Let me start out by saying that this not the normal list of business trends in South Africa. Most blog’s and articles that talk about trends have looked into trends that business use to grow their organizations.
My blog is about trends that companies have in their business that nobody wants to talk about. These are things that happen right under the bosses, managers and executives noses. If they do know about them they seem to ignore them and hope they go away.
So here is my list of 4 trends that South African businesses need to know, be aware of and fix because they might ignore them but their customers and clients will not.
Trends 1 – Websites – The Silent Sales Person
In Frances Burks blog “What Is a Silent Salesman?”, she describes the silent salesperson as the packaging, display’s, signage and other promotional products, used to market a clients products or services.
I have always called a professionally designed and well laid out website a Silent Salesperson, that never sleeps, eats, goes on leave, take a sick day or does any of the other human employees like activities. It is there to do its jobs, advertise a companies services and products.
Unlike a regular salesperson, a website cannot think and can only perform as it was programmed to. Artificial Intelligence will change this, but I am not going into that now.
In order to interact with clients, websites use a variety of tools.
Some of these tools are simple and straightforward, these include email addresses, phone numbers and contacts pages, but this requires the customer to contact you. Which is what you ultimately want.
Two other tools that are being used are more interactive and responsive; such as online forms and chat boxes.
Chat boxes are a relatively new tool in the web page arsenal for the average South African company. These are newish technological trends that are currently being used but not effectively. Many local companies that have placed chat boxes on their sites, do not fully understand the requirements of having and using these tools. But this I leave for a later blog.
Let me start with the more common method of acquiring customers contact details and leads. The online form.
First, let me explain the concept behind the online form. The online form is a way of gathering leads from a customer at their convenience.
It is a way for the silent salesperson i.e. your website, to get the potential customers details and pass it on to the relevant person in your company.
These online forms are also electronic messages saying “I left a message for someone to get back to me” from a potential customer.
But let me explain the current online form trend.
You are in need of a particular product or services from, let’s call them XYZ Incorporated. You have done research on the internet, seen the company on a billboard, or magazine, or got a referral from a friend, family member or an existing customer, but you still have questions and need to speak to someone from XYZ Incorporated to get answers.
So you call the company and ask to speak to a salesperson about the service or product you want to get information about…..
You explain to the person who answers the phone, where you found XYZ Incorporated, how you got the number and why you need to speak to a salesperson. Then the unexplainable happens.
You are told to go to the companies website, click on the contact us page and fill out the online form and a company representative will contact you.
In My Opinion
Why do I have to fill out a form when I have already phoned into the companies offices and asked to speak to a person.
Why can’t you just put me through.
Trends 2 - The customer is King
Let me first start out by saying, I don’t believe the customer is always king or that the customer is always right, but without the customer no business can succeed. Customer are a vital part of any business.
This trend is more of a retail trend than an office based business trend. Have you been into a retail shop lately and felt like the staff find you annoying, and in the way. If you have not. You, my friend, are very lucky, or else you shop online.
If you do go into a retail shop try asking a staff member to help you locate a product or give more information on an item. Let me know your experience. Good or Bad.
Let me just also say right from the start, that there are many dedicated and helpful salespeople and staff in and around the retail stores, and to them, I raise my hat and say “Thank You Very Much.” but I digress, so back to the issues.
It becomes difficult to write about these trends without mention the organizations names, but I will get over it and do my best.
Two trends I have noticed in retail stores are as such.
- Unhelpful employees
You will immediately see an employee who works on commission and one that is not. How?
Walk into any supermarket in Johannesburg and walk up to the first staff member you see and ask them where to find for example “Coffee Pods”.The commission based employee will walk you to the product and try to sell it to you. The non-commission employee will point in the general direction of the isles, not necessarily in the direction of the coffee pods.
Problem – None of the staff is incentivised or even motivated to assist customers.
Walk up to a bunch of staff members and don’t say a word. The motivated by money or commission staff member will approach you, the other will ignore you like you don’t exist.
