5 Pain Points for sales and marketing in B2B businesses


In the competitive B2B environment where commoditisation is the norm, understanding the true voice of the customer is crucial for our success.

5 Pain Points for sales and marketing in B2B businesses

By Nathalie Schooling

In the competitive B2B environment where commoditisation is the norm, understanding the true voice of the customer is crucial for our success. In a landscape where products or services can easily be seen as interchangeable, the key to differentiation lies in listening to and acting upon the needs, preferences, and feedback of our clients.

Here are the reasons why the true voice of the customer holds such significance in our sales strategy:

  1. Tailored Solutions –  by actively seeking and listening to the feedback of our clients, we can gain valuable insights into their pain points, challenges, and specific requirements. This enables us to customise our offerings to meet their unique needs, providing solutions that address their concerns directly.


  1. Competitive Advantage – understanding the true voice of the customer gives us a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. By aligning our products or services closely with what our clients actually want, we differentiate ourselves from competitors who may be offering generic solutions.


  1. Building Trust and Loyalty – when clients feel heard and understood, it fosters a sense of trust and loyalty towards our brand. Establishing strong relationships based on genuine engagement and responsiveness to their feedback solidifies our reputation as a trusted partner who values their input.


  1. Innovation and Improvement – customer feedback is a goldmine of ideas for innovation and improvement. By listening to their suggestions and pain points, we can identify areas where we can enhance our offerings, introduce new features, or streamline our processes to better serve their needs.


  1. Retention and Referrals – happy customers are not only likely to stay with us but also to recommend our services to others. By prioritising the true voice of the customer, we can increase customer retention rates and benefit from positive word-of-mouth referrals, driving further growth and success.

In conclusion, the true voice of the customer is the guiding beacon that steers our sales efforts in the right direction. By actively listening, incorporating feedback, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to meeting our clients’ needs, we not only strengthen our relationships but also position ourselves as a trusted partner of choice in the competitive B2B landscape.

Nordy of Nice? A Tale of True Customer-Centric Culture

This tale is not just about being customer-centric. It’s about the power of fostering a truly customer-centric culture within an organisation. Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain this ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire.

Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire – that culture is one that is truly customer-centric and willing to always go the extra mile.

A tale of truly customer-centric culture that is engrained throughout a company

By Nathalie Schooling


Have you ever heard of ‘Nordies’? It’s what the well-known USA luxury retailer, Nordstrom calls their employees. Not unique by any stretch of the imagination, lots of companies have ‘nicknames’ for staff that speak to the company’s brand. For example, Disney theme park employees are called ‘cast members’, Apple Stores refer to their staff as the ‘geniuses’, and Subway calls staff ‘sandwich artists.’


It seems to be a more common practice in American companies, and while it can be fun and enduring, it actually plays a big role in how the internal culture of a company operates.


The Importance of Customer Experience


Let’s go back to ‘Nordies.’ For those in the customer experience game, you may already know about the legendary Nordstrom tire story that dates back almost 40 years. One day, at a store in Fairbanks, Alaska, Craig Trounce, a store associate at the time, noticed a customer rolling a pair of tires into the store.


When he asked how he could help, the customer said that he would like to return the two tires, and insisted that he had bought them at that very location with a guarantee that he could bring them back to the store at any time. 


But Nordstrom never sold tires? The retailer did, however, in 1975, purchase three stores from a company –Northern Commercial of Alaska, which sold everything from towels and linens to automotive supplies, which included tires. When Nordstrom took over the locations, it narrowed the merchandise mix to apparel and shoes. 


Instead of turning the customer away, Craig wanted to do right by the man who had just driven more than 50 miles to return these tires. He didn’t know much about how tires are priced, so he called a local supplier to get a rough idea of what they would be worth. He then gave the customer the estimated amount, took the tires, and sent him on his way. Wow! 


