Tag Archives: call centre

Auto & General Sweet Service Award! Poetry Sour Service Award!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Auto & General, and its Claims Consultant Heidi, who dealt with my claim in a most friendly and efficient manner, Heidi telling me that they don’t believe in paperwork. The details were taken down in less than half an hour, hence the service exceeding the defined time period. I had spoken to a colleague, but the call cut off, and because I could not understand that consultant well, I was delighted that Heidi was the next Continue reading →

Post Office Sweet Service and Multichoice Sour Service Awards!

Pot OfficeThe Sweet Service Award goes to the Post Office in the V&A Waterfront, and its staff member Jacques Jordaan. I went to the Post Office to check why a ring, which I had lost at a B&B in Brockenhurst in the UK, still had not arrived, 6 weeks after it had been posted. I had a tracking number, and was told that it was sitting at CapeMail, the postal head office for our area. Jacques called them, and said that the customs officials there needed a purchase invoice, before releasing it. As I had inherited the ring from my late mother earlier this year, there was none.  I had to go to the Waterfront branch to present my passport in proof of having been in Europe in June/July! The ring was then sent to the Waterfront branch, costing R20 to receive! All the way through the process, Jacques kept me informed by email, with amazingly quick response time to my emails. I had not received any communication from CapeMail that my ring was with them, and that they needed the invoice! Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 24/25 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde has slammed the national Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba for the Immigration Regulations, at Public Hearings on their impact on the tourism industry held today and which continue tomorrow.  The media release from the Minister’s office says that ‘… Home Affairs had stuck the band-aid far from the wound: It became immediately clear to all that tests had not been done into the impact of these rules on law-abiding businesses and private citizens, versus those who do defy the rules. While the former are being pushed away, it appears the latter are unaffected. I have called on the National Minister, Mr Malusi Gigaba, to retract his new rules in toto until a  full investigation into their impact has been conducted, and until such time as we have the systems in place to back them up. He also needs to find the right mechanisms to address our problems’.  The cost to the economy of the Regulations is R10 billion and 21000 jobs, and contradict efforts to grow the tourism industry, he added.  The call-centre and film industries are severely effected too.   (received via media release from Minister Winde’s office)

*   Four Nobel Laureates have cancelled their trip to Cape Town to attend next month’s World Summit of Nobel Laureates, in reaction to the Department of Home Affairs refusing to provide the Dalai Lama with a visa to attend the Summit. The Continue reading →

Telkom Sweet Service and Ramsay Media Sour Service Awards!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Telkom in Franschhoek, for fixing a fault on a fax line on the same day, within three hours of logging the fault via their online fault reporting service.  It was the first use of the online service, and a sms and e-mail were sent to confirm the fault reporting, and provided a reference number.  Such good Telkom service is a rarity.  The Telkom technician was not the friendliest staff member we have dealt with, but the fact that the fault was reacted to so quickly was of business benefit.  The technician tried to blame the fax machine for the fault, but he had not plugged in the cable correctly! An alarm cable has caused the fault.

The Sour Service Award goes to Ramsay Media, for its poor service in renewing a magazine subscription.  The company does not proactively invoice its existing subscribers once their subscription expires, choosing to send a renewal reminder instead.  One then has to request that an invoice be sent. Despite the request for a posted invoice, none has been received to date. Communication with Nona and Werner in the Subscriptions call centre was unprofessional and slow. Declining magazine subscriptions are no surprise when the company makes it so difficult and unattractive to renew susbcriptions.  A message left three days ago for Werner the CFO has not yet been responded to.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTalesnewsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Incredible Connection Sweet Service and Multichoice Sour Service Awards!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Incredible Connection in the Cape Town city centre, and its salesperson Fabien, who was very helpful in selling a new Acer mini-laptop, and cleaning it proactively to remove all finger marks on it, as I had told him that the laptop was a present for our colleague Carole Cessano, Manager of our Whale Cottage Hermanus.  He made a plan to get a blue coloured laptop, to match our Whale Cottage corporate colour. The present was a huge joy to Carole, her first laptop, allowing her to easily transport her new computer between her home and our guest house.

