Archive for the ‘Customer is Queen’ Category
It started innocently enough. It was my lunch hour and I quickly whizzed off to get my eyebrows done. En route to my scooter I decided I needed airtime. I walked into Woolworths in the Waterfront and the search started: their ‘Connect’ kiosk had moved to the back of the store.
I needed airtime to buy an sms bundle for R67.50. I pulled out R70 and told the assistant that I need R70 Vodacom airtime, please. She stared at me and I repeated the process: “R70 Vodacom airtime, please.” She told me that Vodacom airtime does not come in such a denomination.
What I had been hoping would be a quick transaction started to look as though I’d be there the entire day. I told her that it really doesn’t matter to me in which denominations she gives me the airtime; all I want is something that’s close to 70 bucks.
She did a bit of mental exercise and offered me R55 and 2 R12 vouchers. But that’d give me R79 and I only really wanted R70 or as close to that as possible; R70 being the minimum I wanted. I got frustrated and asked her to call her manager. He arrived and I asked him “Why is it so difficult to sell me R70 worth of Vodacom airtime?” He, too, told me that they don’t sell such a denomination. Oy, this guy was unhelpful. And I got ticked off — I used for fuck sakes. So yes, he wanted me to be calm, polite and just buy the R55 voucher. But I was having none of it: I asked for the store manager. Surely the store manager will use a bit of logic and arithmetic — or a calculator — to sell me an amount of R70 — minimum — or close to it?
He called one of the store’s management staff and she, too, was unable to find a solution.
Eventually one of the other assistants, who had been listening in on the conversation, said they should sell me 5 R12 vouchers. But that’s only R60, not the R70 that I had asked for. I asked him why only 5 vouchers? So he changed his stance; he told them they should sell me 6 vouchers that’ll cost me R72. No-one bothered to thank him. I told him that he, not they, should be management instead.
What irritated me most was not the guy telling me I shouldn’t use foul language; what irritated me most was that only one out of 4 people could use their logical faculties to figure out 6 of these R12 vouchers equal R72. I’m unsure whom to blame. I used to blame companies for not training their staff properly. But it’s not that simple.
I, too, used to work in retail. Long hours bla di bla. Poor pay bla di bla. Bad working conditions bla di bla. And yet I could somehow solve such problems. Had it been my superior education at D.F Malan High School? Had it been my mother? What was it?
There will always be apologists; they’re everywhere. One of them is burning to tell me that I shouldn’t expect much from a Woolworths cashier. I ask them why? Why should I expect nothing from cashiers? They aren’t an inferior race/class; they’re human and most of them have high school certificates at the very least. Especially Woolworths cashiers.
Other apologists will tell me to expect nothing of the majority of South Africans; they’re stupid anyway. The problem with such logic is that the majority of South Africans control whom we elect as President. So critical thinking and problem solving skills are a must, not a luxury. The maority keep company CEOs accustomed to the good life; the majority never complain and they make life difficult for those of us who do demand better service. In all spheres, not just in retail.
We could even call critical thinking something else: common sense. We do not learn this at school. Instead they teach us about important things such as Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival in Kaap de Goede Hoop. And we learn that 1 + 2 = 3
Yes, these things are important but only knowing how to recite facts parrot style won’t help an irate customer who wants to get R70, R90 or R400 airtime.
But governments do not want their citizens to have common sense; they want citizens who’ll fund their lavish lifestyles. Yes, sure, they provide us with things such as the basic infrastructure but they can do so much more with our Tax and VAT money. And to maintain the status quo means not investing in the next generation’s thinking skills. For to do the opposite would entice dissent and another round of Mandelas and Bikos.
There is a happy ending to my tale of 6 Vodacom vouchers: I had to go back to Woolworths for some of this and went back to the Connect counter. James was there and I told him that I truly believe he should be management. He seems like a bright enough young fellow who can remain calm and offer a solution when everyone around him falters.
Update: Seth Godin blogged about ‘Win the fight, lose the customer’ today. Someone at Woolworths should start reading his blog.
Much in life are worth the time that we spend getting used to them. Whisky is one of them. Some people claim they only liked salty liquorice after the third or fourth try; I, however, liked it instantly. But it took me a long time to appreciate whisky.