And that’s just one of many Nordy stories that get told. There’s also the one where a ‘Nordy’ ironed a customer’s wrinkled shirt because the customer was running late for a meeting.


Talk about going the extra mile!


Customer Experience vs Customer Service


For me, that’s really what excellent customer experience comes down to. It goes beyond good service, being ‘nice’ or accommodating. That part of the job is implied. It’s expected.


It’s about going out of your way to make your client or customer’s day better! It’s doing the unexpected, leaving customers with the feeling that they have to come back and do business with you. Better yet, they have to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience. Why do you think these Nordy stories continue to do the rounds, even decades later? Because the staff made an impact.

This tale is not just about being customer-centric. It’s about the power of fostering a truly customer-centric culture within an organisation. Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain this ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire.


Your employees are your greatest ambassadors, so always start there. It’s the classic inside-out approach that never fails.

Dishing the Dirt on DSTV

Why does it feel like Multichoice and DSTV, a once-loved legacy brand, is hell-bent on becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX?

Is Multichoice “enriching our lives” or just wasting our time? It is starting to feel like Multichoice is becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX.

Why DSTV keeps pushing our CX ‘buttons’


Why does it feel like Multichoice, a once-loved legacy brand, is hell-bent on becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX?


Bad press of late hasn’t done them any favours, like DSTV (owned by Multichoice) billing customers for things they didn’t ask for (Disney+) – not once, but multiple times, or their once-off R19.95 deal during last year’s Rugby World Cup which left customers trapped into a 30-day cancellation policy.


It’s been a bit of a PR nightmare for the company, but they keep making themselves an easy target. The thing is, as a brand, DSTV has some good ideas, but the marketing team is always working against some sort of relentless clock. Everything is rushed and underdeveloped which unfortunately ends up negatively impacting their customer experience, time and time again.


A colleague of mine recently forwarded me an email he got from Multichoice. As a subscriber, he was asked to complete a survey so that they could gather his views and opinions. Sounds fair enough! As players in the CX game, we always delight in hearing of businesses making an effort to gather customer insights (credit to DSTV here).


The problem, however, is that the mailer was riddled with wishy-washy communication, offered a frankly, ‘embarrassing’ incentive to participate (R50 voucher), and even asked the subscriber to sign what can be likened to an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). But the cherry on top has to be the fact that the email was addressed as ‘ Dear Valued Customer’ – an absolute no-no in customer experience! If you are truly a valued customer, you would be greeted by name at the very least.


‘Enriching lives’ or wasting time? 


The well-known Multichoice slogan ‘enriching lives’ is another example of the company’s ability to come up with some truly good stuff, but sadly, with no follow-through. The slogan hits all the marks of a well-positioned brand promise. It inspires, offers value, and paints a clear picture of what we as customers can expect.


In our CX Masterclasses, one of the CX areas that we unpack is the importance of both knowing the value you as a business brings to the table, as well as making sure that you are consistently delivering on this value. And a big part of this is getting the language you use to engage with your customer right.


This is where DSTV fails. They sometimes nail the language, especially when it comes to attractive promotions, but they fall short in offering the value.


In the case of the survey mailer they sent out, they failed in both the language and the value. My colleague couldn’t even get passed the first few survey questions because he didn’t agree to their very vague NDA terms. He spent time reading through the exhausting mailer copy and decided to do the survey, only to be told he couldn’t continue. It ended up being a complete waste of his time.


To summarise my point, here are three CX lessons we can thank the Multichoice mailer for:



Let’s hope Multichoice gets their CX act together, and soon. With younger, more agile streaming services scooping in, they HAVE to do better!

Five steps companies can take to retain top talent

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where I believe leaders can step up in 2024.

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where leaders need to step up in 2024.

Retaining your top talent is more important than ever in 2024


The Great Resignation made numerous headlines in 2021 and 2022, followed by the ‘Silent Quitting’ phenomenon which continued into 2023. But while recent data shows this pandemic-era trend is now tapering off, there’s still a serious concern amongst CEOS about retaining top talent. 

