It’s important to be positive and to always emphasise the bright side of every situation, but this needs to be said: There is a customer service crisis in South Africa.
Generally speaking, service has never been worse than it is today. One only has to look at:
- The lackadaisical levels of service in business
- Poor training of customer-facing staff
- Low wage levels in all customer-centric roles.
Customer service performance in South Africa is like the Springbok rugby team’s performance against Japan or England’s loss to Iceland in football. South African customer service is really in trouble. When you lose like that, someone always loses their job — don’t let it be you. We need a change in tactics or a change in management.
I’m sure you can easily list examples of poor service you’ve encountered at South African businesses in the past few weeks or days alone. It’s not good.
However, this is a great opportunity. In a business environment where bad service is almost standard, the businesses that do deliver world-class customer service will stand out like the shining lights of excellence that they are.
Excellent customer service is almost guaranteed to make you a leader in your industry and ensure your business succeeds.
Here are three secrets to success that you can implement today.
1Minimise the handovers
Every time you hand over a project, communication can break down. It’s a problem in South African business that too often a customer query or complaint is handed over from one staffer to another.
I once dealt with a media agency about a website I was trying to build. Every time I contacted them or came for a meeting, I dealt with a different person. I was told,
“Karen will be handling your project now.” Then it was Katlego. Then it was Grant. Then it was Dave. And every time, what I wanted for my website had somehow gotten lost in translation. I had to explain myself from scratch to every person. It was so frustrating! I’m not sure what was going on in that company. I would far rather deal with a one person show, where you only ever deal with Mpho and she knows your project inside and out.
Try to keep project handovers to a minimum. Especially in the systems of your company. Some firms have even built a system where you phone up and speak to one person, who puts you through to another person, who finds out what you want, then puts you through to another… This is an inefficient way of running a business.
Try to ensure that a customer gets through to someone who can actually help as soon as possible. And that every time they get in touch again, they speak to the same person.
2Make the wait worth it
Waiting areas are a notoriously neglected part of South African retail. You know the vibe: A pile of magazines from 2006, a water cooler, perhaps some powdered coffee and some sticky teaspoons around the corner somewhere, and a dead potplant.
If you don’t have your smartphone with you, you’re in for a boring ten minutes. And those ten minutes will feel like 20. And when you’re still not attended to, you’ll imagine you’ve been in that waiting-room hell for half an hour.
But consider this, the time your customer spends in your waiting area is time spent thinking. He’s sitting there flipping through a Garden & Home magazine from ten years ago, or fiddling on his phone, and he’s thinking to himself, “Now what could be taking so long!” He’s making up his mind about your business, evaluating you. If he’s having an unpleasant experience, he’ll eventually decide, “You know, I don’t have time for this,” — and he’ll never be back.
Instead of providing the bare minimum of waiting-area service, why not make the wait worthwhile. If you take your waiting area to a new level of excellence, it becomes an asset instead of a liability. Customers will come to you and look forward to the wait.
Here are some examples of how you can make your waiting area an asset to your business.
- Provide a television with DStv
- A selection of charging cables so visitors can charge their phones
- A children’s area with crayons and colouring books
- Play the radio — it’s a great form of entertainment; Talk, music or magazine shows — whatever suits your business
- A couple of computer terminals with Internet access
- A bookshelf of current reads — be they books, magazines or today’s newspapers
- An automated coffee machine that provides cappuccinos, lattes and decaf options.
3Anticipate your customers’ needs
Once you’ve been in business for a few years, you know inside and out what customer requirements are. Of course, they’re not always the same, but there are many common issues that crop up.
Try to anticipate what a customer is going to want before she asks for it. It’ll reduce her stress levels and you’ll impress her with your initiative.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
Here are some examples of how to do that:
- A child needs to decorate a shoebox for a school project. As a shop assistant at a craft shop, you know everything that goes into making one. Anticipate and provide everything so the mother doesn’t have to come back later that day, fuming, “Those stickers aren’t self-adhesive. We need glue!”
- A barman knows what all the locals drink at his pub. When a regular comes through the door, he finds an ice-cold glass of his favourite Castle Draught waiting for him on the bar.
- A customer at your cellphone shop is buying a new Sony Android phone after he lost his last one. Recommend he upgrade his contract to include insurance, as he is clearly a little absent-minded and may require it later.
- Everyone’s reading spectacles are constantly smudgy. Start a service at your optometrist where anyone who comes in the door gets a free clean of their glasses. You’re simply anticipating what happens with every client.
- As a hostess at a restaurant, anticipate the needs of your customers. When you show them to their table, tell them, “The bar is there, the toilets are upstairs and if you like, you can smoke on the balcony out there.”
Maximise Your Social Media Reach This Holiday Season
Quick and cost-effective, social media is your best tool to reach target markets when it matters most – during the holidays.
It’s not just the end of the year that can be lucrative for businesses. School holidays and other major breaks during the year present consumers with more time to spend shopping. Why not ensure money is spent at your franchise by capitalising on the minimal cost and maximum exposure of social media?
You don’t have to create entirely new deals or promotions from what you may already have running on your store, but find a way to make it special for your social media followers, suggests Kelly Mason, marketer at Customer Paradigm.
Holiday campaigns on Twitter, benefitting from popular hashtags, streaming live content, and receiving information instead of just distributing it via social media are just some of the ways to stay ahead of the competition.
Know your customers well
The first step to attracting customers and getting them to complete a sale is understanding their customer journey.
“Being able to document where they spend their time online, which social channels they use most, and what they’re reading or watching on those channels is a huge plus. Finding that crucial information is fairly easy to do, thanks to modern-day marketing tools and resources,” advises Paul Herman, VP: Product and Solutions Enablement Group, at Sprinklr, a unified customer experience management platform for enterprises.
