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Makes Your Sales Experience Pleasant With This Advice From Basil O’Hagan

How do you make customers feel special and ensure that they come back, even if something goes wrong?

Basil O’Hagan




Vital Stats

  • Player: Basil O’Hagan
  • Companies: O’Hagan’s, The Brazen Head, Basil O’Hagan Marketing
  • Contact:

A customer complaint is never a fun thing to deal with. Especially as you probably know exactly what went wrong. If only you could explain to your customer why things happened that way. It’s not all your fault. You want to say something in your defence. But rather don’t.

A customer complaint is not the time for long-winded explanations or — worse — an argument about who’s right and who’s wrong. Try to follow this script:

  1. “I understand.” Make it clear that you hear what your customer is saying and that you understand the problem.
  2. “I’m sorry that happened.” Apologise and empathise with their experience. Nobody likes to find their car’s lights were left on and their battery is flat, for example.
  3. “It’s not up to our usual standards.” Acknowledge that this is not acceptable in your establishment.
  4. “Let me make it up to you.” Here is where you compensate your customer for their inconvenience by offering extra value.

This four-stage script is worth committing to memory. It is a tried-and-trusted way to manage a complaint and a recognised method of converting an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.

Related: Basil O’Hagan And The Risks Of Going Public

Be in the moment

When serving your customers, serve them totally and wholeheartedly. Be present physically and psychologically. Be mindful. Nothing annoys customers more than being served half-heartedly by someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere. It shows disrespect.

So when serving customers in person, ignore phone calls, don’t carry on a conversation with one of your colleagues and don’t be engrossed in some text banter on your phone.

That kind of behaviour says that even though this person is giving you their hard-earned money, you can’t be bothered to give them your full attention. So give respect where respect is due, give your customers your full attention.

A little while back I was in a clothing retail store. I had chosen some new pants and shirts and was ready to pay, but the cashier took a phone call while I was waiting, and proceeded to talk to the person on the other end about his personal health problems.

I was fairly anxious to pay and get to my next appointment. I am sure he could see I was agitated to conclude the transaction, but he persisted in talking to his friend. Not a good impression, and on top of that, there were other customers behind me.

The expert as salesman

There’s a well-known specialist running store in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. It’s the kind of place that sells running shoes, shorts, shirts and the like for the long-distance running fraternity. You can enter yourself for all of the local races there — it’s that well known within running circles.

But what really sets it apart is the service that it delivers. If you’re a runner, the most important purchase you make is your running shoes, so customers are naturally looking for advice about the various types of footwear available.

At this small store, in a suburban shopping centre, the staff all seem to be runners, and they are so passionate about their sport that they can’t tell you enough about the various shoes. They are actually excited about the advances in the new ranges and they will tell you at length what each particular pair offers.

They’ll enquire about your running habits and your goals, and ask you to run a few steps so they can gauge the pronation of your foot.

The staff here are so in love with the sport of road running and the products they stock, that the process of selling is secondary to them. Compare that with other shops, where the staff is obsessed with making sales.

Any query about a product attracts a rushed answer from an assistant who just wants to know your size, so he can fetch you a box of shoes and send you on your way.

Shopping at the neighbourhood running store is a far better experience, which is why so many runners go there. It employs experts who happen to be salesmen, not just expert salesmen.

Try to live this kind of passion in your business. Learn to love the process — the human interaction of selling. The sale will take care of itself.

“Have you bought from us before?”

Related: It’s Sell Or Die Because Sales Are The Lifeblood Of Every Company

There’s a difference between a regular customer and a new customer. The regular understands your systems, he might have a favourite assistant who he deals with, and he probably knows exactly what he’s looking for. He still deserves the very best service, sure, but he’s already a fan of your store. He’s making a return visit, after all.

The new customer doesn’t know how your store works, but he’s giving you a chance. He deserves the kind of extra-special treatment that will turn him into a loyal return customer.

You need to identify your new customers as quickly as possible, so you can give them that special treatment. Ask them directly: “Have you been to our store before?”

If she hasn’t, you’ll be able to give her a warm welcome, show her around, explain the little idiosyncrasies of how you do things and help her get what she’s looking for.

Then, why not give her a special ‘new customer’ discount, or some other extra-value item to make her visit even more memorable? You’ve just turned a new customer into a regular customer!


Let no customer go unnoticed

I once walked into a restaurant where the entrance was unattended. After I entered, I noticed a couple of waiters chatting at the bar, so I found myself a table. I guess they assumed someone else was helping me, because they just left me to my own devices.

I found a menu, and saw some dishes that looked interesting, but after five minutes, when no one had taken my order, I just walked out. Again, no one said a word to me.

Does this story ring any bells? Sadly, it could have happened in any South African town or city, where poor awareness of customers is all too common.

In your store there should be several pairs of eyes watching the entrance like a hawk. Any customer coming in should be — not pounced on, exactly — but immediately acknowledged and welcomed.