The Sour Service Award goes to Multichoice, for its abominable call centre service. A recent requirement to upgrade one’s smart card created a problem for our Hermanus guest house, as physical collection of the card from their Cape Town service centre would have left the guest house without the Multichoice channels until a next visit.  I was advised to get my staff to collect the smart card from Neil du Toit General Dealer, the Hermanus agents for Multichoice.  One would have thought that some communication would have taken place between Multichoice and the retailer, to send the signal once the Premier Smart Card had been collected, but this clearly was asking too much.  We called Multichoice, explaining the background, and asking them to send the appropriate signal for the new card, speaking to Nellie and then her supervisor Harriet.  We Tweeted about the poor service received, and the @DSTV Tweeter asked for an explanation of the problem – in 140 characters this was impossible, so we provided our telephone number for them to call.  It took at least an hour for Katleto Motingwa to call back.  He must have looked up the call report from the night before first, as he was exceedingly defensive and rude from the start, and seemed to know all about my query before giving me a chance to explain what I needed. He told me that he was in the Complaints department, but he had no understanding of what I was requesting.  I asked him to get his manager to call, which he did, and unfortunately I did not take his name.  This gentleman was fantastic, understood my simple request immediately, had the new signal sent, and followed up telephonically thereafter to check if all was in order, although he called a few hours later instead of the promised ten minutes.  The Multichoice staff are arrogant and rude. One wonders why Multichoice employs technically unqualified persons in its call centre!

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Western Cape tourism to be marketed by Wesgro as a business, focusing on West Africa!

A concern about the future marketing of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and its incorporation within Wesgro, and the departure of its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan on 31 March, motivated me to call Wesgro and request an appointment with its CEO Nils Flaatten.  Despite the busy and short week prior to Easter, he made time for the interview on 5 April.

The hurdles put in my way to meet Mr Flaatten were considerable, and demonstrated the personality of the organisation and told me more about the company than the time I spent with Mr Flaatten.  It also demonstrated how far removed Wesgro, the Western Cape Trade promotion and Investment agency, is from the Tourism industry, if ‘customer service’ is anything to go by.  When I called to set up the interview, Mr Flaatten’s secretary insisted that I follow ‘protocol’ and e-mail her the meeting request, and tell her who I am.  I had done this telephonically, and it became a power struggle, with constant interruptions from her, before she accepted my meeting request telephonically.  She indicated that it would take a considerable time to get an appointment date, which she would e-mail me!  A Tweet to express my dismay about this lack of approachability by our province’s new tourism head, combined with an e-mail to Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism, led to a call directly from Mr Flaatten, offering a meeting for a few days later at 11h30, or so I heard.  Mr Flaatten called at 7h45 on that day, asking where I was, having expected me at 7h30!  As a late night blogger and guest house owner I would never have accepted such a time slot, which seemed very ‘Johannesburg’ to me!  Mr Flaatten said he would be out of town for two weeks, and could only reschedule a meeting thereafter.  Yet his secretary called later in the morning, and offered me a midday meeting, which I accepted with gratitude.  For the first time, she offered parking, and took all the relevant details telephonically.  I arrived at the building half an hour early, wanting to make sure that I arrived on time, but I was not allowed into the building as Wesgro had not alerted the parking garage staff at the boom! They refused to let me in, and traffic problems were caused with other garage users wanting to enter.  I had to call Wesgro to ask them to let me in. However, all the staff were in a meeting, and Mr Flaatten’s secretary could not be contacted. I was told that I would be called back.  No such call came, and I had to call again after 20 minutes of being trapped at the boom, and having been threatened by the parking staff that the traffic department would be called if I did not move my car!  I was given a bay number by the Wesgro switchboard and relayed this to the boom operator, but it was refused because it had not been sent to them on the prescribed form!  Needless to say, this incompetent stakeholder-unfriendly introduction to Wesgro twice in one week made my heart sink, and realise how much smarter and visitor-friendly the Western Cape tourism industry is.

