Tag Archives: Willoughby & Co

Why do corporates Tweet when they operate like corporates?!

Yesterday I experienced two Cape Town corporations who try to appear to be Social Media savvy in that they Tweet regularly, yet failed in their use of Social Media for the brands that they represent, thereby being guilty of poor customer service.  One wonders why they practice Social Media marketing when they do so only in corporation operation hours!

Customer expectations of corporation reaction have been raised since the introduction of Social Media, consumers having no understanding for corporate staff not working on weekends, after closing time on weekdays, or on public holidays, if their businesses are open to the customer.  A customer complaint especially demands almost immediate reaction.  Social Media is meant to demonstrate the empathy that corporates have for their customers, and to make them appear less …’corporate’! This weekend both Woolworths and the V&A Waterfront demonstrated how customer unfriendly they are via their Social Media practices.

I bought a chicken and avocado low GI sandwich at Woolworths in the Garden’s Centre yesterday morning, and the first bite of it contained a 5 cm long bone.  I Tweeted and Facebooked the photograph, but still have not heard a word of apology from the retailer via Twitter or Facebook.  Someone replied on Twitter that one should be grateful that Woolworths uses real chicken in its sandwiches, which is hardly the point!  Yesterday Woolworths only Tweeted once, at about 10h00!  It has not Tweeted at all today! On most days the corporate lays down its Tweeting mouse at 16h30, not Tweeting until the stores remain open in the evening. By contrast Pick ‘n Pay started Tweeting from about 8h00 yesterday morning, interacting with its customers until 13h00, followed by a few pre-scheduled Tweets in the afternoon. On weekday evenings the retailer stops Tweeting between 20h00 – 21h00, commendable relative to Woolworths, but still not in line with its store operating hours. The volume of Tweets by Pick ‘n Pay exceeds that of Woolworths by far, the latter ignoring most negative feedback it receives via Twitter!

The really annoying interaction was with the V&A Waterfront’s Tweeter Emma Jackson, who has shown abuse of her client’s Twitter account to settle her own scores with others in the past, which we have discussed with the Marketing department of the company.  The aggressive tone has been reduced, yet one can still sense the sarcasm in a number of her Tweets, now being sugary sweet.  On Friday evening the V&A Waterfront disappeared off Twitter for 17 hours, not reTweeting any positive Tweets about the super Salvation Army Christmas Carols, nor reacting to the notification of a serious problem with the street lighting in a section of the Waterfront which most Atlantic Seaboard residents use.  Seventeen hours later the Tweeter thanked us for the feedback and said the lights would be attended to, hardly necessary during the day.  A chain of Tweets, in which Ms Jackson denied that she had not been at her Tweeting post for her client (according to her personal Twitter feed she was at a party) followed, ending in a number of sarcastic and disparaging Tweets being sent from her personal account. Untruthful was her Tweet that the V&A only Tweets at ‘dedicated times’, which defies the object of being on Twitter.   Vituperative Tweeter Sonia Cabano got into the act on her troll Table Mountain and personal accounts, adding fat to the fire.  She should know that abusing one’s client Twitter account to settle personal scores can get one fired, as happened earlier this year when she was managing the Robertsons Social Media account!

Being annoyed with the abuse by Ms Jackson, I called the Waterfront head office, only to be told that the V&A management does not work on weekends (the V&A Waterfront is the largest tourist attraction in the country)! I asked the Information Office of the company to ask the PR Manager Carla White to call me, and provided my phone number.  I received a call, instructing me to e-mail Ms White.  I was shopping, without a laptop, so asked again that she call, so that she could put a stop to the Twitter abuse coming from Ms Jackson.  The request was also Tweeted, and again I was instructed by Tweet to e-mail.  Ms White only called six hours later, indicating that she had spoken to the Info Office as well as to Ms Jackson. She tried to fob me off with an excuse about not calling back, saying she had no phone with her when she went up the mountain for a hike, yet she could have called before then.  She was a poor listener, not allowing me to finish my feedback, harping on the fact that if there was no Twitter response it did not mean that the problem had not been picked up and attended to.  If this was the case, the Waterfront street lighting would have been fixed by 22h30, when we left the cinema on Friday evening.  There has been no further word from Ms White, nor an e-mail of apology.  One certainly got the feeling that Ms White, despite being the company PR Manager, was annoyed about being disturbed on her weekend off, and was surprisingly unprofessional in her handling of the matter!

