Nevermind firing customers, fire your suppliers!

I am tempted to say that service in South Africa is just lousy.  The reason I won’t is because I know that that would be a gross generalisation and is totally unfair to all those companies and individuals who render awesome service.  Today I had yet another Pick ‘n Pay incident.  We decided to buy an electric heater from Pick ‘n Pay so off I went to buy one.  I found the heater we wanted and walked to the till.  I was not willing to try the same queue I stood in last time so I stood behind a trolley and soon arrived at the front of the till only to find that the box didn’t scan.  The cashier took the box, handed it to someone else who went off to get the right barcode (fair enough – this kind of thing happens) and I stepped aside for a woman who just needed to pay her phone bills. 

I waited for that woman to finish and then for another woman (who pushed past me with some vegetables) and no one arrived back with the box.  I could actually see the aisle next to the one I picked the heater up from about 100 meters away from me.  There were people still waiting behind me with trolleys loaded with goods and they were told to wait until the box arrived back from wherever it was taken to.  I looked down the aisle to see if anyone was jogging to the till with the necessary information and instead I saw some guy walking with the box in his hand in the other direction.  Finally I told the cashier that I wasn’t going to wait for them to arrive and I walked off without it.

This incident, close on the heels of our experience at Crepe & Latte yesterday, got me thinking about a post I did a while ago (with reference to one of Seth Godin’s excellent posts) about firing a customer who you no longer work well with.  We, South Africans, are pretty good at complaining about lousy service we receive from retailers and government departments (in fact much of my blog is a rant about something) and I wonder how often we act on that?  If we don’t respond then we condone that behaviour.  Our service providers and suppliers sell their products and services to us.  We are the end users and we have choices whose products and services to buy.  Why should we subject ourselves to apathetic, disinterested and even downright surly shop assistants and unpleasant call centres?

These employees are representatives of the company they work for.  They have a responsibility to their employers to promote their employer’s business and by behaving so badly, they do their employers and us, the customers, a disservice.  I believe the answer to this is to speak out about lousy (and positive) experiences and to talk with your wallet.  Take your business to their competitors if their competitors treat you with respect and in acknowledgement that you are important to them.  Don’t tolerate bad service.  Why should you?  If you say nothing then the bad service will continue and may even get worse.

For my part, I’m not going to shop at that store again.  Certainly not until I calm down (and that could take a while)!

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