I was shocked when I saw the reception area in which I had to wait for Mr Flaatten, which doubled up as an office, with two ugly red chairs. Mr Flaatten’s office did not look much better, the same style ugly red chairs serving as visitor chairs with a rather nice blue desk, but the blue not matching Wesgro’s corporate blue, the functional office having no warmth or professionalism. Mr Flaatten seemed professional but distant, not giving one the feeling that one could ever have a collegial relationship with him in his new role as provincial tourism head. He has headed up Wesgro for the last two years. I was surprised when he asked me to tell me who I am, not what the interview was about, and he made it appear that he knew nothing about me at all!  I at least had Googled his name, and had found out that he went to school in Stellenbosch, served in the South African Navy, and had worked in investment banks in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

I told him that other than its name, and having only a broad idea of what Wesgro does, I knew nothing more, and that I wanted to know what its role will be in taking over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Wesgro is governed by the Wesgro Act, and has three duties according to the Act:

*   to attract and retain foreign investment in the Western Cape

*   to grow exports

*   to increasingly attract business to the city and the province

Wesgro is funded by both the City of Cape Town (R10 million) and the Western Cape government (R18,4 million), the R25 million which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape government being added to give a total of R53 million, larger than the budget of Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation services the province, ultimately reporting to Minister Winde.  It also works with the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member Belinda Walker, doing strategy planning.  The organisation’s operations include:

*   hosting inward trade missions, at which they try to ‘matchmake’ the visiting delegation members with local businesses via ‘speed dating’

*   outward missions travel overseas, promoting trade with the Western Cape, benefiting from sponsorships for flights and other travel costs from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Any Western Cape business is seen to be a ‘member’ of Wesgro, although one does not take out or pay for a membership. The organisation also looks to stimulate the setting up and development of ‘SMME’s’ (small businesses), including entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses.  They also look to grow sectors of Western Cape businesses, and a number of such sector development agencies have been developed, for IT, Craft and Design, etc.  Geographically, Wesgro is concentrating on the ‘West African Trade Corridor’, which includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The Headquarter for African business should be Cape Town”, Mr Flaatten said.  He shared that a trip to Accra the week before had seen distribution agreements signed with 20 companies represented in the trade delegation.  It was at this point that Mr Flaatten justified his organisation’s take-over of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, saying that Wesgro already has links to the chambers of commerce and influential players in these West African countries, so in the same way they can engage with the leading tourism players in these countries to attract more West African tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape. He added that the Northern Hemisphere countries of the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan would only show a 1,5 % growth, labelling them as ‘concentration risk’.  Currently most of the Western Cape exports go to the UK, to the Netherlands, and to Germany, in that order. Mr Flaatten also said that 73% of South Africa’s foreign direct investment in Africa comes from Cape Town businesses, mainly being in the financial services, real estate, and hospitality sectors. He added that by 2030 there would be more middle income earners in Africa than in India.  He also emphasised the potential of the BRICS countries.  Further high growth high income countries are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Inward missions coming to Cape Town are from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and they offer marketing services, sales support, and call centre services.

Mr Flaatten gave his views of our tourism industry by saying that it has a number of outspoken characters in it, implying that this would be something he would have to get used to!  Wesgro has taken over the 25 Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff, who were in the same building, and will be assimilated into his team, retaining the benefits, and terms and conditions at which they were employed originally.  Wesgro will ‘capitalise on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited’ marketing knowledge, Mr Flaatten said, but I was concerned that he could not tell me the name of the most senior marketing executive (we think it is Debbie Damant, not known to most) that he has ‘inherited’, especially given that the marketing of Cape Town Routes Unlimited had been strongly driven by its then CEO Calvyn Gilfellan.  The Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now led by ACSA’s Deon Cloete due to the move of its previous Chairman Peter Bacon to Mauritius, will oversee the activities that are in the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan, until the organisation with its Board is dissolved when the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 is repealed.  Similarly, the Wesgro Act must be amended, to allow it to additionally manage destination marketing for the Western Cape.

Mr Flaatten requested the industry to give him a month, so that he can get to know his new staff, and what the capacity requirements are, not wanting to be irresponsible in becoming unnecessarily large.  First he must stabilise the staff situation, and then they must focus on planning for the following financial year. They have already hosted a workshop with 100 regional and local tourism bureaus, seeing them as ‘subject matter experts’, and not wishing to duplicate their work, he said. He will also engage with industry representative bodies such as FEDHASA Cape, SATSA, etc, but I left him with a reminder that the tourism industry consists of a large number of small businesses, many not belonging to the big tourism associations, and that their voices should be heard too. Listening to the tourism industry will be the biggest challenge for him currently, Mr Flaatten said. He realises that the ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ brand is a problem ‘which will not be easy to fix’.