Being too lazy to pay attention to who’s in your store is just as bad as not acknowledging someone you have noticed. Even if you’re busy with another customer, tell the second customer: “Hi! I’ll be with you in a minute.” It’s basic respect. Quite honestly, people who don’t have the decency or the motivation to acknowledge their customers shouldn’t be working in retail.

South Africans also have a bad habit of not standing up when a customer walks into their retail outlet. This also shows a lack of respect for the customer. It’s a pretty poor show.

Remember this

Respect your customer and the sale will follow.

Basil O’Hagan is the founder of both O’Hagan’s and The Brazen Head. Today, he runs Basil O’Hagan Marketing, which serves chains, independent operations and small family businesses, pinpointing and overcoming problems through proven neighbourhood marketing solutions.

Company Posts

Spur’s Got A Taste For Success

With eight brands across five countries, the Spur Corp’s secret sauce to success has all the best ingredients — most importantly, its franchisees. Sacha du Plessis, Group Marketing Executive at Spur Corporation, explains the company’s 51-year journey in creating some of the most popular places to eat the world over.

Nedbank Franchising




What is the biggest contributor to Spur’s success?

Since the beginning, we’ve made an unwavering commitment to run restaurants that are operated by entrepreneurially-minded owners who put the customer first. Customer satisfaction is one of Spur Corporation’s most important value drivers, we partner with people who ensure we retain and grow a loyal customer base. We seek to work with franchisees who take pride in the training of their staff and prepare food with passion.

This mindset has been alive for over 50 years in our staff and franchisees.

Please share some of the challenges Spur encounters as a franchisor?

We have a sizable franchise network and a big priority is to ensure that we meet customers’ expectations in every single franchise they visit. Another challenge is finding the best franchisees to partner with, people who are aligned with our company values and customer orientation.

In terms of growth, it is sometimes challenging to find the correct locations per brand and to ensure the rental is at a level where it’s sustainable for the franchisee. The management of our marketing communication to ensure we remain relevant and distinctive in an ever changing landscape can also be a challenge.

Related: A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success

Name a few of the qualities you look for when selecting franchisees?

Our business was built on a highly focused customer orientation and centred on a love for food. Our franchisees need to be focused on the customer: Pleasing the customer, meeting the customers’ needs and being willing to spend large amounts of time in growing a business that essentially is the hospitality industry and is really about people. Our franchisees are people who have an appreciation for, and love, food as well as serving their local community over and above their product.

Why is Spur a solid investment for entrepreneurs seeking to pursue franchising?

We’ve invested greatly in growing our brand over a long period of time. Spur was founded by our Executive Chairman Allen Ambor in the spirit of entrepreneurship. Over the past 51 years, we’ve built a track-record of comprehensive operational, finance, marketing, IT, training, procurement, distribution and development support. Our marketing approach grows sustainable brands in a considered and well researched manner.

Our customer scope is broad, so while our main brands are focused on the wider South African market, we also have niche brands. This track record reassures the franchisee and broader market about Spur Corporation’s credibility.

What kind of support can a franchisee expect when joining Spur?

Franchisees can tap into expertise that’s been built up over five decades. We provide franchisees with the most effective tools to help manage and sustain their businesses successfully. Our operational support is wide-reaching and includes access to procurement, development, logistical as well as IT support. Skills development is one of the most important ways in which Spur Corporation supports its franchisees to run successful businesses.

Marketing support enables franchisees to actively identify opportunities and get assistance in developing and implementing bespoke marketing plans for each restaurant. Most importantly, when a franchisee joins Spur Group he or she gets access to cutting-edge management know-how from an experienced team of people who are passionate about our business.

Related: Nedbank’s Full Service Offering for Franchise Owners 

Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit the franchisee?

Buying into a brand is a substantial investment for a franchisee, so they need a banking partner that will help with financial planning and running the business. Nedbank has built relationships with franchisees while helping to open and maintain their businesses.

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Company Posts

Muscle And Grill Is Your Daily Chef. We Provide Fresh, Nutritional Food At Affordable Prices

It isn’t always easy to stay in tune with both body and mind. We do all the prepping for you so that you can keep up your pursuit of greatness.

Muscle and Grill




Vital stats

Muscle and Grill is a healthy fast food establishment based in South Africa. In the face of modern South Africa, lives spent on the go require a fuel to match their aspirations while maintaining a delicious, fast and fresh service.

As our lives swirl into life’s vast depths of opportunity, our bodies are often the product of poor health habits, while trying to keep on the move to achieve our goals. Muscle and Grill challenges this. We want to be able to support the South Africa of tomorrow by offering the food your body needs to keep reaching new heights – to keep pushing the boundaries of accomplishment with health food convenience.

At Muscle and Grill we’ve got you covered. We provide nutritional fast food that is fresh and affordable. We have your health at heart. You could start your day off with some free-range scrambled eggs or fresh oats – for lunch a mixed bowl of rice, protein and fresh vegetables – or to round off your day, replenish your mind and body with a hearty health-infused burger and all its wholesome goodness. We have not forgotten that home constitutes a hungry family who have all been active, so grab a lean beef pasta salad with some greens on the side to go.