The V&A Waterfront Tweeter only reacts to the positive Tweets, but rarely to the ones with criticism or problems about the V&A generally, and to specific restaurants and shops.  Poor service experiences at V&A Waterfront stores Exclusive Books, Woolworths, and particularly Willoughby & Co, on Wednesday evening were simply ignored.  A Tweet about the V&A Waterfront’s policy on smoking at events at its Auditorium, especially with children attending the Christmas Carols’ concert in Friday evening, was acknowledged on Saturday morning only, with a promise to have the policy checked.  We are still waiting for the reply!  It is surprising how the V&A Waterfront, having a multitude of Tweet opportunities (Festive Season events, new stores, Christmas gift ideas, its new V&A Market on the Wharf, parking availability, breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner options, and lots more) rarely Tweets at this busy time of the year.  Funny is how the Tweeter is raving about her clothes shopping at competitor mall Cape Quarter this morning!

Given that corporates like Woolworths have trading hours which are customer friendly over the Festive Season period, one cannot understand that their Tweeters stop Tweeting before their stores close, meaning that customer feedback, good or bad, is completely ignored after 16h30, and is not picked up the next day. Similarly the V&A Waterfront stores close at 22h00, yet its customers are still enjoying its restaurants and other entertainment facilities after this time, and therefore they should be Tweeting until then at least.  They should also keep their promises about getting back with feedback, and not be so ‘Smart Alec’ in their Tweets.

Cape Town Tourism too barely uses Twitter over the festive season days, most of its staff being on leave (what happened to their pay-off line ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’, when their CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold holidays in Pringle Bay, and from which she mainly mommy Tweets?).  There are hundreds of proactive Twitter opportunities about Cape Town, to be shared with all the visitors we are expecting over the festive season, yet the volume of Tweeting is extremely low.  Very few Tweets praising aspects of Cape Town are reTweeetd by its Communications and PR Manager Skye Grove, the Cape Town Tourism Tweeter, which is bizarre, given that she should be neutral about what she Tweets, but has proven the opposite in the past!

Hoot Suite and other similar tools are a fantastic way for any business, big or small, to Tweet about its business (for e.g. Woolworths to encourage interest in its Luke Dale-Roberts Christmas range, ‘expiring’ on Christmas Day, yet we have seen no such Tweets), without physically having to be present. Last, but not least, corporate Twitter accounts can not be abused by vindictive Tweeters for their own personal gain. Tweeters should be checked for their tone on their personal Twitter account before being appointed, so that the corporate knows the Tweeting style and personality of its Tweeter (why did Robertsons’ Social Media agency Liquorice not check out Ms Cabano?). One wonders why the V&A Waterfront tolerates its Tweeter, and allows the damage she causes!

POSTSCRIPT 24/12: The V&A Waterfront’s Information Centre Assistant Manager Zulfa Nordien has sent the following e-mail, acknowledging that Twitter is not a foolproof means of reporting problems in the Waterfront.  She has sidestepped the issue of complaints about V&A tenants, and their speed (or lack) of response:

“Thank you for your tweets with regards to the lights that were out on Granger Bay, as well as the smoking in the amphitheatre. The lights had been logged and priority was determined. The issue has been resolved. The Amphitheatre is an open-air public space and smoking cannot be prohibited. We encourage people to be considerate of others when they smoke outdoors.  In the interest of accuracy in your tweets, please note that the Waterfront Management do have weekends off. However, there is always a duty manager and key management are always contactable in the event of an emergency or crisis.  Our Social Media Community Manager will adjust her tone when responding to your tweets.  Please note that if you require an immediate response to any query, please phone our Information Centre on 021 408 7600. Our customer service staff are well versed in all procedures and can escalate a query“.

POSTSCRIPT 24/12: Woolworths was a bit slower to respond, and it was difficult to find someone at Head Office to speak to, most managers appearing to have taken today off as well!  I found Candice Bull in the technical department, and she asked me to drop the packet and bone off at a Woolworths branch, to be sent from there to her at Head Office.  This is what Kim Mulder, Customer Service Email Administrator, wrote:

“Thank you for taking the time to inform us about the problem that you experienced at Woolworths. We are concerned to hear of your experience and will do everything possible to investigate the matter so that we may revert to you with feedback in this regard. If possible, please can you forward us the barcode, purchase date as this will assist us in providing you with accurate feedback. Please advise if you still have the bone available as we would like to have it collected. Kindly provide me with a collection address as we will have a consultant contact you telephonically to arrange the collection. In order for us to keep record of this query please forward us your name and surname as well as your contact numbers (preferably cell phone number). Please note that correspondence will be sent to you as soon as we have received feedback from our suppliers”.