The Board of Directors of Wesgro raises interesting questions.  Board members Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, its Board Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Ngewana, and Board member Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro Vice Chairman, may prevent duplication of marketing activity between Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism, but ideally should remain independent tourism bodies, so that the industry benefits from the best of both bodies.  Ravi Naidoo, organiser of the Design Indaba, is well-known and highly regarded.  Interesting too is that Alderman Belinda Walker is on the Board, but does not deal with Tourism matters in the City of Cape Town, which could lead to duplication of tourism management within the City.  One could be concerned about two Boards of Directors managing the duties of Wesgro, until Cape Town Routes Unlimited is closed down legally, and about the incestuous duplication of Board members of Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism.

For an organisation that had a number of months warning of taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and that had taken over its operations four days prior to my visit, I was concerned about the general lack of marketing insight, terminology (other than the branding issue), and discussion that I heard from Mr Flaatten during our lengthy interview.  He did not mention Cape Town Tourism, and how Wesgro will avoid duplication of marketing activities with the city tourism marketing body.  The Wesgro website only shows an amended logo, in that the new duty is incorporated in its descriptor underneath it: ‘The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency’, and contains a block of information to state that it has taken over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with a link to the now defunct tourism body’s website!  I was concerned about the very business-like Wesgro culture, which does not appear ‘customer friendly’ nor service-orientated in simple requests of setting up a meeting and honouring a parking arrangement, which does not auger well for our tourism industry. The offices are functional but unattractive, not matching the tourism industry image. I was concerned that Mr Flaaten did not seem to know anything about Minister Winde’s EDP, which I thought would reside in Wesgro, and would eventually become the home of most Western Cape industry development bodies, the products and services of which Wesgro appears to market.  Mr Flaatten was very responsive in providing the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan which they will be working to achieve.  The 27 page Plan lists the mission as marketing the Western Cape as a desirable leisure, business and events tourism destination, and its main goal is to ‘position Cape Town and the Western Cape as a premier leisure, events and business tourism destination in Africa’. However, none of the defined goals are measurable.  The budget breakdown is disconcerting, with about 50% going to staff salaries, and only 24% going to marketing expenditure. Much of the performance is measured in terms of the number of meetings held, the number of convention bids presented, and the only tourism related measurement targets are the number of international arrivals (1,6 million) and domestic arrivals (3,2 million) for the current financial year, Cape Town Routes Unlimited only expecting to generate 5% of each kind of tourist through its marketing efforts, which begs the question as to why it existed in the first instance!

We will give Wesgro the month that has been requested, and await the way forward for the marketing of the Western Cape with trepidation.

POSTSCRIPT 18/4: In a media release sent out by Wesgro a week ago (but not to contacts on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited media list!), Nils Flaatten said that he would continue to report to the Wesgro Board of Directors, and to the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board on a quarterly basis about ‘expenditure and performance against predetermined objects’. “Flaatten assured tourism industry stakeholder (sic) that there would be no ‘disruption to the delivery of the tourism destination function in our province'”, the media release added. It also stated that Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro will continue to occupy their respective offices in their current building, and that the telephone and e-mail details of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff ‘will remain in operation until further notice’.

This Tourism Week asked some critical questions about Wesgro’s new role in handling the Tourism marketing responsibility for the Western Cape in its newsletter on 13 April.

Wesgro, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 487-8600.  www.wesgro.co.za Twitter: @Wesgro

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

La Motte Sweet Service and City of Cape Town Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award  goes to La Motte wine estate in Franschhoek, and was nominated by Ryan Smith, of Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek.  He writes:  “Lana has one of those charm bracelets that my mother gave to her some time ago and every year my mother gives her a new charm. It’s of moderate value but particularly sentimental. This morning Lana woke up hysterical and in tears, she had lost the bracelet. We looked high and low, and couldn’t find it, we went in to work, had  a look around and  still no luck.  I said to her that she should go out to La Motte and see if anyone had turned it in. This was very much a last effort, as she was already despondent that it was gone forever and had it been dropped on the floor or grass there, anyone that found it would have  pocketed it. Lo and behold…one of the staff had handed it in and it was locked in their safe.  (Chef) Chris dropped it off for me later that afternoon. Lana was obviously overjoyed and I was very impressed that there are still some good people out there”. 