This was evident in our research with CEOs and executives last year. When we asked what they feel impacts their customer experience the most, retaining the skills needed to keep customers satisfied was a recurring theme.

But why is it getting harder to retain talent? Well, with things like remote and hybrid work, the rising cost of living, and work-life balance priorities, employee expectations are changing and evolving.


The employer-employee relationship reset


The traditional employee-employer relationship whereby the employer has all the power is no longer the case. Although this shift was already manifesting pre-COVID, the pandemic was the tipping point for workers to re-evaluate what they really wanted out of their jobs and to make drastic changes where necessary.

The driving force behind this shift is the concerning trend in the decrease in employees who feel connected to their company’s values and purpose, In fact, the millennial labour force, who make up the largest generation in the workforce, are said to quit their jobs due to a lack of meaning in their work, rather than leaving for more money.

Meaning and purpose in a job should come from the top down. If we look at the customer experience strategies we develop for companies, a big part of what we do is assess how the employee experience is having a positive or negative impact on how an organisation’s workers interact with customers.

And what we have found, is that more than 50% of the time, the feedback we get is that leadership is responsible for employees feeling demotivated, disengaged, and unsatisfied in their positions.

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where I believe leaders can step up in 2024.


Here are five steps companies can take to retain top talent:







Out of touch and out of mind?

Out of touch and out of mind?

Blogpost by Nathalie Schooling

I recently had a series of frustrating experiences that told me in no uncertain terms that my bank has very limited understanding of my needs. Knowing your customer and their pain points is essential in gaining and retaining advantage in a competitive landscape.

In our 2020 FINANCIAL SERVICES TEMPERATURE CHECK we asked, “How important is  Voice of Customer in terms of your CX strategy and the impact of customer / client sentiment has on your bottom line?”

All respondents (except the auditors) answered: “Vital for our business to understand client/customer sentiment.”

In the two years since then, few of us have visited banks. ATMs in locked-down malls blinked their little “hide your pin” messages to themselves for much of that time. And sure, we’ve all got very friendly with online banking and the various delivery services. But you know what, now that we’re out and about again, sometimes we need cash.

FNB has probably got 90% of my personal and professional business; I have a private banker, which is a safety net I like having because I can actually speak to a human being who knows me and my profile; FNB’s online banking platform is also really great, in my opinion… However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find their ATMs.

Recently while at Constantia Village shopping centre, I went to draw money and discovered that not only were they closing the branch, they were also removing the ATM – and wouldn’t be replacing it. I was told by a superbly rude bank employee that if I wanted to draw money, I would have to drive to Main Road, Plumstead, and draw money at their branch there; alternatively, I could go into Pick n Pay and draw money at the cashier.

Much to my irritation, I then spent 10 minutes waiting in a Pick n Pay queue only to be told by the cashier-teller that I could not draw money, as they were waiting for the money “to be delivered”.

Today I went to Cavendish Square, also in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, to draw money. Now “hunt the ATM” is a game one has been expected to play at Cavendish fairly regularly. They move them around like we have all the time in the world for a scavenger hunt without clues (there are never any signs or posters to tell you where the next location is). Wise to this, I went to the information desk, where I was told that I could draw money from their branch in Dreyer Street, which is near Taxi Central, ie Main Road, Claremont.

We live in such a safe country that I feel super safe drawing cash in an open environment. NOT!

What the actual, FNB?

What about the other popular shopping centres in this node – Belvedere, Palmyra, Dean Street … Not an FNB ATM in sight.

Is it just FNB, or do those of you reading my rant have the same or similar experience with your bank?

Do you not remember a time when people opened accounts based on the spread of your ATMs, FNB? We are not as yet, a cashless society. Besides me and my peers who still need cash occasionally, spare a thought for the elderly and those who don’t have access to the internet.

