Customer Service in South Africa

After having to deal with a few companies and institutions over the last few months I have come to the conclusion that the Customer Service levels have dropped steeply over the last few years. Its such a sad situation on so many levels.

Many employees and customers alike blame the situation on a lack of training. I disagree to a certain extent with this statement. Let me explain my own customer service growth and thoughts.

I started my working career as a electrical fitter on military aircraft. After 16 years my career path changed and I found myself working with real live customers. I understood the concept that without these customers the company would have no money and I no job. Is it not common sense that the customers must be treated with a friendly, helpful and respectful attitude?

Starting our own small business in 2002 once again highlighted the importance of friendly and helpful customer service. Without this we would not have survived 16 years of working for ourselves.

Between my wife and myself, we have built up many good relations with our customers and provide them with the best possible service as our survival depends on customers.

The Geyser

My latest negative service experience was with Kwikot, the geyser manufacturer. The geyser in our unit started leaking water. The plumbers arrived promptly and informed us that the geyser is still under warranty and must be replaced by Kwikot themselves.

The plumbers from the manufacturer arrived 8 days later and promptly stated that they have no access to the geyser, so they could’nt help us. We needed to get someone to open the roof and let them know. They would then replace the faulty geyser.

This makes sense and I have no issues with it BUT the attitude of these two employees was terrible, blunt and unfriendly. I am sure that the company would not condone their attitudes … or maybe they would, who knows.

Dealings with the Bank

It becomes necessary at times to visit your bank and endure the ques. Once that magical time comes that you are to be served, your are already somewhat irritated by the wait… and then the fun starts.

A few weeks ago we entered our debit card into the ATM at Farrarmere Shopping Center and entered the pin. The machine then decided to shut down and reboot. Our card did not come out 🙁

I phoned the emergency line and blocked the card and all was good, well, except we had no cash lol. It was time to visit the bank and get the card replaced, oh joy!

My wife and I went to the branch and eventually got to the counter. We were greeted by a surly lady which just gave us the stare. I stated our case and she typed away on her computer for a few minutes, said something that neither my wife or I understood, got up and walked away.

There we stood stood at her counter for at least 10 minutes before she came back and sat down. I said “Oh you’re back” which wasn’t really appreciated it seems. We eventually got our card and headed out relieved. A few days later I notice that they charged us R130 to replace the card which seems a bit unfair. We did not loose the card or had it retained through some fault of ours.

A message was sent through Nedbanks Facebooks Page where I asked if this was fair. I received an answer and a few minutes later a phone call from an efficient and friendly lady from the bank. She will contact the branch and get them to reverse the charge from our account. Now my question is – why was the service at the bank so bad and unfriendly and then the lady that phoned so friendly and efficient. Why cant the staff all uphold the banks name and serve their customers with a smile?

The Supermarkets

There are 2 supermarkets around us that we visit quite often. The best outing is always Oak Fields Pick n pay. Through the years we have met and chatted to the owners who always greet us when they see us. This already makes us feel welcome and as a result spend most of our money at this Pick n Pay.

The cashiers are always friendly and strike up a conversation while they help us, the packers just as friendly and we all smile and laugh until we are done. Everyone just seems to enjoy working there.

The Farrarmere Pick n Pay is really the opposite from the Oakfields counterpart. The owner and managers just walk past you without even giving you a glance. Make me feel welcome why don’t ya!! lol

The cashiers, except one who is always friendly, seem to be doing you a huge favour when you approach them. Just these two things put me off resulting in me not going there too often.

Now I suppose you can’t blame the cashiers and other staff if the management and owner don’t have the “spark” to make their customers feel welcome and willing to spend their money. Sometimes I remember the song years ago sang by the Four Jacks and a Jill called “Its a strange world we live in master Jack” 😀

Experiences at Government Departments

A few years ago we hit a bad time in our lives where I was unemployed and went to claim from the Department of Labor. I dreaded going to apply after hearing all the negative comments from people. Our first visit was a complete surprise, we were met with friendly and helpful staff that processed our application in a speedy and efficient way. We were done in less than an hour and received the money for 6 months with no problem.

A few months ago I needed to visit SARS. I put this off for as long as I could as I just wasn’t up to facing the employees there. When I eventually had to go and sort out my tax number etc I was completely surprised once again. The lady that helped me was friendly and sorted the things out with a smile. The whole process, from walking in the door to walking out took no more than 30 minutes.

Home affairs was another mild surprise. I had to report my Fathers death and receive his death certificate. The ques were long and we stood in the line for almost an hour but when we got to the counter the lady was friendly and helpful. Even went as far to say, after looking at the photo in his ID Book, that he looked like a wonderful person.

Customer Service, My Conclusion

Being born in the early sixties, I have experienced good to excellent customer service through the years and have seen it deteriorate in the New South Africa. It is a sad situation and I really feel for the larger companies and retail stores that they have to battle with employees that just do enough to get their paycheck the end of the month. Gone are they days where employees had pride and commitment.

These days I prefer to shop at the smaller personally owned shops. Apart from Oakfields Pick n Pay, I would rather visit the small Pakistani supermarket where the service is personal and friendly.

Please let me know what you think of the customer service we are experiencing lately by commenting below.

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