A+ A A-
How does business deal with government’s GV monster?

Just when you think things can’t get any worse they always do. The challenge for business is to soften the blow. That challenge has never been greater.

Government has screwed up big time. It’s been spending beyond its means and has failed to build a more self-reliant economy.


As a result, our currency is weak. Petrol prices are through the roof. In reaction to external pressures our interest rates are hiked, driving up bond repayments.


The mugging of the consumer then continues via e-tolling, rising inflation and higher food bills.


The consumer’s plight is ignored by politicians. Meanwhile, consumers are soured by every revelation about Nkandla, government waste, irregular expenditure and breath-taking lack of service delivery.


Government, like Frankenstein, has found it takes time, but it is possible to create a monster. In government’s case they’ve called into being the GV or gatvol consumer.


Many GV consumers are broke or have minuscule disposable income. It’s monstrous what they have to put up with. They’re losing patience. They’re angry and confused.


These are the people the private sector has to deal with when they walk into stores and businesses. They’re in no mood to be messed around. They are fit to explode.


Business has to defuse the situation and somehow make a profit from an embittered, exploited population.


The only way is through service that says ‘We’re not government; we’re here to help you, not fleece you’.


A good way to start is to return to basics. Improve service so consumers answer ‘Yes, yes, yes’ when they ask fundamental shopper questions like…

  • did I get good value or do I feel ripped off?
  • was everything done right first time with superior levels of quality?
  • am I treated with respect and courtesy and do I receive superior and responsive service?
  • are they available when I need them?
  • have they have hired the most competent people to help me?
  • do they listen to me or are they only interested in their own goals with no interest in mine?
  • do I feel physically and emotionally safe in the places I spend money?
  • is their communication with me accurate, relevant and personal?
  • is the operational environment free of risk, doubt and poor ethical behaviour?


The questions are based on the ServQual Model developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry to define the characteristics customers look for in a relationship with business.


The GV consumer doesn’t answer ‘Yes’ to many of these questions during interaction with official departments. This creates opportunities for private sector businesses to stand out.


Make a friend and supporter of GV consumers and you’ll find they’re not monsters after all. They could be the making of your business.


In so many ways, government might be failing. That doesn’t mean your business has to.

Published in Customer Service
If you think customers were fussy in 2013, wait until you see what’s coming in 2014!

Ask people about the state of customer service, and there is a good chance that they will be able to tell you about at least five stories of terrible experiences – and not many positive ones. In a recent survey of more than 400 South African customers, 72% said that they had experienced rage with a business at least once in the last 4 months. Anyone who has tried to solve a problem with a bank, airline booking, or mobile phone service provider recently will know what this sense of powerlessness feels like.


The horrendous state of customer care is not particularly new to most readers. What is new is the fact that companies are going to pay a higher price for not taking care of customers, because rebellious customers become more able and willing to take action. The most important issue for our generation is not humility or frugality, but trust. We feel betrayed by governments and businesses, (as well as many other organisations,) and the trust is gone. What’s made it worse for companies is that customers find ever-easier ways to deal with competitors, to identify and expose the “lies” and “fraud” committed against them by companies trying to separate them from their hard-earned money. There will doubtless be more WikiLeaks and HelloPeter.com, (18 million hits every month, making it SA’s most popular website,) that expose companies’ worst practices, and we also have no doubt that customers will take action against any business that is vaguely unethical, greedy or abusive.


But the damage that customers do goes way beyond bad-mouthing a company and affecting its reputation, (in the social media and everywhere else.) Withdrawal of business, taking legal action, contacting consumer bodies and media, abuse of staff and property, and not paying accounts are some of the other negative consequences. And all this in an environment where comparisons are happening in real time, and customers demand better prices through decreased cost and waste.


What customer care trends do we think will happen in 2014? Even more importantly, how can a business avoid the pitfalls of poor customer management? Here are our thoughts:


For many years companies have employed “brand police” in senior executive positions to ensure that the company image is clearly defined and communicated. More and more companies will hire senior “customer police” who are obsessed with ensuring that customers are treated right. As author Chris Anderson put it, “A company’s brand is not what the company says it is, but what the customer says it is on Google… The ants have megaphones now.” Early on, amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so that company executives and managers would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that role is played by specially trained employees, and when they frown, executives tremble. As the power of traditional marketing and promotion activity fails even more, companies will need to focus on giving customer better experiences.