So I was thinking about movies recently, mostly because of a post that I had read about feminist movies. I don’t remember much of the movie Volver. I saw it at the beginning of last year. I only remember what I felt after I’d seen the movie.
I wondered whether such movies aren’t perhaps the type one gets used to … slowly. I didn’t hate the movie; I had a neutral feeling about it. It was different to the movies I am used to. Most of the movies I used to watch are those with male-centric plots. Boy meets girl, they fall in love but then something happens that drives them apart. Girl cries and devises a solution to win boy back. They get back together. The End.
Even when there is no real love plot, women are not the focus; men are.
Zoolander is one of my all-time favourite movies and it has a guy as the protagonist. I have only a few favourite movies that pass the Bechdel test. This test rates movies on 3 criteria: It has to have at least two women in it; Who talk to each other; About something besides a man.
So I wonder. Should I watch Volver again? Am I a bad feminist for not liking the movie much the first time around? Or should I just find other feminist movies to watch?
I grew up on a Disney diet of Snow White and The Three Musketeers. That’s what I and many others are used to. Yes, I enjoyed Monsters, Inc but it fails the Bechdel test.
I’d love feminist movies — or movies that pass the Bechdel test — to become the norm but I realise it will take a long time. Most women are OK with watching chick-flicks and men are still pandered to; women are ignored. Well, most of the time — there are a few movies that get women right. And I do not have the statistics but strong, women-centric films are mostly from Old Hollywood, European, or ‘Indie’. Why? It’s because women are a niche market. And you have to search high and low to find women-centric movies; Mr Video stocks blockbusters, mostly.
87 Million women in America went to the movies in 2007; 85 million men in America went to the movies during the same period. And more 60+ women than men of the same age have been going to the movies from 2003 to 2007. The MPAA 2007 Movie Attendance Study records the 40- to 59-year-old age group as the most frequent movie going group. Surely this should mean that there is a lot of scope for women-centric movies.
And surely this means that girls growing up today will not have to get used to feminist movies; they will come to see such movies as the default.
If you follow me on Twitter — @joycloete — you’ll know that customer service is something I tweet about often. It could be because I used to be in some sort of customer service job for more than 6 years. Or it could be because of that R10 000 chip on my shoulder. I have been in search of that perfect shot of espresso or — if I can find it — ristretto since the beginning of last year.
So I go everywhere: restaurants, coffee shops, hotels. And I sit down, hoping to get good bean juice. And sometimes I’ll get it, too. Good bean juice. But what I get most often is indifference from the waiter. And that’s on a good day. A bad day could mean not getting a ‘Hi’; it could mean getting a table tucked away from the rest of the diners; it could even mean being called ‘dear’.
True, these aren’t all signs of racism. But when all of them apply to a single dining experience you start to wonder “is it cause I’m coloured?”. And then you wonder whether it would help to enlighten the waiter or the manager. It’s often the small things you notice: not getting as much attention as the rest of the diners; a frown on the waiter’s forehead when you order or ask for anything; and not being offered bread or given a menu.
I’m a single POC woman, which means I dine alone. Mostly. I could spout many statistics to show that waiters and retailers do not care much for my group. Come on, we eat alone, which means the bill won’t be high. We’ll probably sit there for more than an hour reading the newspaper or posting updates to Twitter. And — stereotype alert — we’re not great tippers (this is true for most of us, btw). We’re difficult, too: we’re angry coloured women.
So I’ve been trying to dispel this stereotype. I’m not overly pleasant but I’m possibly one of the better customers your brand can have — I know what I want and I’m not afraid to ask for it. Mediocre service gets 5% – 10% – if that much — and a love letter about why I had given that little. I know how waiters moan when they get pathetic tips; I used to be one. Good service gets 15% – 20% and excellent service gets anything from 25% – 40%, depending on the size of the bill. On a few occasions I have even tipped the waiter more than 100% on a small bill.
Now, see, 25% – 40% is waaaaay above the average. Hell, most waiters would be happy with a 15% tip. But I somehow got it into me that tipping more than the average would get me better service. Wrong. It doesn’t. Whoever told you that is a fool. Or the person who told you that is white and has probably never had to deal with stealth racism.
POC should really up the amount they tip for good service. Come now, people. There’s no need to go overboard. Just tip decently so that we can get rid of these stereotypes. And then we can finally enjoy an espresso at the fancy restaurant and not demand to see the manager.