Ask Afrika, one of South Africa’s diverse research and marketing insight companies, presented its 11th annual Orange Index Customer Service Benchmarking & Social Profiling Awards, during a half-day conference held at Johannesburg’s Summer Place. The event was presided over by founder and CEO, Andrea Rademeyer, who echoed Google’s sentiments that we have moved out of the ‘Industrial Age’ into the ‘Age of People’.
Woolworths Food led the field, out of the 111 brands surveyed this year, and also won the Food Retail category, for the fourth time. Overall runner-up was BMW, followed by Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths Clothing and Sanlam. Other brands in the top ten were Multichoice DStv, Old Mutual, Volkswagen, Toyota and Edgars. Winners were presented with their trophies by Rademeyer and Bernard Beukman, gener al manager of Rapport and Beeld, the event sponsors.
Sarina de Beer, MD of Ask Afrika, presented a gripping summary of current trends in the South African market place, forecasting the impact on society, and the government, of service expectations and government performance. She laid emphasis on the fact that consumers are morphing into citizens and hailed the concept of humanity – seeing the customer as more than a potential meal ticket – in the service industry.
“There has to be a balance between transactional service excellence and social contracting in the private sector. However, operational excellence is in fact a basic expectation and will not build social commitment on its own. This is where the humanity of the consumer must be paramount.”
The theme of (non) service delivery, a topic especially close to the heart of CEO Rademeyer, formed the basis of a candid panel discussion, featuring distinguished panellists Kamogelo Mmutlana (CEO, Fleet Africa), Mmusi Maimane (DA national spokesperson), Dr Mzukisi Qobo (political risk analyst at the University of Pretoria) and John October (executive head: HR, Training and Sales for Telesure.)
A further panel discussion was conducted with representatives of industry leaders for 2012: Marco Vazzola (Woolworths), Guy Kilfoil (BMW), Sechaba Motsieola (McDonalds), Ed Carrell (Absa) and Sarah Lubbe (Vodacom). Their topic was ‘What’s the name of the game’, and the unanimous answer was, of course, service excellence; especially in the light of the 2012 drop of 5.2% overall, in local service levels.
Kilfoil commented that while many of his customers might not know the difference if blind-folded and put into a German precision motor car, the service levels delivered by BMW would certainly be a major differentiator in the relevant automobile sector.
Anneli Retief (client services director for Ask Afrika) was MC for the event, which was brought to a close by Jenny Muniah, also client services director. She left the audience with a quote from Ela Bhatt, from SEWA, the self-employed women’s association in India.
“Urbanisation is not development. Technology, if it creates imbalances, is not a solution… we will need to get in partnership with our conscience; we will need to get in partnership with our fellow human beings and we will need a long-term partnership with Mother Nature.”