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Phantom Group: Mike Hewan, Wayde Kennedy & Anthony Field-Buss

Making a name by building a good business from poor customer service

Juliet Pitman



Mike Hewan, Wayde Kennedy & Anthony Field-Buss of The Phantom Group

If you receive a blue-and-white calling card saying “You’ve been tested”, consider yourself lucky. It means your business has been visited – and service tested – by a ‘phantom shopper’ who will have provided you with a wealth of information on how you can improve your service offering, facilities and product. The anonymous service testing, calling cards and leave-behind data are just some of the innovations of Phantom Group, a company started in 2005 by Mike Hewan, Wayde Kennedy and AnthonyField-Buss. Appalled at the current levels of customer service in South Africa, the three Gauteng-based entrepreneurs saw a gap for a market research company specialising in customer experience-based research that would help clients to increase their bottom-line profitability.

“Companies pay lip service to customer service but they don’t treat it as a vital frontline function. They should be tracking service levels like they track financials – it affects the bottom-line.” explains Kennedy. “With the tough competition that so many businesses are facing out there, there is a huge need to shift the focus from the product or service, to the entire experience that is created for the customer. We believe that it’s in this experience that companies will find crucial differentiators.”Changing service levels is all about changing behaviour, something that is notoriously difficult to do. While many companies have the passion, they lack the technical expertise to effect such change.  Phantom Group’s approach to tackling the problem was to look to well-researched methods that have been proven to work.

“Customer satisfaction tracking has been used successfully in most of the world’s strongest economies but is still in its infancy in South Africa,” explains Hewan.The mistake many companies make when it comes to customer service is leaving too much to chance instead of approaching the problem from a strategic perspective. “Research shows that customer contact strategies are vital for the success of any organisation, in that all companieshave customers and the customer is any company’s greatest asset,” says Kennedy.

The group employs a two-pronged approach to customer satisfaction, involving customer satisfaction tracking and phantom shopping. The two work hand-in-hand to increase retention, turnover and ultimately profit margins. Phantom shopping establishes service trends and supplies measurable data that allows clients to objectively compare different locations, shifts, and employees using the same standards. Customer satisfaction tracking allows them to continuously listen to the voice of the customer in order to implement ongoing business process improvements.

One of the challenges of improving customer service however, lies in the fact that different businesses require different solutions. It’s a challenge to which Hewan, Kennedy and Field-Buss have devoteda great deal of thought. In spite of drawing on the same underlying theory and using the same tools, all their solutions are tailor-made to suit a client’s specific needs. “When it comes to customer service, although there are universal truths, there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” says Hewan.

Although the concept might be new to the South African market, Phantom Group has overcome the first hurdle of educating businesses about the potential benefits their services offer. With every calling card that’s left behind in a restaurant, shopping mall or business, the Phantom Group brand gains in strength and the concept becomes more widely recognised. In the last 18 months, the business has increased in size and momentum. Initially self-funded by the three partners and using a database of only 100 phantom shoppers, Phantom Group now lists Nu Metro Film Distribution,WesBank, and Primi Piatti amongst its clients and boasts a database of well over
1 000 individuals. In a relatively short period the partnershave established a foothold as industry experts, but they’re still hungry for more.

Setting their sights on meeting the next big challenge, they say: “Phantom Group will create a standard system of accreditation for service thatwill become the de facto measure of the value a business places on customers. Perseverance and an unwavering belief in the value of our business guarantees success.”

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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