Related: SA Fast Food Franchising On The Rise

It isn’t always easy to stay in tune with both body and mind. We do all the prepping for you so that you can keep up your pursuit of greatness.

About us

It was once said that great ideas are born from ones’ frustrations. That is exactly how Muscle and Grill came about. Having no real on-the-go option to stay healthy, or having the time to prepare to be healthy, became a huge frustration for us. We struggled to find enough hours in the day to keep up with a busy lifestyle and still eat healthy while on the move. Our work came first and our lifestyles suffered.

The vision for Muscle and Grill is to make it possible to stay healthy on the go. We want healthy food to be easily accessible for all walks of life.

Our mission is to provide quality, healthy fast-food. The food we provide is delicious and will keep you coming back for more.



Muscle and Grill works on an almost self-service basis. The point of sale system is customer operated where you can select what meal you would like to have. Once payment has been processed electronically the kitchen staff will receive the order and prepare it to spec. Muscle and Grill will be a completely cashless business, making it super-efficient for consumers and business owners.

Related: 3 Crucial Considerations For New Multi-unit Franchisees

The concept of Muscle and Grill is partnered with Puré Frooty. Puré Frooty is a self-service smoothie bar which prepares smoothies for you at the touch of a button. You can have a store with or without a machine – the choice is yours. Both concepts look to promote the idea of healthy living on the go.

We’ve looked to compliment our values by looking after that which grounds us. Our packaging and utensils are all eco-friendly, as we believe ‘going-green’ is not just a choice of eating but of the environment too.

So, when you are ready to join the next revolution in the fast food industry contact Muscle and Grill at or visit the website at to inquire on our franchise options today. Achieve your goals, stay on the move and look after yourself through Muscle and Grill.

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Company Posts

Nando’s Is Firing Up The East

Carlos Duarte has been part of the Nando’s brand since inception. When his brother Fernando co-founded the flamed grilled chicken brand in 1987, Carlos soon participated in its success and today owns four highly successful franchises in Johannesburg — three in the east and one in the south. Here’s how it all began.






Vital Stats

  • Player: Carlos Duarte
  • Franchise: Nando’s
  • Position: Franchisee
  • Visit:

What were you doing before becoming a franchisee?

I was in the audio visual technology field, as an employee. Then I joined Nando’s as an assistant manager in the Savoy and Rosettenville corporate stores. Franchising was my first experience of entrepreneurship.

Why did you decide to become a franchisee?

When my brother, Fernando Duarte, launched Nando’s in 1987, I noticed its quick growth and wanted in on the action. Being assistant store manager prepared me for when the opportunity to run my own store came along soon after.

What prompted you to partner with Nando’s?

I joined Nando’s in 1991 as a joint venture partner. At the time, Nando’s hadn’t yet franchised its operations, and the JV partnership meant the brand owned 51% of the business, while I owned 49%. My first franchise store was in Edenglen in 2001.

Related: (Watch) Why Nando’s Is Clucking Its Way To The Top

Describe some of the challenges of running not one, but four franchise locations

At the Edenglen store, we initially battled with sales and getting feet into the store. To be honest, I think the area was overtraded at the time, so it wasn’t the best location. Since acquiring the store in Lambton, Germiston, another in Greenstone and a third in Comaro, I’ve learnt to be cleverer in how I do things — and how I handle some of the same challenges — and learn every day from the brand itself.

Name some of the benefits you’ve experienced as a Nando’s franchisee

Nando’s is 31 years old this year. We’re in 30-odd countries worldwide with thousands of stores across the globe. As franchisees, we leverage off the dynamism of an operational business that’s known for its marketing — customers talk about our ads and they love our food.

What kind of support do you receive from Nando’s as a multi-unit franchisee?

Besides the popular marketing campaigns that attract customers, Nando’s has an extensive training manual along with a skills development training consultant who comes to the store for two days to help staff understand and implement it. The training is really effective — it has to be as this industry involves a very high turnover of staff and new skills need to be taught often.

Why is it important for a franchisee to have a good banking partner?

As a franchisee, your bank should understand your business — from operating costs, to overdraft needs and revamping expenses — so it has cash available for loans that can be approved quickly, with minimal hassle. On the technical side, a reliable mPOS device is imperative, especially for us, because 30% of our sales volumes are from home and office deliveries. It’s a fundamental method of payment every bank should provide its customers of a similar nature.

What advice do you have for budding franchisees on seeking out a good franchise brand and banking partner for their business?

  • Do your research to ensure you’re partnering with a brand that is established, well-known and expect to pay a fair price for that franchise.
  • Be aware of how the franchise brand is perceived in the market and what location opportunities are available to you as a franchisee.
  • Choose a banking facility that always has the funds available to grow your business.
  • Ensure the bank understands the brand’s business model and where you’re falling short.

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