Subscribe content preview

To continue reading: Log-In above or Subscribe now.

Want the full story?

The SA Leader Magazine Cover


Get The SA Leader  the way you want it

  • One Year Digital Subscription - R320
  • 10 Issues Print Subscription - R580
  • One Year All Access - Just R900  Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only content on SALeader.co.za

If you are already a subscriber, please Log-In using the Log-In button found on the top right of the site!

click here
Published in Customer Service
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 12:25

The web chat comeback, with more benefits for business

The web chat comeback, with more benefits for business

Web chat, a tool before its time in the 90s, is making a comeback, now offering contact centres a useful alternative channel with a broad range of functionality, says Karl Reed, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at Elingo.


When web chat emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s, it did not see mainstream uptake, mainly because the market was not ready for it. Internet users were not well-versed in the benefits of instant messaging, and businesses had yet to embrace the concept of multi-channel customer communications.


But times have changed, and businesses around the world are starting to see new value in web chat as a customer service platform. While contact centres may be the first to revive web chat as a channel, we are also seeing interest in it from individual business departments such as finance and accounts, as a means to interact with customers, as well as from businesses adopting web chat as a tool for internal communications and training.


Because web chat is presented as a real time chat forum, it lends itself to immediate resolution of queries and problems. And because the customer may take some time to respond or to act on a recommendation from the agent during the interaction, the agent is able to manage multiple customer interactions simultaneously – unlike with a voice call. Depending on the agent’s capacity to multitask and text quickly, this could mean an agent is now able to manage up to four interactions simultaneously, enhancing cost effectiveness and efficiency in the contact centre.


Web chat is text based, and allows for very clear communications, with little chance of a misunderstanding. It also lends itself to easy storage and analysis of the interaction, and it is possible to automate the mailing of a copy of the interaction to the customer. In the case of a complex query where an agent guided a customer through the steps of a process for example, this means the customer can refer to the record of the interaction in future, and does not have to call the contact centre again.


A particularly useful component of web chat is the ability for the agent to co-browse with the customer.  Without any security risks, agents are able to view on their screen what the customer is seeing, and so can direct the customer through the steps needed to solve his problem.  In cases of customers who are not tech literate, this could extend so far as to allowing the agent to complete forms, push links to them or step in to resolve browser problems for them. The potential applications for co-browsing in web chats extend to demonstrations, training and the sharing of visual material.


With advanced contact centres constantly looking to expand their channels, control costs and improve the customer experience, web chat presents a highly useful and cost-effective additional channel, with a rapid return on investment. As with all technologies, it may not be suited for every business or department, and depends on a company having a well-designed web site at the outset.

But in contact centres equipped to manage texts and other channels, with a suitable website in place, web chat functionality can be rolled out in under a month and show benefits almost immediately.

Importantly, it adds one more way for businesses to interact with customers immediately, on any device customers choose. If web chat is implemented well, integrated into the overall contact centre systems, and interactions via web chat are kept personal – avoiding scripted responses – web chat can contribute significantly to the overall customer experience.

Published in Online
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:31

Boosting Your Return On Your Human Capital investment

Boosting Your Return On Your Human Capital investment

Given that the sole differentiator for most companies today is customer service, staff must be any organisation’s most important asset and ‘employee engagement’ the most critical term today’s CEOs need to get to grips with.


This is the opinion of Talk2Us director and founder, Linda Hamman.

Subscribe content preview

To continue reading: Log-In above or Subscribe now.

Want the full story?

The SA Leader Magazine Cover


Get The SA Leader  the way you want it

  • One Year Digital Subscription - R320
  • 10 Issues Print Subscription - R580
  • One Year All Access - Just R900  Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only content on SALeader.co.za

If you are already a subscriber, please Log-In using the Log-In button found on the top right of the site!

click here
South African banking in crisis - but you know that already

Banking is in crisis. No, I don’t mean bonus scandals, gambling with other people’s money, rate fixing, product mis-selling and evidence shredding. I mean scandalous disregard of customers, over-charging and take-it-or-leave-it service that only an entrenched cartel could possibly get away with.


For everyday banking scandals like this you don’t need to go to New York or London. Any branch of the big banks here in South Africa will do.