POSTSCRIPT 27/12: Candice Bull has impressed with her service proactiveness, calling today, explaining that the packet with the bone has got lost in their system due to staff being on leave.  I referred her to the photograph in this blogpost, and she immediately recognised the packet as being from Tribeca, the contracted-out in-store café/food to go section. She intimated that this is a regular occurrence.

POSTSCRIPT 27/12: We have received the following reply from the Woolworths Cafê (run by Tribeca): “Thank you,Candice for sending this on to our team.  We will inform the store of the complaint and ensure they follow the correct procedures to ensure this type of incidence does not re-occur ,Abdus ,one of our team members ,will visit the store today to ensure the matter is addressed and the staff are retrained on the deboning process and disciplines”.

POSTSCRIPT 28/12:  Today Shehaam phoned from the Customer Care division of the Woolworths Head Office, and apologised for the incident.  She did explain that the Woolworths Café at Gardens Centre is not operated by Tribeca, but by Woolworths itself.  They will be training their staff in deboning chickens again, she said.  She promised to send a gift voucher by sms for the inconvenience, but it has not yet arrived. Philip, a store manager at the Gardens Centre branch, also called to apologise, and invited me to fetch the voucher from the branch should it not arrive by sms.

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: Chantelle Cole, the V&A Waterfront’s Executive Manager: Strategic Marketing, has finally replied to our complaints about the Twitter, blog, and e-mail abuse received in the past ten days from its Tweeter Emma Jackson, promising that Ms Jackson will no longer Tweet about us on her personal account:

The limitation of the written word is both intention and tone can be misconstrued. Our values are to engage in a professional and respectful way and so it is truly unfortunate that you have felt this to be the contrary. Emma will not engage with you in her personal capacity again’.

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

What makes a good restaurant?

A few days ago we wrote about the ‘weakest links’ that make or break restaurants, especially those vying for the Eat Out Top 10 or the World’s 50 Best restaurant lists.  Inspired by (the American) The Amateur Gourmet’s blogpost ’10 Signs You’re in a Good Restaurant’, I have ‘translated’ his signs into the local context:

1.  The bathroom is clean – a good way to judge the cleanliness of the restaurant.  The Delaire Graff bathroom is the best smelling and cleanest I have enjoyed using.  Spice Route and Societi Bistro have dreadful ones.

2.   A waiter comes over quickly – this is so obvious, that one is surprised that the waiter of one’s section does not see you, or that a manager, hostess or another waiter can not see that there are no drinks or menus on the table.  This happened to me last night at Willoughby & Co, and when the waiter arrived after 15 minutes, he said that he was very busy!

3.  The items on the menu are in season – the trend to foraging, and vegetable and herb gardening by restaurants is commendable, but it is a pity that those that lead the way are not yet recognised by Eat Out, even though they state it as a criterion, and it has been highlighted for the past two years. La Motte and Babylonstoren lead the way with massive gardens, but Delaire Graff, Jordan Restaurant, Makaron, The Greenhouse, and Waterkloof also are sourcing produce from their gardens. Spier’s Farmer Angus is supplying local restaurants such as Delaire Graff, Le Quartier Français, Planet Restaurant, Makaron and others with free-range beef, lamb, eggs and chicken, which is commendable too.

4.   You can hear the people at your table – the more expensive and exclusive the restaurant is, the fewer tables there should be, and therefore the better you are to hear each other speak.

5.  The waiter is authentic and knowledgeable – expressing enthusiasm for the dishes on the menu (but not recommending something without knowing the client well) and reflecting an understanding of how the dishes are made are the signs of a top waiter.  Having to check notes, or asking the chef are not.  French terms, both in terms of pronunciation and in understanding, usually are a give-away.

6.   The restaurant is accommodating, within reason – most chefs are accommodating with special customer requests, and many will check special dietary and other requirements, so that they do not become an issue during service.  Burrata is prescriptive about not allowing additional or swopped pizza toppings other than their combinations, but they do allow one to ‘deduct’ toppings one does not want.

7.   The bread and butter are good – artisanal bread is becoming increasingly popular, and restaurants that serve their own baked bread warm, with cold unmelted butter, are the winner.  Not all restaurants serve bread any more.  Last night Willoughby & Co said that they waste a lot of (unused) bread, and therefore they expect customers to ask for it.  Jordan Restaurant serves one of the most attractive bread plates, a work of art in itself.

