Best and worst customer service: 2014

Over the last few months, I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with some truly terrible businesses, specifically in terms of customer service. These experiences inspired me to compile a list of business that truly stood out this year, good or bad, when it comes to customer service.

Unfortunately, the good list is a little short, and that comes back to the businesses on the bad-list being guilty of all or most of the no-no’s I listed here.

Without further adieu, in no particular order:

Telkomsmiley sad

My word but these guys are terrible. The main issue here is that the various departments within Telkom (in my case accounts, line activation, sales, cancellations and technical support) do not have a clue what the other is doing and have no way of communicating with each other. The challenge in this case, is you have very few alternative options as Telkom is a state-owned monopoly and other ISP’s are dependent on Telkom. Engaging with Telkom call center staff is an exercise in futility, especially when the issue at hand is outside their normal script. The short of it here is that I tried to cancel an incomplete service order after no communication was received from Telkom on the status of the order. Once I stepped into the quagmire, I got sucked into a 2 month-long soul-destroying string of phone calls, Twitter DM’s, speaking to 13 people in the process in 5 different departments and got stonewalled every time. In the end I had to pay for a service I didn’t receive, my DSL line got disconnected and even though Telkom admitted they made a mistake they refused to give me a refund offering only to deduct the incorrectly billed amount from my next invoice. Thank you to Rieyaana and Alexander for eventually ending the madness.

Time spent on the phone/in a store: 3 hours, 14 min and 23 sec

Cost of phone calls / lost productivity: R1 270,47

Number of people spoken to: 13

Time to resolve the issue: 44 days

Score: 2/10


 Roco Mamma’ssmiley happy

Smashburger in your face!!!!! Damn but these guys make a good burger! Toasted buns, fresh ingredients and a perfectly cooked patty prepared in an open kitchen. An innovative menu and ordering system spices things up and a great selection of local and craft beers will quench the thirst. The staff is always friendly and the decor is trendy with comfortable chairs and tables.

My favourites are the MushroomSwizz (mushroom sauce and Swiss cheese) and the BaconCheeseGuac (you get it). You can also create your own Smashburger with a choice of 20 different toppings. They also serve some great slim fries with a pepper based seasoning and great ribs with 3 different types of basting.

Prices are good, a specialty burger and fries will set you back around R60.

Score: 8.5/10


Lotter’s Pine Centurionsmiley sad

I had to breathe deeply a few times before writing this one. The main issue here is the complete lack of empathy or urgency from the owners of this business. I ordered furniture from Lotter’s Pine and paid a delivery fee to have the items delivered to my home. During delivery, the driver of the vehicle didn’t anticipate the height of the furniture in the load bay and drove into our car port damaging 2 panels, a fastening bracket and a support beam as well as one of the items we ordered. The driver immediately apologised and we continued to offload the undamaged item, documenting the damage to the car port and second item and proceeded to inform the store of what happened. Not only did we receive no assistance from the owner or his staff in settling the damage claim from his insurance, they proceeded to make us wait an extra week to have the second piece of furniture repaired, the claim was only settled a month and a half later and with contractors closing for the festive season I will only be able to fix the car port middle January.

Time spent on the phone/in a store: 19 min and 47 sec

Cost of phone calls / damages: R3 019.55

Number of people spoken to: 4

Time to resolve the issue: 43 days

Score: 4/10


Sunteksmiley sad

I’m truly amazed by the absolute indifference this business has towards paying customers. It’s as if they don’t want to make money! So we have a louvred awning on our front porch and over the years one of the panels got a slight bend in it. This bend, however, means that when closed there’s a slight gap between it and the panel adjacent that lets through rain and then creates a massive puddle on the floor. So I phone Suntek, they installed the awnings in our townhouse complex, to get a quote on repairing the panel. Just to get them out to do the quote took 2 weeks! Once we received the quote we had to pay the full amount up front before they would schedule the job card. Payment made we were told that because it is such a small job, they could do it within that same week. 3 weeks later and 3 more phone calls (with 2 unfulfilled promises to phone back, also the lady who schedules the jobs only works half day and when she’s away no one else can assist) and the work was still not done with no indication when it would be done. The 4th call ended in a return call from the owner, Eduard, who scheduled the work to be done the following week. That was this past Wednesday, the awning is still not fixed. I phoned them up a 5th time to get a refund and lo and behold, the money was returned yesterday morning. I still have massive puddles on my porch floor when it rains.

