The worst customer service in South Africa is from…

New research from customer service research experts Interactive Intelligence has found that South African customers consider government departments and utility companies to have the worst customer service, compared to all other industry sectors.

Hotels ranked highest in terms of both experience and the expectation of good service. 61 per cent of the survey respondents ranked their own experience of customer service at hotels as better than any other local industry.

Deon Scheepers, a consultant at Interactive Intelligence Africa, said companies and employees need to move away from the misconception that customer experience is a “soft” issue: “Staff need to understand that the company would not exist without the customer and adopt a mindset of ‘the customer pays my salary’,” he said to The Witness.

The shocking result that 85 per cent of South Africans believe that government agencies offer the worst customer service across all industry sectors must cause some agencies concern. The public sector is generally considered to offer poorer service that the private, but to see such overwhelming disdain of the service offered by government agencies is a surprise.

South Africa has many world-class customer service teams serving the world – including our own team at Teleperformance. Some of the government agencies mentioned in this research might want to take a look at how the world is looking to South Africa to improve their customer service level in many different industries. It wouldn’t take long to improve what they are doing.

City Hall (Durban, South Africa)

 

Photo by Big Berto licensed under Creative Commons

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Do South Africans really expect poor service?

Do you expect great service when you interact with brands as a customer? Most of us do, but Paul Galatis, a director of Yuppiechef.com, recently spoke at the uAfrica ecommerce conference in Sandton and suggested that service expectations are so low in South Africa that when customers are treated well it comes as a shock.

He talked about a knife that his company sent to a customer with a broken handle. When the customer queried the broken product, they immediately sent a new knife. The customer went online singing their praises because he didn’t have to fight for a replacement or refund – that was what the customer expected.

In fact, Galatis highlights this case as a failure of his company. Instead of getting the new knife to the customer within 24 hours, it took 48 hours, yet the customer was still telling everyone who would listen how great their service is.

During his lecture, Galatis pointed out that great customer service is as simple as treating customers as humans and appreciating them, taking responsibility, and not treating the brand community as a marketing channel, but rather a “group of people who choose to hang with you.”

“Great customer service requires people to genuinely care,” Galatis said. “We stuff up – sometimes people complain with good reason…you just hope that there’s enough of the good stuff going around that it outweighs the bad.”

Yuppiechef was named the 2013 best e-commerce website in South Africa in the uAfrica e-commerce awards – a title it has held for the past three years. With such a focus on customer service perhaps it’s obvious why they keep winning.

The Masamoto knife shop at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan...

Photo by Nate Gray licensed under Creative Commons

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Social customer service changes everything

We already have multiple ways for customers to reach out to the customer service department in a company. Writing a letter, calling, and chatting on IM are all common today, but things are changing fast as we head into the omni-channel environment where every channel – including social media – has to be given equal importance.

But adding social media to the traditional channel mix has changed more than just adding an extra way to get in touch. If companies are monitoring what is being said about them and their products online and intervening in those discussions before a formal complaint is ever made then some differences are already obvious.

So now brands are going to customers before they ever get in touch in the traditional way.

Each situation will always be different. Each complaint will be unique. And anything an agent does to intervene will be visible to other members of the public, with the ability to freely share the discussion with others.

This is an important point to emphasise. Every friend of a complaining customer can see their complaint and your response when it takes place on a social channel.

Calls in a contact centre are regularly recorded and reviewed for training, but just imagine if every interaction between the customer and the agent are not only recorded, but also broadcast, with the ability for customers to share them with each other. This is exactly the situation if your agents are asked to start engaging with the public using a tool like Twitter.

It’s clear that this kind of engagement needs a good team – they must be capable of helping the customer in a way that the brand is proud of, because their every action will be on display.

Greater engagement means more skills. The agents not only need to take calls and follow a fairly set routine, referring to a supervisor if something goes wrong. They need to have excellent written and oral communication skills because the customer engagement is closer and more personal.

All of this creates a world of new opportunities for the customer service team to work alongside the sales and marketing experts. Any customer service failures can quickly become disasters as dissatisfied customers share the poor response, but equally any great help you give to your customers will be shared. Your own customers are now advertising what you do directly.

Social media means that customer service has been elevated to the forefront of the brand. Your relationship with the customer has always been important, but now it is not just important – it is critical for success.

3am, Dubai Airport

 

Photo by BK licensed under Creative Commons

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South Africa wins ‘best destination 2013’ award from the EOA!

Please welcome Gary Bennett, the new General Manager of TP South Africa. This is Gary’s first contribution to the blog celebrating a great new award for the region!

Every year those in the global sourcing business closely watch the awards issued by the European Outsourcing Association.

These awards are a little different from many arranged around the world. For a start there is no need to pay an entry fee. There is no requirement to sponsor the award ceremony or any other financial inducement that colours many other awards. Not that every other business award is invalid, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is a level playing field for those who have a great product or service, but can’t afford to buy a table at a glitzy ceremony.

