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Ask Afrika: Unpacking the latest Customer Service Trends and Industry Diagnostics

Brand reputation relies heavily on exemplary service delivery and getting this right rests on having a deep understanding of what customers want out of an interaction with employees.  Trust and loyalty levels are diminishing globally and consumers no-longer want to be put in boxes, treated generically or given false promises. Authenticity, individualism and professionalism are vital for great service delivery.

Key take outs

  • Service levels have gone down and brands are not mastering the balance between overall satisfaction and emotional satisfaction
  • Companies that dropped in AAOI performance also dropped in NPS
  • The most important take out was that employees need to treat customers as individuals whilst dealing with them in a professional manner
  • Responsiveness is the new currency – when the ultimate scarcity is time
  • Psyches of loyalty are diminishing and this calls for “customer obsession”
  • Luxury industries are taking strain due to immature service strategies and overt brand focus
  • Inconspicuous branding is best for the super-wealthy – it’s about taste, discernment and excellent service to create an all-round positive brand experience
  • Speed of execution in service delivery means ‘you get me’
  • I want it all and I want it now – customers want what they want, how they want it and when they want it
  • On top of that, they want life enhancing experiences
  • It’s the digital age of immediacy and on-demand
  • Instant gratification is the in thing and instant has become faster (e.g. Uber)
  • Service delivery channels are often online or digitised, for example, social media, online orders, online chat customer service, or instant messaging
  • People are prepared to wait 2 seconds for an online video to load
  • New expectations of access and availability and
  • Real-time delivery is expected
  • Service delivery needs to mimic the digital experience of ease and convenience.
  • Agility is key
  • In 2017 ¼ of the global population will be over 50
  • Attitude over age – “Midorexia” – acting younger than your years
  • Shifting status and expectations: consumers are living and working longer, prioritising wellness and taking the economy in new directions
  • Identities in flux – we chose who we are
  • Unpredictability has become legitimate
  • Globally we are debating issues of gender, race and religion – not policies
  • The emphasis is on being real and authentic to self
  • Digitisation gives us a platform to express and show who we are, what we stand for and what we value – and what we disagree with
  • Airbnb disclaimer
  • Segmentation is being redefined
  • Demographics are no-longer an accurate tool for navigation
  • Companies that use only this will get it wrong and miss significant differences
  • Society is seeking a new navigation system
  • We need understand how we build relationships and how to classify differently
  • Only a progressive society can classify using authenticity
  • Accurate market segmentation based on identity is imperative
  • It’s about who people are, their values, beliefs, choices and imperfections – rather than their age, background, gender, race, income and nationality
  • Keeping it Real – being authenticity congruent is more important than being politically correct
  • People are choosing change and they trust people who are ‘real’ even if their reputation is not as ‘good’
  • The emphasis on trust is not only becoming more visible locally, but is a very powerful global discourse at the moment
  • An interesting dynamic between private and public sectors
  • Sharp declines in public sector Ask Afrika Orange Index scores are eclipsed by sharp increases in private sector scores
  • People and process dimensions in service delivery are now contributing about 50-50 to loyalty with a skew towards the softer elements, rather than procedural perfection
  • Loyalty is built through trust, values, authentic relationships and a solid reputation
  • Trust needs to be earned consistently and makes up just over 50% towards building a loyal partnership.
  • This is followed by fairness, responsiveness and first call resolution (FCR) which has the biggest impact on emotional satisfaction
  • To add to the complexity, it’s essential to manage and enable positive emotional service experiences
  • Effort and FCR are essential, but are no longer enough to satisfy customers
  • Service delivery needs to be based on authentic, congruent engagements to garner any real sense of brand commitment
  • Emotionally satisfied customers have high brand loyalty
  • It’s about making customers feel valued and creating positive emotional experiences for them
  • Customer experience and the quest for loyalty is no longer a transactional game despite small performance increases
  • The weight has now been fairly evenly distributed between getting the transactional efficiencies right and delivering these in a personalised and authentic, in-touch way
  • Customer’s buy into the brand psyche


Background to the Ask Afrika Orange Index

The winning companies of the 2016/2017 Ask Afrika Orange Index, which spanned across 33 industry sectors and 132 companies, were announced at an awards ceremony held at The Wanderers Club in November 2016 and publicly recognised as the leaders in service delivery excellence. Over the years, the winners have been consistent because they provide more consistent service experiences with corresponding emotional satisfaction.

Ask Afrika’s Orange Index is South Africa’s most widely referenced service excellence benchmark, which provides the foundation for in-depth discussions on service trends and diagnostics in the South African corporate and consumer landscape. It is known for its singular breadth.

Launched in 2001 the Ask Afrika Orange Index has a tracking history of service in South Africa for the past 15 years based on robust sample sizes. The views gathered by the Index are done through 15,000 interviews across South Africa and the data is independently audited. Its longevity is testament to its relevance to both public and private sector with regards to providing a reliable yardstick for service measurement in South Africa.


Sarina de Beer, Ask Afrika- MD

Sarina de Beer
Managing Director – Ask Afrika PTY (LTD)

Formal Qualifications and courses:

Honours – Psychology – University Pretoria

Master of Arts  – Psychology

Master of Arts –  Research Psychology – University Pretoria

AVIRA –  Insead

Sarina de Beer is Managing Director at Ask Afrika. She is steeped in the Ask Afrika tradition of strong academic grounding. She has two Masters degrees, in Psychology, and in Research Psychology, having started her career as a lecturer at the University of Pretoria. Here her driving ambition was born to become a respected researcher. This drive flourished at Ask Afrika where she managed to create a synergy between business consulting and research.

Sarina’s conceptual mastery is annually showcased at the primary conferences the Ask Afrika Group offer- the Orange Index® and the Icon Brands™ benchmarks. Her incisive analytical capability teamed with an intuition for picking up on social trends has made her a well-respected persona in the industry.

Sarina has successfully blurred the lines between research and the consultation of business-driven clients to ensure that they derive commercial value from research. Her business exposure lies across a range of industries and she has a passion for identifying trends that impact brand expectations in the financial-services sector, and the media industry.

Together with her team, Sarina’s futuristic outlook has ensured the differentiation of Ask Afrika by delivering research projects that enable decision-making. She is highly committed to the return on investment of human capital, and this is evident by the trust that the employees place in her.

Sarina’s authenticity is often remarked on, she is completely trusted by client partners to navigate the tightrope of client centricity and analytical rigour. Most remarkably, she walks the tightrope in red-soled stilettos.