Time spent on the phone/in a store: 8 min and 12 sec

Cost of phone calls / lost productivity: R8,14

Number of people spoken to: 3

Time to resolve the issue: Unresolved

Score: 0/10


 Strijdom Park Volkswagensmiley neutral

This is a strange one. I purchased a new vehicle from this dealership and the service was great before and during the sales process. Regular and relevant communication with only small hiccups here and there due to the fact that there is construction at their building which affected their connectivity to the relevant financial systems. Other than that, Jarryd and Nick provided excellent service and were able to meet my needs when it came to financing and getting me a car that met my expectations. Problems arose a few months after that… From the day of purchase there was a strange noise coming from the front left wheel, it sounded as if a pebble or piece of wood got stuck in the tread which means you would hear a tapping sound as the wheel rotates. Initially I thought it might be a fleck of rubber remnant from the production of the tire which would eventually wear down and the sound would go away, except it didn’t. Once I was able to take the vehicle in for it to be inspected to find the source of the noise, the trouble started. On the Monday I took it in, I received a call later in the afternoon to inform me that they have heard the noise but cannot find the source and have difficulty replicating the noise in the workshop. They would phone back with progress the next day.

Tuesday came and went. I phoned on Wednesday only to be told there was no feedback as they had not been able to work on the car because they were waiting to install parts from demo vehicles, but, that these demo vehicles were also used for test drives which mean they weren’t always available. So I, who had already spent money, had to wait in the back of the line while the dealership focuses their attention on those potential customers who have not. Anyway, after a lengthy argument on Thursday with a technician as well as the service manager, I finally got my car back the following Monday. The problem was in the rim and/or tire which they replaced with new ones and the sound was gone. Finally! Driving out of the dealership, I noticed that my park distance control wasn’t working, adjusting the settings didn’t resolve the problem so I turned around and drove back to the dealership. A technician inspected the vehicle and saw scratch marks on the left rear bumper indicating that someone had bumped the car and damaged the sensor. By this time, I was so furious I could barely speak. After documenting the damage and getting everything in writing (with an admission that the dealership was responsible), I was told they could not have it fixed this year as their panel beaters close up for the festive season and they would only fix it from middle January.

Das Auto should get Das Boot…

Time spent on the phone/in a store: 1 hour, 33 min and 29 sec

Cost of phone calls / lost productivity / damage: R364,17 + R5 000 estimated for the damage to the bumper

Number of people spoken to: 3

Time to resolve the issue: Partly resolved

Score: 5/10. 0/10, because they scratched my car…


 Takealotsmiley happy

These guys are great aren’t they! What makes them so good? The age-old under-promise-and-over-deliver. Once you’ve confirmed and paid for your order, and SMS comes through confirming the delivery date of your order. In my last 10 orders, the delivery was completed at least a day early. Why is this important? Well, when you buy something online, it’s like buying yourself a gift! A parcel all wrapped up and you giddy with excitement, no better feeling in the world. The only thing better is that it comes earlier than expected!

Takealot always has some great specials going and they offer plentiful choices in terms of payment options and delivery methods. Returns are handled very well and without fail, whenever there was a problem, a full refund, no-questions-asked policy gives you peace of mind. Couple all of this with a massive selection of products, even some exotic products like Google Glass, Playstation TV and Apple TV and we have our very own Amazon.

The only bit of critique I can give is that the website is in need of a spruce up in terms of look & feel and the navigation, though efficient, is not quite intuitive and can be confusing to new users. Additional functionality like price comparison (barcode scanning while in-store) or comparing multiple products would be a great addition.

With their VC money as well as the pending merger with Kalahari, Takealot seems well positioned to stave off any threats from international competitors such as the rumored entry of Amazon into the South African market.

Keep up the good work guys!

Score: 9/10

That’s it for my review of the high-and-lows in service I experienced this year. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

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