Our industry trade body BPeSA (Business Process enabling South Africa) entered South Africa into the ‘best offshoring destination’ category and last night at the awards ceremony in Amsterdam I’m delighted to say that South Africa was awarded the prize.

It’s a fantastic achievement, not only for BPeSA and their role in promoting the industry in South Africa, but for all the companies operating here and making the industry what it is today.

At Teleperformance we have had a long commitment to South Africa and are proud to say that the head of BPeSA is one of our alumni so we want to extend our congratulations to BPeSA for this impressive award and we guarantee that our team in South Africa will be working hard to ensure the award is retained in 2014!

Sunset at Camps Bay - with a bonus

 

Photo by Neil Howard licensed under Creative Commons

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Will there be a new focus on voice thanks to Click-to-Call?

Everyone in the customer service industry is talking about social media at present. It’s social this and that – even though most customer service is still voice-based – and so I was pleasantly surprised to see this article about voice as a business application in Call Centre Focus magazine.

It’s not strictly about the defence of voice based service, but it does point out some of the key differences between interacting with email and using voice.

But how do your customers ask you for information and help? Many companies are now answering these queries within the same social channels they see used by customers and Teleperformance is involved in supporting this, but it is the change in customer attitude towards service that is worth noting.

Customers are no longer prepared to tolerate multi-level IVR systems when making a voice call. They don’t want to wait on hold for an agent while a repeated message tells them ‘your call is important to us’ or listening to an endless array of possible menu options. They just want service – now.

Social channels such as Twitter have demonstrated this, initially with the telcos responding to customer complaints about mobile phones and broadband. Customers soon found that by complaining on Twitter they could get a swift answer directly from an agent empowered to resolve their issue – why bother calling the regular helpline?

And in addition to the changing service expectations of the consumer the smart phone has meant most consumers are now online all the time. The Internet is no longer consumed at a desk in the home or office – it is with every consumer who owns a smart phone, all the time.

Customers are demanding instant service and they are now online constantly presenting a new opportunity for Click to Call to offer a way for customers to not online voice a complaint or comment on a social network, but to have immediate access to an agent.

It looks to me as if Click-to-call might be now taking the demands of the social media customer and creating a resurgence of voice based customer support.

Telephone

 

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Growing Skills in South Africa

I read an interesting report recently in IT News Africa about the growing focus on skills development in South Africa. As you know from earlier blogs, this is something I am very interested in, not least because I have been personally involved in working with BPeSA on several initiatives in this area.

The articles makes some great points; invest in ICT infrastructure, invest in fringe skills, and get universities working closer with industry, but one key point about exploring new mobile opportunities struck me as a stand out comment.

The landline telecoms network in South Africa was never developed to the extent that countries in Europe and the US are used to. This led to South Africans – and Africans in general – developing a very close relationship with mobile phones through necessity.

There is an enormous opportunity to explore niche areas such as this. South Africa has a great international reputation and fantastic skills are available, but if we only ever look at opportunities for job creation and growth as being more of the same, we will miss out because industry is changing.

The growth of mobile technologies is at the heart of managing customer service today because many retailers are using mobile tools as a way of improving how their staff interact with customers. It can be hard to convince a customer to make a purchasing decision when the customer knows they can probably find the product cheaper online – if retailers arm their sales teams with immediate information it can make all the difference.

I’m pleased to see the media exploring new niche opportunities for South Africa. We know that the opportunities exist here – and globally – so let’s change how we are working today and open our eyes to the business of tomorrow.

Mobile Phone showing multimedia options

 

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What do people like about working in a call centre?

A new study just released in South Africa has challenged the perception that call centre employees are often stressed or always on the lookout for a new opportunity.

The annual survey of agents ensure that those hiring in the industry know what the agents at the sharp end are thinking and feeling – and the latest results make for some interesting reading.

Over a third of agents surveyed had been in their present position for over a year and 74 per cent of agents had the aspiration to be promoted to a team leader or other management position – challenging the view that working in a call centre is only a temporary career phase.

It’s also clear what people finding satisfying about their life inside a call centre. 86 per cent said it was talking to people, 96 per cent like being part of a team and 82 per cent enjoy the noisy environment and the buzz of the floor when agents are hard at work.

This idea of being part of a team is something we do foster at Teleperformance too. Of course we need to keep our clients happy, but our team needs to know that they are part of something bigger too.

Programmes we run, such as Teleperformance for Fun, focus on art, music, and dance, and there are real prizes for members of our team who excel in these areas – providing fun for everybody by showcasing their talents.

There are many misconceptions about life in a call centre, but we know that it can be fun and there is a future in the industry – if you want to grow into a management role then we provide the support to make it happen.

call center

 

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