Business & Economy

Sunday, 24 July 2011 22:25

Where are we with service delivery ahead of the biggest sporting event?

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The year 2010 is going to be a unique and powerful opportunity for South Africa to distinguish itself as a preferred international world-class service provider, but that cannot happen if we are not pro-active in providing quality service. But how innovative has South Africa been in developing new and efficient ways to improve our service levels?
Let’s face it: South Africans in general, considering all 49,32 million of us, have always struggled with service delivery. Yes, we are a warm, friendly, fun loving people, full of ubuntu, but nevertheless we continually fall short of our peers in providing good service consistently. We cannot isolate bad service in this country to any particular sector, one sees bad service every where: tourism related establishments, restaurants, cellular phone service providers, financial services, medical aid, municipalities and even your local ice cream shop. And being a developing economy is no excuse either.

There are dozens of other emerging markets that provide excellent service, some even with less developed resources and infrastructure than us. An example is our neighbour Mauritius, a country with a high tourism-centric economy and whose tourism products compete with world-class international destinations like Hawaii and the Caribbean for prime beach holiday destinations. Yet Mauritius operates with infrastructure that is significantly inferior to our own. The Mauritian tourism industry is superior to our own, simply because they have learnt the art of providing excellent service.

According to Statistics South Africa’s Annual Tourism Report published on 25 May 2009, a total of 9 728 860 foreigners visited South Africa in 2008. The same report reflected 222 817 visitors to Namibia and 1 228 979 to Mozambique. The research findings show that within the sub-Saharan region South Africa is the most attractive tourist destination – so it goes without saying that we should be leveraging this feat as best we can by differentiating our service.

Although we are a talented nation with much to offer the world -evident in the above statistics - we have a great deal to learn when compared to our emerging market counterparts like India and Brazil who have understood and practised the core elements of quality service provision. If one were to examine the core elements to create good service, the list of characteristics might include such things as good communication, flexibility, responsiveness and prompt handling.

One innovative attempt to improve prompt service delivery is Nedbank’s Ask Once service offer, which remains a unique proposition in the South African private sector landscape. The consumer promise undertaken by Nedbank is that their customers will only ‘AskOnce’ with regard to any query or request. If that query is not dealt with, the bank will personally be required to donate R50 to one of their pre-approved charities. Currently, no other SA company has ever made such a lofty and ambitious undertaking to their clients regarding service delivery.

So far Nedbank has made significant investments in back office infrastructure, administration and marketing around ‘AskOnce’ and has already donated over
R170 000 to charities against this initiative. But the reality is that Nedbank is likely to gain much more from this exercise than any charity will. This initiative is bound to have significantly positive impact on Nedbank staff service delivery levels as the bank monitors their service on a regular basis, to assess if they are meeting the ‘AskOnce’ commitment. In the end, this simple and yet highly innovative strategy will improve service levels, create higher levels of customer satisfaction and improve the bank’s bottom line results.

In the ‘AskOnce’ initiative, Nedbank has in fact provided South African companies with a unique case study on service delivery. The results or outcomes generated from this campaign are likely to provide some valuable lessons on service improvement that other companies could learn from and emulate.

Despite our world-class infrastructure and innovative products, South African companies tend to focus much of their attention on product development and devote minimal attention and resources to finding ways to innovate and improve service delivery. When a company, organisation or community decides to dedicate time and resources to perfecting service delivery, as Nedbank has undertaken to do, that simple act can revolutionise an organisation, an industry and perhaps even a country.

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