No more excuses
Service delivery and customer needs should become focal points
THE SOUTH AFRICAN consumer has evolved from an inexperienced consumer with little or no expectations 10 years ago, to a demanding customer today who not only expects good service, but is shopping around for service delight. This is the conclusion drawn from the results of research company Ask Afrika’s annual Orange Index, which takes a closer look at customer needs and satisfaction and measures customer delight as opposed to merely meeting customer expectations.
“The service expectations of SA consumers have definitely increased, which means service delivery has become imperative when it comes to gaining and retaining customers,” says Ask Afrika CEO Andrea Rademeyer. “And when it comes to such service, the Orange Index found Responsiveness, Empathy, Assurance and Reliability to be the key drivers of customer delight.”
The Orange Index found the Food Retail sector in South Africa to offer the highest levels of customer delight, followed by the Petrochemical sector, Fast Foods, Clothing Retail and finally the Banking sector.
These results are in stark contrast to the previous Orange Index’s results, which found the telecommunications sector in top position in terms of customer delight followed by banking, long-term insurance, short-term insurance and finally the entertainment industry.
Rademeyer believes this unbelievable shift can be attributed to more astute and more demanding consumers. “The past few years have seen SA consumers spoilt for choice, so that today’s consumer is more sophisticated in terms of service expectations due to a greater variety of choice and threatened monopolies,” she explains. “Previously disadvantaged people have also taken up their share in the consumer world, which has not only opened the market for competitors but has also threatened monopolies and forced them to up their game. Service delivery and customer
Service expectations of SA consumers have definitely increased which means service delivery has become imperative when it comes to gaining and
needs should become focal points for all in the industry. Globally the focus is also on service delivery. The increased competition has placed new emphasis on customer retention while consumers have become more value conscious.”
Therefore, with the middle market having enjoyed previously unknown access to goods and services such as cellular services and motor vehicles, the companies offering these goods and services experienced a boom and sky-high customer satisfaction results. Consumers were just thrilled by the experience itself.
The market today, however, has moved from access to choice, says Rademeyer, and there are no more excuses for bad service.
Having said that, the Orange Index has found that the rising levels of delight and satisfaction are indeed starting to plateau. “The increasing plethora of choice, coupled with changing technology and generation considerations, all point towards a plateau in customer delight,” says Rademeyer. “Quality service is becoming a hygiene factor and delight a difficult task. As expectations are exceeded, the bar is raised again. Delighting the customer will therefore become an increasingly difficult task in the foreseeable future.”
Rademeyer believes South Africa will face a service stalemate if service strategies do not become customer-centric. “The South African consumer is demanding more value add. The market leaders of yesterday have unfortunately fallen behind and have not kept up with these trends and consumer
demands. Banks and telecommunications companies, for example, spent millions of rand on infrastructure and call centres 10 years ago but no money was spent on the customer experience. Pep and those leading the industry today spent their money on the experience and they’re reaping the benefits. Price still remains a consideration but is no longer a strong driver of the market.”
Rademeyer also believes loyalty is an outdated concept. Organisations should rather look at customer intention in terms of retention rather than loyalty. Whether a customer intends staying with the organisation is a much better indicator, she says. Loyalty is now and gives a false sense of security while intention is more long term and leaves more scope for building relationships.
Looking ahead, Rademeyer believes there’s definitely a window of opportunity. “With Government encouraging consumers to save more, there may be less spending, which means you are only going to retain existing clients and gain new ones through your service rather than your product offering.”
FOOD RETAILAIL LEADING THE WAYSource: Ask Afrika
is more sophisticated
in terms of service expectations.