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Aki Kalliatakis

Aki Kalliatakis

Aki Kalliatakis runs The Leadership LaunchPad, a business focused on customer loyalty and radical marketing that he founded in 1989. He helps companies to implement customised service and loyalty strategies and lectures at executive development programmes for a number of business schools of both local and international universities, though he believes practical ideas are more important than academic theory. He adds value at training programs in Africa and around the world.

Website URL: http://www.leadershiplaunchpad.co.za

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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.

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.

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South African banking in crisis - but you know that already

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 11:53 Published in Banking
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.

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