Are you so desperately greedy that you’ve convinced yourselves that online is where it’s all at and ever more shall be world without end amen?

Have you not factored the ABnormal of the last two years into your decision, and the possibility of a return to the OLD normal?

Have you asked your clients what THEY need?

This is going to do almost as much damage as putting your social media in the hands of someone you chose to call RB Jacobs. But this time it will be incremental. In your hubris you probably won’t even see it creep up on you. But it will. Because you know what? You’re coming between us and our hard-earned cash. You’re making it difficult to do business with you.

Admit it, this bricking up of holes in the wall and rationalising of branches is because it’s convenient and cheaper for you – it has zip to do with your customers’ needs and wants.

We all know about the cash-in-transit heists. If that’s the issue, well thank you so much for increasing my personal insecurity to improve yours. You have dealt your fantastic brand loyalty a massive dent.

I wish banks would put their egos aside and have agnostic ATM’s – surely that would be a win-win for all?  It would cost less for the banks and they could pass the cost saving onto their customers and we could draw money at any ATM.

The #1 Reason Your Website Might be Ruining Your Customer Experience

The proverbial customer journey begins with ‘awareness’. These days awareness often starts digitally. Organisations spend considerable time, effort, and money driving traffic to their spot on the internet. The truth is website visitors immediately start forming opinions. Expectations are being set. For better or worse.

Websites are how organisations present themselves to the world. Much like a shopfront in a traditional brick and mortar store.

Let’s take this analogy a little further…


Websites…A Digital Shopfront

Businesses design shop displays to entice a passer-by into the store with the hope of them becoming a customer. Visual Merchandising switch-ups keep things fresh, attracting both new and returning customers. Think about the information a person could obtain before they stepped over the threshold. A shiny open sign welcomes would-be customers. A shopper can find out opening times and acceptable payment methods. And who can resist a sign that reads ‘New Stock’, ‘Sale’, ‘End of Season Discounts’?

Yes, a well-maintained physical shopfront requires regular consideration, alterations, and effort. The same should be true of an organisation’s website.

Admittedly, this will take a more intentional approach. A physical shop owner would see and walk past their shopfront daily. The need for tweaks or complete overhauls would be obvious.

How often should an online business owner check their website? It’s easy to think of website creation as a once and done task to tick off the ‘How to set up a business’ to-do list. But a website that contributes to a successful customer experience needs consistent attention.

The expectations your customer has, are intrinsically linked to the information they glean from a visit to your website. Consider this blog as your gentle nudge to audit your website. And once you’re done, build time into your schedule to review it regularly.  And very importantly, your staff should know the content of your website well.

When building or updating your website, of course, you should think about navigation, user experience, graphics, and the rest. But when it comes to setting customer expectations, the key is to ensure that all the information presented is accurate. Misinformation or unrealistic claims sets you up for providing a disappointing customer experience.


A Cautionary Tale…

By way of an example, let me share one of my recent experiences. On a special occasion, I arranged for a troop of my friends and our kids to meet for lunch. There were 26 of us in total. Not only did the restaurant need to cater for our large party, but my two dogs.

After looking at a few restaurant websites, I made my choice. It was there in black and white… “pet friendly.” So, I called. Yes, they could accommodate us all and yes dogs are welcome. Great.

I arrived at the restaurant with my two (tiny) pooches. Hopes of a fun-filled and carefree afternoon soon faded away. A snooty manager sauntered over to tell me that our table was on an indoor balcony section. Dogs are only permitted outside.

What was I to do? My only option was to drive 30 minutes, settle the doggies at home, and drive 30 minutes back to re-join the party.

Now, I know, that being late to a lunch I had arranged is not a devastating, life-altering event. But, let me tell you, I was frustrated and furious.  The food was good and the setting delightful, but none of this mattered. The whole meal was marred by the restaurant failing to live up to one statement on their website. And guess what my first thought would be if the restaurant asked me for a google review…

Can you relate? I am sure most have a similar story of being presented with promises, only to be let down. How did you feel? Disappointed? Underwhelmed? Frustrated? All the above?