Published in Banking
A new kind of customer engagement: smart connected interactions

The rise of smart devices and a focus on customer loyalty has created the proverbial "perfect storm" for enterprises that want to reinvent the customer experience around smartphones and tablets. These devices can help solve some of the challenges that have plagued the contact centre industry for more than 30 years. For example, caller identity, intent, and call context (what the customer tried immediately before calling) can be easily and passively established before a call begins. Caller expectations can be better managed, and enterprises can smooth the arrival rate of calls with intelligent, resource aware call-back.

Published in Networking
Monday, 08 July 2013 11:33

Six steps to handling customer complaints

Six steps to handling customer complaints

Unhappy customers are bad news for any restaurant, and it only takes one of them to shatter the ambience of a restaurant and to steer many more prospective customers away from you.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:00

Winning at social media is a team effort

Winning at social media is a team effort

As the evolution of social media marches on and more companies adopt it as a mainstream business tool, it is becoming clear that social media can no longer only be relegated to the marketing department, but requires a cohesive approach if it is to be effective and impactful. As companies scale up their use of social media on coming years, key areas where business leaders should take note include:


The leadership in any organization sets the tone for the company and should play a key role in how they communicate with the world. Executives can share insights on the direction the company is taking, but also draw in feedback and insight from employees as well as customers and suppliers. The great advantage with social media is that it allows this to be done more directly and speedily, both internally and externally.


Security is a key concern, the 2012 Norton Cybercrime report claims that 44% of users aren't aware that security solutions for mobile devices exist, and 40% social network users have fallen victim to cybercrime on social networking platforms. Such realities leave a company's Intellectual property vulnerable to attack and IT departments will have to take the lead in protecting companies from social networking related cybercrime.


The 24/7 nature of social media means that your workers are busy on social media during their leisure time, but also when they are on their desks. It is important to understand how your people use social media and how this impacts on issues such as productivity. Only 21% of companies report having a social media policy or guidelines, leaving them vulnerable to a wide range of risks. In addition to drafting guidelines, HR should also take the lead in ensuring that there is across the board training, so that staff understand the opportunities as well as the risks and challenges social media presents.


Customer Service

Are you tapping into social media to answer customer queries, to respond to complaints and chase up on orders? If your company is not using these tools, they are missing out on a huge opportunity. Your customer relations managers should start to understand how social media works, how to integrate it into the organization and create systems to drive such services. Read Is your company ready for the social customer? at the bottom of this page, for tips on how to get started and How to use social media for customer service... from Kwazi Communications


For most companies, social media has been a line item that falls under marketing, however as the scope of social media widens, financial managers need to be aware of the costs of running a successful digital operation. Awareness would range from procurement of specific software, such as dashboards and other analytical programmes, as well as increased overheads in the realm of increased data costs as content generation increases. Additionally, the costs of staff compliment as social media teams are created in-house. Understanding the implications of this is imperative for any company.


While legislation around social media is still in its infancy, legal departments should be aware of the risks around litigation if staff members leak information, or if a suit of defamation or libel could arise. Lawsuits can become very costly, for example Symantec's 2011 Social Media Protection Flash Poll states that on average cost litigation costs for litigation due to social media law suits can rise to approximately 5 million Rand. With more and more employees on social media, the legal representatives of any organization should be ready to advise and act on any transgressions with clarity and certainty.


While the role of PR, marketing and communications in this arena will continue to intensify, the support and input of the other departments is key for reaping the benefits of social media in the long term.

Published in PR & Communications
Overcoming the big customer service problems in small call centres

Many businesses and call centres have come to wrap their heads around the concept of hosted technology, where a provider offers the customer affordable, pay-per-use access to technology, along with ongoing support and service.Essentially, hosted Contact Centres are based on the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model and eliminate the need for companies to buy, implement and maintain call centre technology.

But although we’ve seen an increase in companies using this service, I often hear the words, “We’re probably too small for this”, from businesses with smaller call centres. Ironically, smaller enterprises are often the one who stand to benefit the most.


Whether you have a call centre with fifty seats or five, it never pays to compromise on quality – quality that smaller enterprises would struggle to finance or manage if they attempt to do it on their own. IT skills would have be sourced and retained, software would require upgrading and purchasing, and any growth to the call centre would require intensive capital investment. In short, there is literally no competitive advantage to owning your own IT.


