may face in their lives, by taking them on a journey starting with listening to engaging content, conversations with role models, and signposting (referrals) to additional information or third-party services.  The service offered girls a unique space in anonymity, where they could listen to ‘edutaining’ content focused on four key thematic areas: health, education, money management and safety,  that imparted key learnings relevant to their everyday lives.

So what did Girl Effect learn from the implementation of Girls Connect? And what would we recommend to other organisations using IVR services to communicate with people in similar contexts?

1. Design with and for your users. To ensure the most relatable service, always co-design with your target user; reflect their social reality and technographic profile, whilst also being wary of any potential negative consequences of using the service. When creating Girls Connect, girls were our expert advisory panel, to whom we consulted with at every stage of the programme design. 

2. Get continuous feedback from your users. Collaborating with your target audience does not just stop after content creation or brand development, make  sure you’re checking in with your users to understand the bottlenecks of their experience and learn how to improve it. Learn what motivates them to re-engage, and enhance the user journey based on this. Put the user at the heart of every decision made. 

3. View limitations as design challenges. We know that adolescent girls across parts of Nigeria have limited free time away from household obligations - therefore we designed content to be under 5 minutes. 

4. Reduce barriers to usage. We identified that adolescent girls across Nigeria have limited disposable income, therefore partnerships with Mobile Network Operators (MNO) were crucial to providing free and discounted airtime to access the service. We saw that callers who had access to these free (or discounted) minutes had greater levels of retention and longer average call duration. There will always be factors that prevent your audience from accessing your service, however  aim to see these as challenges that drive creative solutions. 

5. Less is more. There is the temptation to create the most advanced or technologically impressive solution, but often this is not what the users need. We found that adolescent girls in Nigeria struggled with an initial inclusion of unique user accounts (registration), designed to give them a more personalised experience. This registration was causing a bottleneck at the start of a flow, so we removed the registration process. We immediately saw increases in caller retention and engagement. 

6. Content on demand is key. We found that one-in-ten calls came into the service outside of the operating hours of 9am and 9pm. From conversations with our users,  we learned that girls often call late at night due to cheaper calling tariffs from their MNO, or would delay calling until they had completed household chores and homework. Therefore we decided to allow the IVR story content to be accessible 24/7, increasing our reach and allowing archived content to be consumed at the users convenience.

7. Develop for communal engagement. Develop an experience suitable for various forms of listening. Though Girls Connect had been designed with an individual caller in mind, an interesting insight from the evaluation revealed that users would engage with the service both on their own and also in groups using speakerphone. We learned that opportunities were missed for sparking group conversations, and would recommend adding conversation starters and discussion prompts following content. 

8. Use all of your data. IVR user data can show you so much about how users are engaging with your service, for example user duration, retention, engagement, and bottlenecks. This information, when triangulated with qualitative insights, is such a rich source of information about the successes and downfalls of your product. 

For further detail, download the white paper in full below.

Read more about Girls Connect featured in Time Magazine here.

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