Customer Expectations vs Customer Experience


Rather than creating returning customers, broken promises create unhappy customers. A potential brand advocate transforms into a disparaging reviewer.

Simply put, a standard customer or client (from a B2B perspective) experience is when expectations are met. A great customer experience is when expectations are surpassed.

No business or organisation wants to disappoint a customer. Setting the right expectations extends beyond traditional advertising and customer service training.

For your best chance to set appropriate customer expectations, check (and keep refining) your website.

Information should be accurate.

Promises should be delivered.


B2C markets have been using Customer Loyalty Programs for decades. Can they be as useful in B2B markets?

Why Your B2B Should Have a Loyalty Reward Program

A quick look in the slots where bank cards should sit in my wallet is revealing. Firstly, I could do with a receipt purge and secondly, customer reward programs are ubiquitous in the B2C world. From cafes to shops to gyms. There are few consumers immune to a juicy perk for remaining loyal to a particular brand. Rewarding loyalty enhances the customer experience, aids client retention, and builds brand engagement. Rewards programs in the business-to-business arena are gaining popularity. In this article, we will look at why loyalty programs work and how you can measure their success.


Why do loyalty programs work?

Loyalty programs work because they help customers feel valued and appreciated. It’s not just about giving the consumer the warm and fuzzies. Tapping into these emotions leads to increased retention, referrals, and revenue. Loyalty schemes help businesses stand out from their competition. They can also incentivise desired customer behaviour.

Granted, in the B2B space, customers are a less studied group than their B2C counterparts. And considerably more difficult to define. Often, B2B companies will be targeting a team of buyers, rather than an individual. But, that team is still made up of people guided by the same emotions as those targeted in B2C marketing strategies. Developing relationships with B2B customers can be extremely beneficial.


Should B2B Companies Reward Customer Loyalty?

The short answer is yes, B2B companies should reward customer loyalty. Why?

Acquiring a new client can cost five times as much as keeping one. It is worth strategising to keep the customers you have happy and loyal to your brand. The best loyalty programs can also be considered customer retention programs.

According to Lumio, at least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for but expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer. That’s a high number of clients who want to feel valued and appreciated on their B2B customer journey.

The ramifications of a customer loyalty program for B2B businesses are huge. Arguably, they are just as important as they are for consumer-facing businesses.

What does customer loyalty look like in the B2B world? Because loyalty may manifest itself in different ways, it’s challenging, but possible, to quantify. You can use the following three metrics to measure customer loyalty:

  1. Repeat Customer Rate (RCR)

How many of your consumers return to buy from you? This indicator measures how long clients stay with your company after making their initial sales. You can track RCR with your customer relationship management system. Use RCR as a benchmark for measuring the performance of your loyalty programs and initiatives. You can measure this monthly to see what percentage of consumers are returning to you as your loyalty efforts progress.

  1. Customer lifetime value (CLV)

This metric calculates the profit generated by each of your customers during their relationship with you. Calculate the CLV for each of your clients’ using data on annual revenue, buy frequency, and sale trends. Identify your highest-value consumers and find out what is keeping them connected to your brand. This may unlock what is preventing loyalty among your lower-value customers.

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS reveals how likely your customers are to suggest your product or service to a friend or colleague. Your customers becoming ‘mini-marketers’ on your behalf is one of the most obvious ways to assess customer loyalty.

Any one of those three indicators will offer you useful information about how loyal and engaged your customers are. If you consider these markers altogether, they can provide a full picture of how successful your loyalty program is.


The Global B2B Brands using Loyalty Programs


IBM’s Loyalty program is one of the most well-known B2B loyalty programs available. The scheme has two main goals.

1)To show appreciation by rewarding customers for their current activities

2) To encourage members to learn more about IBM’s services.