The Sour Service Award goes to the City of Cape Town, for planting palm trees all over Cape Town, but for not checking up on their fronds coming crashing down on stormy days in suburbs such as Camps Bay and in Fresnaye.   A heavy winter’s storm in early June caused all the dry and dead fronds to come down.  They were neatly packed on the pavement after the storm, awaiting collection by the City’s Parks department.  The refuse collection vehicle came every week to collect the garbage, but did not take the fronds with them, nor reported it to their City Council colleagues.  Even after calling the Call Centre, it took ten days for the fronds to be collected.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Grande Provence Sweet and Lime Media Marketing/Media Mountain Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to Donovan Dreyer, the new Food & Beverage Manager of Grand Provence in Franschhoek, who came over to introduce himself when a colleague and I popped in to see the latest exhibition at the art gallery and had a cappuccino and a dessert each.  We were served the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen, and they matched their visual attractiveness with exquisite taste as well.    My colleague had an apple and mango tart with a tiny toffee apple on top, as well as the greenest scoop of apple ice cream on a chocolate biscuit base.  My dessert was a mini chocolate-filled croissant-like pastry, served with a thick vodka cream.  Executive Chef Darren Roberts is a talent to be watched. Donovan refused to let us pay, and we left Grand Provence impressed with their friendliness and professionalism. 

The Sour Service Award goes to Lime Media Marketing/Media Mountain, a company that has changed its name a number of times since calling in the past six months or so.  In heavy recognisable (almost trademark) Manchester accents the staff introduce themselves as a “Google certified company” and promise immediately to put one at number one position “on the first page of Google”.  I was offered a special for the Plettenberg Bay accommodation page, at a discounted rate of R 1 300 per month, down from R 4 600.   When I asked where it would be located on the Google page – as an ad on the right hand side, as an ad at the top, or as a normal Google listing, tele-sales caller Matthew could not reply, passing me on to Ben.   Normally Google ads are charged on a pay-per-click basis.    It is obvious that the company is a call centre, as one hears the buzz of numerous other callers (I heard the same salescall go out to an accommodation establishment in Hout Bay whilst speaking to Matthew).  No written communication is sent, the transaction being done electronically, so that one cannot see the paperwork at all, which makes one suspicious already.   A guest house colleague in Camps Bay, Sally from Atlantic Suites, has also experienced the pushy nature of the company, having been intimidated by them when she did not pay immediately on what the company had felt had been a done deal.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Paarl Motors Sweet and Cinema Nouveau Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to Lourens and his Workshop team at Paarl Motors, for managing to get the replacement of a gearbox covered by a Mercedes Benz Maintenance Plan, which the car manufacturer had said had expired, despite the gearbox having been ordered 3 months ago.  Instead of having to pay R 20 000 for the replacement, or 50 % of this under the maintenance plan, Lourens managed to persuade Mercedes Benz to not charge at all.   This is the second Sweet Service Award which has been awarded to Paarl Motors.

The Sour Service Award goes to Cinema Nouveau in the V&A Waterfront.   The cinema appears to have no manager on the floor, the manager’s office being upstairs and hidden from the ticket sales area, where most of the problems occur.  The staff have attitude, are rude to their customers, constantly change, book one against the wall when one asks for a ticket on the aisle, and often do not even man the ticket booth and expect one to buy the ticket at the refreshment counter.  The staff do not match the quality of the movies shown at the movie house, and have no interest in assisting clients when there is a problem.  There is no way one can complain about the service, as there is no telephone number for the Waterfront branch – all calls go to a central call centre, and calls are not returned.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

South Africa leads World Cup ticket sales

More than two-thirds of the third round of 2010 World Cup ticket requests have come from South Africans, reports www.iol.co.za

The third round of sales opened last Saturday, and 200 000 of the 352 000 ticket requests received were from locals.   The bulk of the ticket applications have been done online, with only 2 566 tickets applied for via FNB branches.

A FIFA Fan Club has been created on the www.fifa.comwebsite, allowing soccer fans for 2010 to support their national team.  The club will give fans access to tickets for matches in which their favourite teams play, and will allow seating for groups of fans supporting the same team.

Last minute tickets will also be available in each of the Host Cities from April next year, at which soccer fans can but tickets from FIFA ticketing centres.  A call center is also planned for telephonic bookings.  

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com