I recently heard about a small online business that ran into severe customer service problems – largely due to their call centre tech. They had moved to a new system and spend a good deal of time trying to sort out glitches. Emails and phone calls went unanswered, and customers grew frustrated. First-call resolution (FCR) is widely regarded as the single most important facet for achieving customer satisfaction in the call centre. Because customers had to resort to placing multiple calls or sending emails, their experience quickly became unpleasant and satisfaction levels started to plummet.


Within 2 months, they racked up more than 30 complaints on hellopeter.com, along with discouraging tweets and Facebook messages (that were visible to their 25,000 fans). Although they have very few seats, the impact of the technology issues clinched their decision to move to the hosted model – which meant that they could spend less time worrying about the technology failing, and more time attending to their customers and call centre staff, mitigating the damage.


Aside from the customer relationship management benefits of the hosted model, there are also significant financial benefits. With On-premises solutions, an increase in calls usually means an increase in costs, but this can lead to serious problems for companies working with a limited budget. Hosted Contact Centres allows for a single monthly price per seat, which includes support, upgrades and maintenance. As technology develops, the need for upgrading increases. Since companies only pay the monthly price of the seat, all necessary upgrades are taken care of by the hosting company. Therefore, there are no hidden costs and no problems with rolling out new releases.


There are also operational benefits to having a hosted solution. With On-premise solutions a company has to ensure they are able to operate at its peak at all times. When demand drops, that capacity can sit idle, costing the company money in maintenance and support.


There is no company “too small” to adopt a hosted model. No one should have to lose customers because their technology lets them down – quality technology is as crucial to a small company as it is to a large enterprise.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
World is going to hell in a handcart … and that’s good for smart business

Consumers who have never had it so bad are presenting service-led businesses with an unprecedented opportunity to stand out. Smart business simply has to offer respite from a perfect storm of rising prices, strikes, violence and failures of leadership.


The world is going to hell in a handcart. That’s the impression of anyone reading the news – which means even small personal touches and little gestures wow customers.


Even modest investment in better service has disproportionately large impact because the contrast with the norm is huge.


Developments in 2012 raise concerns rather than spirits. A list of depressing realities include …


Political shambles, with greedy politicians engaged in a cynical pursuit of power and constant waste of taxpayer’s money …


Sporting malaise, with former heroes exposed as cheats … cheating on wives, cheating with drugs and cheating on the field …


Environmental catastrophes in a world where 12 children die of starvation every minute while pollution piles up …


Social turmoil, highlighted by strikes, protests, violence and death


Rebellion by disillusioned taxpayers who occupy Wall Street, revolt against austerity and rail against morally bankrupt political and business leaders …


Cynicism as consumers feel exploited by institutions, brands and businesses they once trusted, but now don’t …


Fear of want as household costs outstrip income, with medical aid savings depleted by mid-year and desperate recourse to personal loans …


Anger in the face of market power, reflected in rows over short-term insurance claims that go unsettled …


Loss of faith as long-term investments don’t even pay out accumulated monthly contributions because fees deplete build-up …


Frustration with banks as rock-bottom savings and current accounts show just how expensive our banking charges are …


Refusal by consumers to be suckered any longer, indicated by low customer loyalty and rising complaints …


Escape from reality, reflected in celebrity fixation (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the combined population of Sweden, Israel, Chile, North Korea, Australia and Greece).


In a world gone wrong, smart businesses simply need to get a few things right to win big. I suggest…


  • Get the basics incredibly right. Make it easy for people to do business with the company by cutting delays, improving efficiency and removing clutter
  • Make it tough for competitors to lure customers away by creating high anti-switching barriers
  • Put relationships above processes and rules while giving customers proof every day that you care more about them than short-term profits
  • Continuously find creative ways to add value by presenting customers with personal, unforgettable experiences competitors will find hard to imitate.


When the average daily experience is mildly depressive at best, it’s easy for true service leaders to stand out. The bar has been set low … let’s see how many businesses still clear it.

Published in Customer Service
  • Start
  • Prev
  • 1
  • 2
  • Next
  • End
Page 1 of 2
Copyright © 2014 gdmc (Geoffrey Dean Marketing Corporation cc). All rights reserved. Material may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. External links are provided for reference purposes. SALeader.co.za is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

Login or Subscribe