To do this, IMB’s program includes:


Is a B2B Loyalty Program right for your brand?

Efforts to improve client experience demonstrates to customers that you care. As a result, these customers will become loyal and buy from you again and again. Make a connection with your present clients. A loyal customer will continue to engage with your brand and tell their friends and family about it. Customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing go hand in hand.

Your expectations vs customer needs: mind the gap

If you check out the meaning of the word hospitality, the internet will tell you it’s about “the friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors or strangers.”


Sounds awesome, doesn’t it – kind of like that feeling you get when you visit someone’s home for the first time, and they greet you at the front door with a big smile. They’re warm and inviting, and you can tell they’ve used their Jamie Oliver cookbooks and taken out the good gin.


That’s the sort of welcome I expect from hotels, too. In my mind, the entire hospitality industry – whether a five-star tribute to architectural elegance, complete with million-count cotton sheets or a cosy Airbnb tucked away in the middle of nowhere – one should feel like they are visiting the home of a friend who cares for you very deeply and wants nothing more than to make you feel special. The clue is in the name, right? In the ‘hospitality’ industry, warmth should be standard.


That’s why I found my January holiday a little disappointing. My teenage son and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip up the Cape East Coast. After a tough year, we were looking forward to stunning sunsets, delicious seafood, and small-town getaway spots where we could truly relax.


I can’t fault the sunsets or the seafood, but when it came to the accommodation, we felt something was seriously lacking. After a lot of online investigation, we had booked ourselves into a Guesthouse that had all the right credentials: fantastic reviews, beautiful pictures, a great location, and so on and on.


This isn’t a horror story intending to warn you about the two-faced nature of the Internet, and how pictures aren’t to be trusted. Far from it: the establishment was just as lovely as its website (and past guests) promised. It was in immaculate condition and the décor was gorgeous – everything looked perfect.


Too perfect, actually. After just a few days, it became clear that our hostess had made a great effort to ensure that everything was just so and that she was determined that it should remain that way.


That’s all very well if you’ve curated a great look for a magazine spread, or a show house model – but when there are people moving about a home, there’s bound to be some disruption. Even the tidiest among us may accidentally bump a table, move a chair, or shift a cushion so that we’re more comfortable. And in a place where hospitality was truly valued, that wouldn’t be an issue, but in our case, our host seemed determined to keep us in line. She would passively-aggressively ask us to please not touch anything and wouldn’t even allow my “always hungry” teen to bring takeaway food into his room.


So, after feeling as though I was living inside a museum plastered everywhere with ‘look don’t touch’ posters, with that irritating little rhyme stuck in my head (“lovely to look at, delightful to hold, but if you should break it consider it sold), I got thinking: which is more important? Staying in a place that looks amazing? Or feeling like you’re in a home away from home? I was so caught up in the question that I created an online poll on Linkedin, and the responses backed up what I already thought: 85% of respondents said they value hospitality and comfort when they stay somewhere, compared to 10% who place a higher priority on features and amenities. Just 6% said they consider style and aesthetics to be the most important.


The message? As always, it’s about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Yes, I may have appreciated our hostess’s efforts to create a beautiful environment – but I will certainly never return to that Guest House,  nor will I recommend it to others. If she had taken the time to consider my needs, rather than placing emphasis on what she thought was important, I probably would been a “return guest”.


I wonder how many of us have fallen into a similar trap?

These SA companies totally nailed their CX in 2021

In business, there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve hit the mark with your efforts, and even better, being recognised for a job well done. Since it’s been a tough ‘ how many months/years now?’ of surviving a global pandemic, giving credit where it’s due is an important part of keeping our spirits up.

While we often hear a lot of CX success stories on the international front (and it’s great to learn from them), today I thought I’d put the spotlight on a few CX champions that hail from our very own shores.