Restocking ShelvesYes, I understand that the shelves need to be packed and that if the stock is not on the shelf it will not sell.
However, staff need to understand that customers are there to buy what is on the shelf. So as much as a customer needs to understand that the packers are refilling the shelves so the packers have to understand that if customers don’t buy goods because they cannot get to the shelves they will not need to pack the shelves, creating a rather short-lived cycle.
In My Opinion
Staff need to understand that they don’t just work for the company they are part of it and are responsible for its success or failure. Even the cleaner is important.
Staff need to assist customers to get to the shelves by not always blocking the aisles with stock trolleys, as well as understand that most shoppers are short on time.
Trends 3 – African Time Keeping
I know in South Africa, people think in terms of African Time. I am over 40 years old and still don’t get this. African time is just an excuse to be disrespectful to other people. It is a selfishness that people that only care/think or worry about themselves use.
John has scheduled an appointment with a Peter, a sales representative from XYZ Incorporated. (Yes, he filled in the online form and someone did phone him.)
They are scheduled to meet at 13:00 pm Friday afternoon. As this is a private matter John has had to put a half days leave from his company in order to be there.
John arrives at the arrange place at 12:50.
Time passes by and Peter has not arrived. John says he will wait a bit and gives Peter more time.
2 Hours later John phones Peter, to find out what is going on.
Peter then gives one of many excuses or reasons such as:
- Sorry, I forgot,
- I am running late,
- Can we reschedule,
- I was in a meeting. etc.
In this day and age, with all our modern technologies there is absolutely no excuse for not getting in touch with the persons involved to explain why there will be a delay.This should take place before the expected time.
People and companies need to understand time is valuable for both parties involved.
This is also the case for companies that are doing work for you and don’t arrive as scheduled.
Trends 4 – Protection of Personal Information Act
The Protection of Personal Information or POPI Act 4 of 2013, was signed by the then President of South Africa into law on the 19 November 2013 and was Government Gazetted on the 26 November 2013. Making it Law.
Once the Act was made effective, companies were given a grace period of 1 year to get their documents in order. Therefore as of January 2015 all companies dealing with the use of personal information needed to be lawfully compliant.
It is now early 2018 and many companies such as insurance brokers, banks, vehicle sales companies and a numerous amount of other telesales based organizations have complied with the requirements of the POPI Act No 4 of 2013. They have placed documentation on their websites listed with the correct authorities, etc.
But they have failed to inform their minions, doing the day to day phone calls and lead generation.
Ask anyone of the numerous telephonic sales callers that you get on a daily basis, one simple question. “Where did you get my contact details from?” The answer most likely will be something like this. “From the database, I was given by my manager to call.“
Well, this is not the correct answer according to the POPI Act.
The Act requires, that if asked such a simple question, a correct and valid response should be given. This means that the telesales agent MUST be able to say exactly where the information was obtained.
So for example; if you had signed up with a newsletter/email request, that is the reason that should be given. This information should form part of the database that is given out to make these calls.
In My Opinion
The fact that your are legally compliantis fantastic, but if the process is not explained to everybody in your organization, so that when they are asked aquestions pertaining to the Act, they are ready for it and are able to answer correctly.
My point is that you should be socially compliant as well as legally compliant.
Don’t annoy customers by not following the procedures of the documentation that you have placed on your websites.
This also applies to SUBSCRIBES on your mails shots. If I unsubscribe from said mail then unsubscribe me from the database as well.
Finally, if you are compliant, follow the rules and place an unsubscribe link on your email, add where you got my details from and to which email address the mail-shot was intended for. I have a right to know.
One thing I am glad to say is that there are a minority of companies out in the South African marketplace that does not conform to these trends. For this, I salute you and say keep up the good work.
To the majority of companies that are allowing these trends to run rampant in their businesses I hope and pray that you take heed and attempt to rectify this.