This is following a global survey released by management consulting firm Accenture on consumer switching trends.
“It was a global survey of around 13,000 respondents from across 32 countries, so it really gave us an insight into how consumers are differing in terms of their needs and their levels of satisfaction across both developed markets and emerging markets,” Tammy Whyman, managing director of strategy practice at Accenture South Africa, told CNBC Africa.
According to the survey, 76 per cent of South African consumers switched service providers in the last year, and poor customer service has been credited as the number one reason why customers switch to another brand.
Whyman believes that the survey should be a warning to businesses that they need to be more competitive and improve on their customer relations.
“It’s a warning to those companies that are serving consumers that they need to up their game. They need to be more competitive in the way they satisfy their customers and keep them loyal,” she explained.
One challenge standing in the way of improving customer relations for South African businesses however is that consumers tend to not use social media as much as they use word of mouth.
The survey found that word of mouth is key in South Africa for consumers who want to learn about new products and services from their inner circle of friends, family and colleagues.
Whyman however added that when it came to complaining about a brand, South Africans were more likely to put negative comments on social media.
She explained that while this is a threat to companies, less than a third of companies are actually listening, and only 12 per cent of them are responding to consumers’ negative comments on social media.
“So there’s a lot of work [that needs to be done] in the way that companies are interacting and creating this knowledge and trust with the customer,” said Whyman.
Trust is another major issue for consumers, as 57 per cent of South African consumers fear that they will be spammed by companies or that there will be a misuse of their personal information.
“When you do see companies responding, you’ll see that only 55 per cent of them actually have a comprehensive security strategy within their firm,” she added.
Another major issue of frustration for consumers is that their first point of contact when getting hold of a company is through call centres, where they are put on hold for a length of time.
“South Africans tend to use the call centre as the first point of call to interact with companies. In terms of customer service, what we do find is that South Africans are increasingly frustrated with the fact that when they do call the call centre they have to repeat their story various times,” explained Whyman.
She therefore believes that if businesses want to achieve a distinct competitive edge, they need to break down some of the silos that exist within their organisations and nominate a chief data officer who will be able to control and channel consumer data effectively.