8.   The food all comes out at once – this is well handled in our local restaurants, yet I witnessed a most irate customer at Café Dijon a few months ago, when one in the party of four guests did not receive the food at all.

9.   The plates are cleared quickly but not too quickly – this is a tricky issue.  The waiter should wait with clearing until all persons in the party have finished eating, unless requested by a guest to remove a plate. However, removing plates should not be too quick, to make one feel that one is in the Spur, and that they want one out of there as quickly as possible.  Wasting the customer’s time by clearing the table when one has asked for the bill is not acceptable.

10.   The little details add up – the surprise touches, e.g. an amuse bouche, the chef coming to the table, an invitation to see the kitchen, friandises with one’s cappuccino, or a complimentary glass of sparkling wine for a celebratory dinner, all make the guest feel special, even if the cost is built into the price.

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

Telegraph Travel ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ an improvement, but not error-free!

After writing about the disastrous error-filled and outdated Conde Nast Traveller  Guide to Cape Town earlier this week, it was refreshing to see a link on Twitter about the Telegraph Travel’s  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’, written by local travel writer and ‘destination expert’ Pippa de Bruyn (author of a ‘Frommer’s Guide’ to South Africa and to India, and of  ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to Cape Town’), resulting in a far more accurate guide for the tourist visiting Cape Town.

The Guide kicks off with the Beauty positioning for Cape Town (the one that Cape Town Tourism has just thrown away by using Inspirational’, as the new positioning for Cape Town, even though it is not unique for Cape Town and has been used by others, including Pick ‘n Pay!), in stating that “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.  It is accompanied by a beautiful shot of Clifton, with the Twelve Apostles as backdrop.  The reasons for travelling to Cape Town are motivated as its ‘in-your-face beauty’; the pristine white beaches; the proximity of nature; spotting zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Table Mountain; watching whales breaching in False Bay; being ‘halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point’; being a contender for World Design Capital 2014 with its art galleries, ‘hip bars’, opera, and design-savvy shops; the unique marriage of Dutch-origin vegetable gardening, winemaking introduced by the French (this fact must be challenged, as it was the Dutch who established the first wine farms), Malay slaves’ spices, and English ‘Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes’;  its contrasts of pleasure and poverty, of ‘pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys’, and its award-winning wines and produce offer ‘some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world’.

The ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ includes the following recommendations:

*   travel time is suggested as ‘pretty much any time of the year’, and a warning of wet Julys and Augusts now is inaccurate, given the wonderful non-winter weather experienced in Cape Town during both these months this year!

*   misleading is the claim that Cape Town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world – this positioning belongs to Hermanus, and is corrected a few pages further into the guide.   Also misleading is the claim that the best ‘summer deals’ are available in October and November – most accommodation establishments have the same rate for the whole summer, and do not drop rates at the start of summer.

*   it is up-to-date in that use of the MyCiti Bus is recommended to travel between the airport and the Civic Centre, as well as to the Waterfront.  Train travel between Cape Town and Simonstown is not recommended, due to dirty windows and lack of safety, one of the few negatives contained in the Guide.  The red City Sightseeing bus is recommended, as are bus tours, taxis, Rikkis, and car hire.

*  The ‘Local laws and etiquette’ section does not address either of these two points.  Instead, it warns against crime when walking or driving, and recommends that tourists should not ‘flash their wealth’.  Potential card-skimming in the Waterfront and at the airport is also a potential danger, travellers to Cape Town are told, not accurate, and unfair to these two Cape Town locations.

*   Tourist attractions recommended are Cape Point, driving via the Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak; wine-tasting in Constantia; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; exploring the city centre on foot, walking from the city centre to Green Point; taking a water taxi from the Convention Centre to the Waterfront; the Footsteps to Freedom Tour; the Company Gardens; the National Gallery; summer concerts at Kirstenbosch; tanning at Clifton beaches; shopping for wines or going on a wine tour; High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel; going on tours which allow one to meet the ‘other half’  locals;  walking through the Waterfront or taking a sunset cruise; the Two Oceans Aquarium; eating fish and chips in Kalk Bay; going up Table Mountain by foot or cable car; day trips to Cape Point, the West Coast National Park to see the spring flowers, and the Winelands (referring to Franschhoek as the now out-of-date ‘Gourmet Capital of the Cape’, by stating that ‘it is the only place where you have award-winning restaurants within walking distance of each other’, not correct either).

