Friday 23 December 2005

Why celebrate?

Why do we celebrate people every week?

Is it perhaps that we’re just good natured, big-hearted, lovable characters at Consumer Watchdog? Well, you certainly would not think we were if you listened to certain stores, a number of micro-lenders and all loan sharks. Oh, and a certain cult masquerading as a Church trying to help people. That’s not why we celebrate service stars.

Is it because it’s Christmas? Not a chance. We celebrate (and criticise) all year round.

So why do we do it? It’s simple. We do it for our own self-interest. We want better standards, better service and better prices.

Our strong belief is that the only way really to make things better is by having truly effective competition. We, as consumers, benefit when stores see their only chance of survival as being better than their rival next door. The constant pressure not only to maintain standards but actually to continually improve them gives customers a constantly fresh range of choices.

That’s not to mean that only the first across the line will survive. There’s room enough for two, three, maybe even several decent supermarkets, restaurants and car repair centres in a city the size of Gaborone. However, just as some will survive, others will fail and that’s actually a good thing. We must understand that the failure of a proportion of businesses is actually a good thing. Yes, of course it’s desperately sad for the investors, managers and staff but it’s just the way of business. In most economies it’s well known that half of all businesses fail within the first 18 months.

So why do we celebrate service stars? Because they give an example to follow. They are role models that other people can aspire to be. Whatever the industry we work in it’s great to have someone we can look up to, someone whose example we can copy and who can be a genuine hero. The more service champions that we have, the more others will try harder, the more money their employers will make and the more competition we will have.

And that’s what we want. More competition, more winners and losers and consumers who genuinely benefit from the fight for survival and the inevitable end-result: better customer service.

Our Christmas stars!

We have had so may Christmas stars to celebrate. We knew there were service stars that we should all celebrate and but we were delighted to realise quite how many of them exist. For a full list of all winners check out our website at

So who wins the star prize? Who is our Christmas superstar?

The winner of our star prize, P500 donated by First National Bank, is Blessed Monyatsi, one of the senior managers at Tebelopele. We received an email from someone who had visited the Tebelopele Testing Centre in Gaborone in a desperate emotional state. She was apparently very upset and needed a test during the lunchtime break. Finding nobody on duty she didn’t know what to do. When Blessed noticed her he took charge, arranged for her to be seen and tested during the break.

So what’s so special about what Blessed did?

It’s simple. He understood that even though Tebelopele are not a commercial organisation they nevertheless have customers who deserve attention and that as a service provider his convenience was not as important as a client’s needs.

He also didn’t see himself as a manager who should remain aloof and removed from his client’s needs. Despite the fact that it wasn’t actually his job to deal with the client he took personal responsibility for the situation and dealt with it.

He also realised that the emotional components of service are critical. OK, so maybe we can’t compare Tebelopele with a restaurant or a supermarket but nevertheless the feelings expressed by the client made it clear that rules needed to be broken, flexibility was required and that the personal needs of the client are paramount.

So, congratulations go to Blessed for demonstrating how it can be done, and also doing it so professionally and in anarea of Botswana life that is so important.

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