So, in this blog post, I’ve cherry-picked a few examples to share with you of local companies that in my opinion have weathered the COVID storm with notable grace, and quite frankly, nailed their CX in 2021.


Sun International 

Boasting premier entertainment and hotel designations across the country, the hospitality group has been quick to adapt to the covid-induced blow to the tourism industry, by keeping their most valued guests at the front and centre. Good call because client retention is far cheaper than client acquisition.

Turning to tech to enhance and improve their CX in 2021, Sun International introduced a nifty little app to help streamline communication for their most-valued guest programme (MVG). The app makes things easier for guests to view best available rates, assess how many reward points they have to redeem, and access important information at the click of a button. Super convenient when you think about how frustrating it can be to deal with outdated websites or waiting on hold while the front- desk scrambles to assist you.

Understanding that their guests want instant access to information in a way that’s easy to navigate, is evident of the group’s commitment to implementing a CX strategy based on customer feedback and insights.

According to Sun International CEO, Anthony Leeming, the users of the app can enjoy a richer, more interactive experience with the brand. Sounds blissful!

The CX lesson?  Make it easy to do business with you.  Stay on top of your customer needs and design your customer experience accordingly.


Arrowhead properties 

Remember the landlord and tenant war that made headlines in the early days of lockdown? Embroiled in arduous negotiations for days on end, landlords and retail tenants argued over the payment of rent. I’ve always found that a big problem in the property sector is the disconnect and trust between the tenant and landlord. Unfortunately, many landlords don’t view the tenant as a customer. This is especially apparent in the retail and commercial space.

One property group that was quick to remember during lockdown that tenants are in fact customers, was Arrowhead Properties. The commercial property group which owns a portfolio of retail, office, and industrial assets demonstrated empathy for what their tenants were going through, and as such, provided approximately R 82 million in rental relief.

With a clear focus on tenant retention, this act of compassion yielded great reward, as the group’s interim results in May last year showed overall client retention of 85%, up from the year before. Arrowhead COO and co-founder, Mark Kaplan, said that they decided to shift strategic focus from an emphasis on sales to enhancing returns on properties through a ’tenant-centric’ approach – putting the tenants at the heart of all property management decisions.

Further to this, the group has made environmental, and social factors an integral part of their business. Their social initiative, Arrow for Change’ was launched in 2021 and has positively impacted communities that have been severely affected by COVID-19.

The CX lesson?  You can’t put a price on customer relationships, and you certainly can’t ignore the power of empathy. Moving into 2022, something to also consider is that being socially conscious is a huge part of how your customer experiences your brand.



I’d be remiss not to give Checkers a mention, given the retail giants insatiable appetite for innovation. It appears the stars aligned when they launched the Checkers Sixty60 app just a few months before the hard lockdown in early 2020, making it the perfect on-demand grocery solution for customers who didn’t want to leave the house.

Rolling out to 146 more stores in the past year alone, it’s safe to say the app has been a smashing success. In fact, I read that it is the number one grocery app in the country. Impressive stuff! So, what’s their secret? Well not only are they aggressively proactive, but they are really good at listening to their customers.

Case in point. As part of their new digital tech hub, ShopriteX, last year the group made their in-store Xtra Savings reward programme available on the Sixty60 app in response to customers asking to have the same deals online. According to Neil Schreuder, Chief of Innovation & Strategy at the Shoprite Group, “ our customers asked, so we listened.” That easy hey? Yes, apparently it can be.

These guys seem determined to lead  the ‘quick commerce’ revolution, and what’s working in their favour is that they just fundamentally ‘get’ their customer. Take their new pilot concept, Checkers Rush,  for example – an automated, cashless, “no queues, no checkout, no waiting” store. Who doesn’t want that?

Okay before I stop CX ‘fangirling’ over Checkers, can we just take a quick moment to acknowledge what an awesome touch the Sixty60 drivers Santa outfits were over the December holidays?