*   in the ‘Cape Town Hotels’ section, it states disturbingly (and information out of date) that ‘Cape Town isn’t cheap’, and therefore suggests that clients stay in Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Bo-Kaap  (but none of these suburbs have restaurants, something guests would like to walk to by foot from their accommodation), as well as De Waterkant, the V&A Waterfront (probably one of the most expensive accommodation areas!), and ‘Greenpoint’ (sic).  Self-catering and ‘B&b’ (sic) accommodation is recommended.  Hotels previously reviewed by The Telegraph are listed: the Mount Nelson, Ellerman House, the Cape Grace, Cascades on the Promenade, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Rouge on Rose, Fritz Hotel, and The Backpack hostel, an interesting mix of hotels, and not all highly-rated in its reviews. No newer ‘World Cup hotels’ are recommended. 

*   For nightlife, Camps Bay’s Victoria Road, Long Street and Cape Quarter are recommended.  Vaudeville is strongly recommended, but has lost a lot of its appeal.  Other specific recommendations are Asoka on Kloof Street, Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge, Crew Bar in De Waterkant, Julep off Long Street, and the Bascule bar at the Cape Grace.  The list seems out of date, with more trendy night-time spots being popular amongst locals.

*   The Restaurant section is most disappointing, given the great accolade given to the Cape Town fine-dining scene early in the guide. Four restaurants only are recommended, and many would disagree that these are Cape Town’s best, or those that tourists should visit: The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Willoughby & Co in the Waterfront, 95 Keerom Street, and ‘Colcaccio (sic) Camps Bay’!  A special note advises ‘gourmet diners’ to check Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurants  for restaurants close to one’s accommodation.  Stellenbosch restaurants Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir are recommended, as are Le Quartier and Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and La Colombe in Constantia.

*   Shopping suggestions include the city centre, Green Point, Woodstock, De Waterkant, and Kloof Street, the latter street not having any particularly special shops.  The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill is recommended as the ‘best food market in the country’ (locals may disagree, with the squash of undecided shoppers, and increasingly more expensive), and may recommend the City Bowl Market instead).  Art galleries are also recommended.

While the Telegraph Travel  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ is a massive improvement on the Condé Nast Traveller  Cape Town guide, even this guide contains unforgivable errors, which a local writer should not be making.  One would hope that Cape Town Tourism will get the errors fixed.  We also suggest that they recommend the addition of Cape Town’s many special city centre eateries, and that the accommodation list be updated.  The exclusion of Robben Island on the attraction list is a deficiency.   The delineation between recommendations for things to do in Cape Town is blurred in some instances with recommendations in towns and villages outside Cape Town, which may confuse tourists to the Mother City.  Overall, the Guide appears superficial and touristy, and does not reveal all the special gems that Cape Town has to offer.

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

Willoughby & Co Sweet and Planet Fitness Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award  goes to Mark, the Manager at Willoughby & Co in the V & A Waterfront, for reversing a potential Sour Award into a Sweet Award.   A customer went to Willoughby’s just after 22h00, after seeing a movie, wanting a quick calamari meal.  Initially she was completely ignored.  A waiter then asked how she could be assisted, and when she said what she wanted to eat, he apologised, saying that the restaurant was closed, even though all the doors were wide open.   He was adamant that the kitchen had been cleaned up already.  According to him, the kitchen closes promptly at 22h00.   The customer asked whether it was possible to have sushi instead, and the sushi chef agreed immediately and made a hand roll most promptly.   Just at that point Mark arrived at the restaurant, and had heard that there was a problem, and came to the customer.  He expressed surprise that the closing time had been communicated as 22h00, as it is 22h30.  He immediately offered to have the calamari dish prepared.  It was delicious.  The “crowning glory” was that Mark refused to accept payment for the meal, a most generous make-good, and a sure way to build brand loyalty.  

The Sour Service Award  goes to Daniel of Planet Fitness in Durbanville, for calling a guest house in Camps Bay at 15h00 on a Sunday afternoon, to check if it had received undefined vouchers.   Daniel made it sound as if he was a long-lost friend, and as if the recipient of the call would know who he is.   He was told that direct marketing calls on a Sunday afternoon for business purposes were not professional.   His boss Heinrich agreed and apologised.  However, a day later, another person from Planet Fitness in Durbanville called, with the same question.   The recipient of the call had to explain to the caller that it was extremely unlikely that a Camps Bay resident or guest house guest would drive all the way to Durbanville, a journey of 30 – 45 minutes, depending on traffic, to use the gym!

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.