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One of the biggest causes of business failure one that catches even the most experienced business owner unawares is poor cash flow. Small and Medium businesses are particularly vulnerable. W...

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Posted: 2008-01-09 / Author: Jan Beeton

Service Is Not Servitude

The elusive challenge: a nation with service values and a service mentality

Here are some values that I think are worth pursuing if we are to become a nation with a service mentality:

§ Generosity of spirit (caring about one’s fellow man/woman and a real desire to contribute to their well being)

§ By helping you, I am expanding myself and my capacity to live happily and successfully. I am also contributing to the greater good and success of our nation

§ By serving you well, I serve the very best in myself and you are likely to reciprocate

§ I treat you with respect and honour, when I serve you and you are likely to do the same for me

§ Good is not limited. By giving it out, I don’t diminish the good, or give it away, I expand it for all of us to share in more

More and more in our dealings with one another, a lack of sharing and caring seems to be on the increase, information and help is withheld because deep down inside we really do believe we are giving away something to the other person that we now are losing and this acts to our detriment. When we do this, we fail to see that good expands, and that we all share in a much larger cake when we act generously towards each other.

So what gives with an attitude of servitude?

It may be based on prejudices like age, race, or gender– an older person, for example, expects a younger person to serve them, but would not do the reverse because it would threaten their sense of superiority. Often it can be the other way round as well. Younger people are often unwilling to serve older people for reasons of ego. Certainly there are many current and historical issues around race in our country. Traditional racial prejudices on all sides affect our willingness to serve each other across racial divisions. A man might also feel he should be served by a woman, but not be willing to do the same.

Whatever the specific situation, it all boils down to the same kind of mental outlook: ‘I am not your slave or servant’. If you look at the values outlined higher up in the article, however, none of them enslaves, if anything they make a person feel much more free. They free others as well. By showing respect and caring, we honour and esteem the value of one another.

‘Customers aren’t obtained with pretty pictures and empty promises’ Starting with the self is the key to it, behaving well towards our customers is the proof of it. The title given here was the title of an article that appeared in the GIBS Review in September 2006. The article reinforces the key points already made about how to deliver great service. In a nutshell, the article argues that the key to excellence in customer service resides in people not in marketing gadgetry. Having recognised that it starts with the self, if people also understand the values of the business and its branding well, if the vision of the business lives in their hearts and spirits, as well as in their minds, then amazing customer service follows! The author of the article goes on to make some strong points in the following lessons drawn from experience:

§ Staff (and business owners and managers for that matter) need to own the business brand Promises are made by businesses to consumers, and money is spent in the process of making them. But promises are kept by people; people who are engaged (‘all the buttons are on’) and who feel responsible and accountable for quality delivery. A good question to ask is how much money do I allocate to my advertising spend, and how much to my staff really owning and acting on my branding?

§ Businesses must market themselves internally as well, from the inside out I wonder how many businesses really think about this, let alone do it, or do it well? This is a superb way for a business to nurture committed and accountable people who want to represent the business to the best of their ability and give all they’ve got to the customers.

§ The caveat is that businesses must live their brands, if staff are to believe them If a business talks about support for and caring for its customers, it must really make sure it does this with its staff as well! This is called integrity – doing what you say you do- otherwise the chances of customers feeling cared for and supported is very much reduced. People become cynical and disenchanted with empty marketing claims and end up mirroring the owner’s/manager’s behaviour in their own.

African symbol for excellence

To conclude…….. The most powerful point of all is that if you can achieve great customer service you will hold the competitive edge in today’s marketplace and contribute to a growing nation.

Staff members keep jobs and you keep your business. The nation’s economy grows and can offer more jobs to its unemployed and young. The marketplace today is crowded with the same or similar products and services within nations and across the globe, accessible in an instant via the Internet. What makes you stand out in the crowd is your ability to give really great service, quicker, cheaper and better than anyone else. Heard it before, so why do we still have so much poor service?

In his book, Selling the Invisible (the best I’ve ever read on the subject of marketing and selling services), Harry Beckwith relates a really powerful story about a customer in a clothing store which offered clothing repair services as well. The customer wanted some repairs to a jacket. The store manager saw that there was a problem with the jacket buttonholes being too small as well and told the customer that he wanted to get advice from his tailor upstairs about fixing them (great customer service, displaying great initiative as well!). Whilst he was doing this, the customer wandered around the shop and ended up choosing some new clothes to buy. The eventual sale bore no relation to the need that brought the customer into the store. Point made I think? ……………………. About the Author:
Ms Jan Beeton is a Managing Consultant and owner of QED Development Consulting.
The consultancy seeks positive transformation in the socio-economic realities of the marginalised and poor in South Africa. Find out more about Jan on her website

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