I am what they call a swallow here in South Africa.  I fly in for the summer.  We stay in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains where the French Huguenots settled to introduce wine growing to South Africa.   The sun, good wine, excellent food and beautiful surroundings, what more do you want?  I recommend it.

Having spent a life-time in selling, poor customer service delivery is a bête noire of mine.  A couple of examples have come up recently which confirm yet again just how daft poor service delivery appears and how crass the perpetrators who fail to rise to the service challenge. I am however thankful to them for their stories.  Just listen to them.

I think it was March 2009 when I asked the local wine retailer to buy me a case of white sauvignon he didn’t stock and to deliver it when I returned in November.  It is a good wine shop.  Extensive stock and the boss knows what he was talking about.  The instruction was quite clear.  There it was on the box label.  My name, telephone number, the instruction, Rand 420 paid.  Nothing happened; and when I returned in November I had forgotten about it too.

The years passed.  When I returned in January 2013, I had a telephone call from the shop.  They had the case of wine for me.  It had spent 3 years in the boss’s office and he had done nothing about it.  Needless to say, over the years, it had gone sweet.  Still quite pleasant but not what you would expect if you want to drink a sauvignon.

I took it back. Explained it was sweet.  The boss won’t take it back, his lady explained.  And he wouldn’t:  “I’m not taking that back. I can’t use it”. “Well I can’t use it either,”  I explained “because it has spent the last 3 years sitting under your desk and now it has gone sweet.” A small man running a small business, determined to stay small.

Breath taking stuff, isn’t it?  Fortunately his lady stepped in. She as it happens also runs a weekend catering business catering for Coloureds.  She is a Coloured herself. And as it happens, she explained to me, Coloureds love sweet white wine.”  She bought the wine on her own account with her boss still muttering behind her that he would have nothing to do with it.

Within a week I had spent 3 times the value of that case of wine restocking my home supplies, this time from the local supermarket.  Who wants to be a badly treated customer?

The next story is about a pot of white paint. It competes in its way with Tommy Cooper’s story about a pot of green paint.  I bought a pot of white gloss paint from a local dealer, about Rand 100 worth.  I had already spent around Rand 1850 with him.  I gave the painter the paint and he painted the white doors and he touched in some white panelling.  It is difficult to see white over here in the midday sun but the next morning the areas painted looked decidedly pink. I mentioned this to the dealer. Why was I complaining? The painter must have used a dirty brush.  This didn’t quite explain why the doors painted were all the same colour.  It seemed there were 3 possibilities: either the dealer had received a bad batch, or one of his staff had put a tint in the base white and inadvertently put the tin back on the shelf; or I had put a tint in myself.  It was hard to understand why I should want to add a tint when I had asked for white paint in the first place.  No movement unfortunately. His side never makes mistakes.  Here was a man happy to throw away a customer (and maybe the customer’s friends and maybe anyone who reads Trip Advisor), all for a pot of white paint and Rand 100.

It could be that the older generation in South Africa for historical reasons are reluctant to accept when they are wrong.  But at what the cost these daft decisions.  The corollary is my internet guru, Francois of info@idealmarketing.co.za, who represents the younger generation.  His view is always to do a little more work than the customer pays for.  Then he knows he will be recommended.  It seems his system of customer service delivery works well!

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