The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to reach them through a campaign optimised for their interests.
Master social listening
You could be using social media all wrong in the run up to all your holiday campaigns. Perhaps it’s time you used this platform to listen to your customers?
“Through social listening, marketers can identify major trends and product keywords in their industries,” says Herman. “For instance, knowing those keywords can help marketers identify which social platforms are more popular for a target audience. With that information, they can make smarter decisions about where to spend their money and which products or services to promote on each platform.”
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Use the information gathered to determine what customers like about your product, what they dislike about it, and how you can improve upon it so they can buy more of it. The more of this data you collect, the better and more effective your interactions with customers will be.
Try something new
50% of consumers look for a video of the product they want to buy before going to an ecommerce store to buy it, according to a 2016 Google survey. “Video can be an extremely effective way to get your customers to take action – in this case, to make a purchase with your store,” adds Mason.
Video adverts are often used as an experimental tool in social marketing and switching it up on platforms such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat – depending on your brand’s activity and your audiences’ interests – can help attract customers during seasonal periods.
Selling Your First Franchise? Consider These Key Pointers
You’re ready to franchise your business, but who do you sell to and how? Your first few franchisees may be the hardest to acquire, but the process will be smoother if you get some basics right.
Business experience gained running your independent brand will come in handy, but looking for franchisees is a different ballgame. “We have to attract the right people in enough numbers to make the difference; and, the key to more leads is to have a multi-prong strategy to marketing,” says franchise strategist and expansion expert Lizette Pirtle.
Using media (social, or otherwise), trained experts in franchise sales, and keeping in mind that whoever you sell to will become an extension of your brand, are important considerations before selling your to first franchisee:
1. Use (all) media wisely
Website marketing, print advertising and social media are just some of the many different ways to attract potential owners to your franchise. But the most cost-effect of the three may be a ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ away, says former Director of Marketing at the International Franchise Association and owner of Burris Branding and Marketing, Jack Burris.
“Three out of four people using the Internet are either on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or all of them. Take advantage of social media,” he says.
“There’s typically no cost to play in the space except for the time that you need to invest to build your brand with a social media presence.”
2. Seek out franchise coaches or brokers
While this is a more traditional method of making reliable franchise sales, it’s a great way to form lasting associations that will take you beyond your first few sales. “Using broker networks is a great way to supplement your own efforts. However, you must spend time developing relationships with these people if you want to get results,” advises Pirtle. “Don’t think that just listing your opportunity with them is sufficient.”
Franchise coaches and brokers have multiple options for potential franchisees, so to put yourself high on their list of consideration when prospects enquire, you have to form memorable relationships.
3. Always consider the bigger picture
Out of all the people your marketing efforts attract, always keep in mind that few will check all the boxes and compromising could cost you in the long run.
“The franchise relationship is a long-term one. If you’re going to be successful as a franchisor, you should start with the attitude that every franchisee will be someone who you’ll have to live with for years to come. And nowhere is this philosophy more important than when awarding your first franchise,” says Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting organisation.
To Buy Into A Franchise Or Purchase A Licence? 3 Factors To Consider
So you want to become an entrepreneur, but prefer support from an established brand? Franchising isn’t your only option, but is licensing right for you?
Opening a new business under a successful brand is a sure-fire way to success. Given that you’ve done your homework and the projections are looking good, you could be running a profitable operation in no time. However, the choice between buying into a franchise and purchasing a licence to operate under the brand, in exchange for a fee and portion of your profits can go one of two ways.
“It is essential to understand the difference between a franchising agreement and a licensing agreement, especially when seeking funding from a financial services provider,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB Business.
“Each business model is governed by a completely different agreement or contract and they operate in a unique way.”
When contemplating which option is right for you, consider how much independence you’d like to hold as a business owner, what kind of investment and share of the profits you’re willing to make and the type of relationship you’d like with your mother brand.
1Support vs autonomy
When toy industry behemoth Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in September 2017, Toys “R” Us South Africa distanced itself from its US affiliates saying that the SA business is performing so well, it’s embarking on an expansion drive. How can the mothership be suffering while its SA counterpart is thriving?
Toys “R” Us SA is a privately-owned independent company operating under a license agreement with Toys “R” Us Inc. While the local version of the toy giant has purchased the right to use licensed material and intellectual property, the licensor has no control over the operations of the licensee.
With franchising, however, the franchisor exerts more control over the franchisee, but where the franchise lacks in autonomy, it makes up for in support. “While entering into a franchise requires more of an initial investment, the benefits of an entire organisation supporting you are powerful,” say the owners of US-based fitness studio Barre Forte.
While both franchisees and licensees pay an upfront fee and ongoing royalty payments to the owner of the brand or intellectual property – the franchisor or licensor – as a licensee, you bear the developmental cost and the risk associated with launching foreign operations.
Cronjé explains a franchising agreement as a duplication of a specific business model, governed or controlled through a franchise agreement where the franchisor holds all rights, including the business model.
“While franchise and license agreements vary significantly, looking at the cost distinctions between the two, it is generally more affordable to pursue a license agreement than a franchise agreement,” he says.
The initial investment may be higher for a franchise operation, but access to a proven concept, an established customer base and ongoing product and service innovation could end up wing worth the cost. Not to mention the support franchisees get in the form of ongoing training and assistance with the initial setup process.
“When it comes to training, the licensing model would only train staff on the product they are selling,” explains Cronjé. “This is very different to franchising, where comprehensive training is provided on how to operate the entire business.”
Licensing generally includes some components of franchising, however what the difference is that specific operational support systems aren’t dictated by the group, which could bode well for you if you’re looking for the benefits of a big brand without the red tape.
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