The CX lesson?  Know thy customer, innovate, and most importantly NEVER stop improving your product or service.



CEOS take note: The pandemic has brought about a fundamental shift in what customers see as your ‘product.’

CEOS take note: The pandemic has brought about a fundamental shift in what customers see as your ‘product.’ 

The mistake we see a lot of companies making is they treat their product and CX as two different things, when in fact CX is the product. The CX community and trend forecasters have touted CX as being the number one differentiator over price and product since 2020, and while this is true, I believe these last 20 months have inspired a fundamental shift in the customer’s idea of product. If we look at what the insights are telling us about customer behaviour and how it’s changing, companies can’t afford to be separating their product or offering from CX efforts. Moreover, CEOs can no longer be removed from the CX process. They have to be the main drivers of  a CX strategy if it’s going to have any real meaning in an organisation’s output.


How product and experience are intertwined 

An interesting conversation to come out of our recent CX Masterclass was around the disconnect between expectation and experience. While a client’s expectations may have been met in terms of the product or offering, it does not necessarily imply they had a good experience. This divide is a result of the product being measured based on meeting the client’s expectations only and not against the holistic experience. What does that mean exactly? Well, if you’re just going by expectation, you’re only concerned with giving your client the product or service they paid for (e.g., taking out a specific insurance policy). But that’s not enough anymore. Your client can get a similar, if not the very same product elsewhere. It’s their interaction with the product or offering that determines whether or not they will be a repeat customer.

Sticking with the insurance policy example, to truly deliver a good ‘product,’ you would need to ask yourself if the communication was clear throughout the process? If the broker was pleasant to deal with? If he or she was knowledgeable about the policy being sold? If he acted within in the best interests of the client etc.

Do you see how product and CX can essentially become one? This synergy is what today’s customer wants. The pandemic has forced companies to not only jack up digital transformation, but also step up their personalised marketing efforts, and become more transparent in their communication. Getting this right requires going beyond just the functionality of a product or service, so you’d be remiss to think that customers are going to expect anything less than a seamless holistic experience as we head into the ‘post-pandemic years.


Why pick on  CEOs? Don’t they have enough on their plate? 

Only a few short years ago, the key to business success was having the best quality product on the market at the most affordable price. However, today, this will only get you so far. CX has changed the game completely, and the companies that are winning the game have cottoned on to the fact that their clients want more, they understand that they want to do business with companies that go the extra mile, and that provide them with value through authenticity and connection.

According to a 2021 report by Deloitte, a study of almost 2,500 end-users in April this year, found one in four people will walk away from companies they believe acted in self-interest. The reason this is so significant is that it ties directly into how customer-centric an organisation is or is not. CEOs who are still operating on a price and product first business model will have a very limited view of what makes their clients tick, and in turn, so will their employees.


The misalignment of KPIs

What I find is that too many CEOs preach about how they prioritise CX, but if you go down the food chain, heads of departments and employees are operating according to very different KPIs. For example, the procurement departments of a lot of bigger corporates act as their profit centres and are usually offshore. They aren’t aligned with a bigger ‘customer-centric picture, all they are concerned about is squeezing every last penny they can out of their customers. They’re looking only at the numbers on the sales sheets. Where is the customer in all of this? Putting the customer’s interests ahead of your sales target requires a certain level of CX maturity, and that folks is a gap I believe needs to be filled by the CEO. If the CEO is not living and breathing customer-centricity, how can you expect it from employees and external suppliers?

Ironically, in a recent poll we ran on Linkedin, we asked which department head should be responsible for driving the CX strategy. An overwhelming majority listed the CEO as the man for the job….BUSTED! Even those in your very own company are looking at you Mr/Ms. CEO to lead the CX way. And if you’re going to make it through the aftermath of the covid storm, you’re going to have to be the glue that holds the CX strategy together. More importantly, you’ll need to ensure that CX has a very prominent seat at the table alongside both price and product.


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