It’s pretty easy to lament all that is wrong with customer service in South Africa. A few minutes spent around the typical South African braai will quickly reveal that everybody seems to have his or her own service ‘horror story’ – each one more cringe-worthy than the next.

The thing we often lose sight of, however, is the fact that while there is undoubtedly much work to be done – in both the private and public sectors – to raise customer service in our country to the level it should (and can) be, there are plenty of positive things that can also be said about the overall SA customer experience.

For starters, nobody could argue against the fact that that ‘Brand South Africa’ is unique, appealing and compelling. There’s a level of authenticity, warmth and genuine friendliness in this country that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world. South Africans are, for the most part, hospitable, welcoming and helpful people. These character traits can’t simply be taken off when these same South Africans get dressed in the morning. They are part of what makes us who we are and, as such, we take them with us wherever we go – even to work.

I was reminded of this over the recent festive season thanks to some excellent customer experiences at a range of establishments. It’s not so much that I was on the receiving end of brilliant service, but more a case of warm attitudes, friendly smiles and engaging, down-to-earth employees reminding me that minor service inadequacies or oversights can often be more than compensated for by authentic South African experiences.

This got me thinking. Imagine how good the customer experience in our country could be if, as businesses, we made the effort to fully harness and nurture the inherent warmth of the people we employ and find ways to effectively direct that towards our customers. The resulting experiences of those who do business with us would instantly transform them from customers into lifelong fans and valuable brand advocates. And the positive business and financial consequences of that would be truly unbelievable.

However, realising that potential demands a conscious effort and a commitment by employers to create a culture of service empowerment and a build a work environment that frees employees to fully express their innate warmth, hospitality, and South African-ness. For some businesses, achieving this may require a bit of a paradigm shift; but when you consider that doing so will allow your company to tap into Brand SA and unlock the massive value it can add, making such a mindset shift really is a no brainer.

The bottom line is that, as South African businesses, we have something going for us that few other businesses on the planet do. Some call it our ‘Mzansi magic’. Others know it as the spirit of ubuntu. But no matter what name we give it, it translates into the real human potential to create simply brilliant experiences for our customers. And that’s what will ultimately give us a real edge in the global marketplace.

Blog article by: Nathalie Schooling