We want low-income households in mid-western Uganda to sign-up for piped water service and pay their bills regularly so that the most vulnerable gain access to safer, cleaner, and more affordable water

WSUP (Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor)
Mid-Western Umbrella of Water and Sanitation (Uganda Ministry of Water & Environment)

Western Region, Uganda, including the towns of Kyenjojo, Nyahuka, Kasambya, Kayinja, and Kasenda

Opportunities to bring safer water to rural households

As the regional governmental authority for water and sanitation, the Mid-Western Umbrella (MWU) has recently made great strides in extending piped water into more rural communities around Fort Portal, Uganda.  However, as infrastructure has expanded and more households become eligible for taps at home, MWU recognized a number of barriers to uptake, especially amongst the lowest income and most vulnerable.  These included perceptions around the affordability of a once-off connection fees, concerns about the cost of ongoing usage, and a lack of trust in the reliability of the service.  WSUP, in support of MWU, requested 17 Triggers to dive into how these barriers could be overcome via a marketing kit to be rolled-out during a pilot to reach previously excluded segments.

Getting our boots wet

17 Triggers, together with a field team of MWU, spent two weeks conducting a marketing design sprint in the field engaging deeply with low-income households to map their current water user journeys. By also shadowing MWU agents/plumbers, the team likewise uncovered current approaches for and challenges in selling and servicing the piped water offering.

Rapid iteration to build a marketing campaign

Having built a deeper understanding of the value proposition of piped water and distribution/sales opportunities, the 17 Triggers team developed a variety of marketing concepts, moodboards, and framings.  By rapidly prototype testing these with the target audience, the strategy team refined a marketing approach, while the creative team built out a full set of marketing tools including branding, taglines, and characters. Ultimately, the team executed a print-ready marketing toolkit handed over to WSUP and MWU to enhance outreach to low-income households during a six-month pilot period.

Principles of the campaign

From our engagements with low-income and vulnerable households, we identified five key principles around which our campaign would be designed, namely that it must be: targeted to the most vulnerable while not isolating others, simple, transparent, visual and high-touch.

Driving New Connections: Reducing touchpoints and encouraging Water Savings Groups

Previously, the user journey to sign-up for piped water was filled with a number of unclear steps. By streamlining the marketing and enrollment of new users into a one-stop onboarding event, MWU can reduce customer confusion as well as frontline staff administration.  Likewise, while special installment pricing will be offered for connections to the most vulnerable, we wanted to make sure that others who don’t qualify still have a pathway to connection even if they can’t afford a 100,000 UGX once-off connection fee.  Thus we proposed that MWU guides community members to create Water Savings Groups that can pool savings and rotate installations amongst peers, mirroring traditional savings structures in the communities.

Facilitating Ongoing Usage: Service visits, take-home service guide and payment stickers

As a way to reduce customer pain points and a lack of trust in the service, we recommended weekly visits by service team members to new customers for the first three months.  During these visits, agents and customers sit together to review water meters, record usage in a take-home service guide, and answer any questions or resolve issues.  Likewise, rather than waiting to collect payments once a month, agents will issue bills weekly and help customers create a savings jar to set aside money for weekly payments.  Customers can unlock a new sticker with each weekly payment through which they can design their own rural homestead scene in the service guide. Through these nudges and simple incentives, the hope is that missed payments will decrease and customer satisfaction will increase.

Still underway, the pilot of this marketing plan for vulnerable households is rolling out in 4 locations with a goal of achieving 500 new piped water connections in 3 months.  Weekly meetings between MWU operations staff and local agents will track success and ensure ongoing iterations in the strategy.