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January 2015

Viva! consumer activism, Viva!

Your favourite old misery-guts has always been a fan of Consumer Activism – or customer’s rights – call it what you will. Especially when it’s a “David vs. Goliath” scenario when you have some poor shnook who’s been shafted by the “We-don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass” Corporation. There are few things that bring such joyous gollops of dark glee to my little blood pump than when Joe Nobody finally gets the zig enough to stick it to the offending organisation in such a gloriously inventive and original way that makes the rest of us howl with unabashed glee.
Like the black guy (not just white-is-right around here ya know, them blackfellas got some powerful pissed-off pranks up their sleeves) some time ago now who had a long-standing feud with Absa. He got the usual runaround, got dissed by all and sundry for yonks and yonks – same old story. Until he decided he’d had enough and pitched up in the main lobby of one Absa’s biggest branches with a bag containing a dozen or so venomous snakes – and set ‘em loose. Well, you better believe THAT got Absa’s attention right quick-smart. In the resultant pandemonium (damn, I wish I was there…), the poison-peddling shlub got arrested for his pains – but he also, having (most emphatically) delivered the message as to just how the moer in he was with Absa, got his problem sorted out. Finally. In another, more recent example, another gatvol consumer, Mr. G. Proka took on the terminally customer relations challenged (aka dof) CEO of Cell C, one Mr. Dos Santos – and won. It cost him a passel of aggro, more than 60 grand of his own, personal spondooliks and a big-ass, straight-to-the-point, amen-tell-it-like-it-is-brother banner that stretched more than 60 m. alongside one of Jozi’s busiest roads – but he won. Much to the enjoyment of consumers everywhere.

The point, of course, is this. The plain, bog-standard and unvarnished truth is that so many businesses that we deal with on a day-to-day basis actually don’t give a damn about their customers, or their “customer service” (HA!) – much less listen to them. They may well pay smug, sanctimonius, self-serving and facile lip service to a concept about which they have not the faintest notion, but they actually just plain don’t care. And don’t be fooled by inane marketing catchphrases like “How can we help you today?” or “There for you – all the way”. They are just mental candy floss churned out by grossly overpaid ad. agencies whose job it is to polish turds. After all, it should not be forgotten that these inanities are just there to publically burnish the no-existent haloes of companies who care only about the bottom line, not whether you, as their customer, are actually happy with the service you do (or do not) receive.

But, as stated earlier, every now and again, Jan Alleman, gets the hell-in enough to do something about it and freaks out. Suddenly, the offending company (has no choice but to – courtesy of the media who thrive on serving high-and-mighty exec’s with their come-uppances)) falls over its own feet in a gushingly “dollar short and a day late” manner to lick the boots of the instant consumer celebrity and fix whatever’s wrong. And they still don’t get it. It will still be wrong – no matter what they do – because the problem lies with their initial “bugger off, we’re not listening” attitude in the first place, not with the way they subsequently try to fix things. Once the customer has had enough, the please, thank you, good afternoon and “yes, I don’t mind waiting for three months”, patient, tolerant, understanding, nice-guy routine disappears in a flash of pure venom-laced, thin-lipped, white-knuckled, vindictive malice. At which point, Ms. Average Customer wants blood, death and destruction, not groveling apologies from some suit – no matter what puerile company title/elevated position they may hold. Their lust for vengeance will only be assuaged by the slow strangulation of as many employees of the offending company as possible. Object lesson for businesses: Customer service starts on day one and never ends. Once things get to the point of rage, the harm is irreparable. Apologise, be nice, do whatever you can (grovelling is good) and move on. Do not try to hide the facts – most especially from the media – and do not schmooze. Suck it up, take your lumps and learn a lesson. You might even wind up keeping the customer – even little pukes can be magnanimous in victory…

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