Friday 31 March 2006

We’ve had complaints!

Someone has complained about us! Apparently we tend to treat important issues like customer service without the necessary seriousness. We tend to be jokey, we tease poor performers and we should be much more somber and dry about it.

So what’s our reaction?

Tough. If you don’t like it don’t listen to us on GabzFM and don’t read what we say in Mmegi. We don’t care what you think. Your opinions are worthless and irrelevant. In fact just go away and leave us alone, OK?

Hang on, sorry, I’m not sure what came over me. Maybe I thought I was the CEO of a parastatal monopoly for a moment. Sorry.

We welcome feedback. We really do want to hear what people think about the work we do on consumer issues. Obviously we much prefer to have people say nice things about us but, well, we can’t always have it our own way.

So what did our correspondent have to say? Well, before you think that I’m not willing to listen, I should say that everything he said was reasonable, considered and thoughtful. However I disagree with pretty much everything he said.

So what did he say? Several things. Here goes…

Apparently we tend to “ridicule companies that experience service delivery problems”. Not sure I agree with that. Yes, we have been known to tease them, to take them a little bit less than seriously and to make jokes about them but is that ridiculing them? Actually, yes it is I suppose. OK, maybe he has a point. Yes, we ridicule them, but I make no apology. They deserve it. If they treat their customers with contempt then why shouldn’t they be criticised in the most effective way? With humour, with jokes and with, well, ridicule.

Our friend goes on to say that we “don’t seem to realise the serious consequences that can result to shareholder value as a result of [our] treatment of these very serious issues”.

I think that this is a point we need to think about carefully. If he’s correct, a company that disrespects it’s customers and then is criticised by Consumer Watchdog may see it’s share price go down.


Remember that companies are like politicians. They don’t have a right to be selected. They don’t have a right to be popular. They don’t have a right to success.

They must earn our support.

Politicians do it by keeping to their promises and putting our interests above their own. Companies do it by providing us with competitively priced products, choices and above all, good customer service. If they do that then they will become profitable. Then, if they are lucky, people with money to invest will want to buy shares in the company and their share price will probably increase. But the key thing is that this only happens when they make real money as a result of good customer service. Simple eh?

Our position is very simple. If you deliver poor customer service then you simply don’t deserve to make money. You don’t deserve to attract shareholders. In fact you deserve to lose shareholders, become the sort of company from which investors disinvest and see your share price plummet.

Another thing our friend said was that we should be acting as mediators “as fault can lie with the customer or the organisation”.

I need to think about this one. Should we act as mediators? Is that what we are here to do?

This is what we said when we started Consumer Watchdog just over a year ago:

“Consumer Watchdog aims to educate and inform on a wide range of consumer related issues, to make service providers in Botswana accountable and most of all to celebrate success.”

Nothing about mediation there.

However he does have a point. The customer can be the one at fault. In fact in our experience quite often the customer is at least partly to blame. Either he’s signed a wicked finance agreement, borrowed money from someone dishonest or has failed to stick to a contractual agreement. We’ve seen customers make up stories and, in a few of the cases we’ve seen, the customer complaining is a certifiable lunatic.

There are times as well when the company has bent over backwards to accommodate a customer’s requests but they are dealing with a customer that will never be satisfied.

However, our focus is always going to begin on the side of the consumer. That’s why we call ourselves the Consumer Watchdog. Companies have attornies, PR Departments and loads of money to throw at problems. Most consumers don’t. The people we stick up for are rarely affluent, rarely legally experienced and often are scared or threatened into submission by companies bigger than them.

Our (admittedly self-appointed) role is to educate, to inform and to hold accountable those suppliers who aren’t acting in the way they should. Part of that educational role is to celebrate when we find things to celebrate. For instance last week this entire column was devoted to celebrating Barclays Bank for introducing competitive new products that seek to improve customer service.

But as I said earlier there’s quite a good reason we’re called the Consumer Watchdog.

Oh and good news! Someone else threatened to sue us this week! Apparently a manager at a car distributorship (that will remain nameless) felt that us phoning him and asking questions on behalf of a customer is enough to for him to threaten legal action against us. Keep Instructing Attorneys is all that we have to say!

In fact, as an aid to companies that feel like sueing us, we’ve created an online form to fill in on our web site. Isn’t technology wonderful?

This week’s stars!

  • Toffee for 10 years of the very best service at Liquorama in Broadhurst
  • Lebo at GabzFM (yet again). Clearly she has loads of admirers but is that because she speaks French, she has a naughty laugh or people have been using the GabzFM webcam?

No comments: