Customer C.A.R.E: Monty Python is no longer on Steroids, he has entered the Twilight Zone

By Dr Trilogy

Module #127

In the previous issue of aBr, module #126 looked at the weird scenario whereby a seventy year old pensioner received an sms from the City of Joburg in late June 2023, which offered him a pensioner rebates on property rates, effective 1 July 2023. This pensioner did not let the grass grow under his feet, and first thing Monday morning, at 9 a.m. on 3 July 2023, he arrived at the City of Joburg regional head office in Daisy Street, Sandton, and proudly presented his application for a property rates rebate to one of the officials lounging around in front of a table

As explained in the module, the official took the form, and promptly dumped it into a cardboard box, and turned to go. “Don’t I get a reference number?”, the pensioner enquired. “No, the system is down,” was the curt response. “So will I get a reference number tomorrow?”, my friend naively enquired. “No, the system will be down for the whole of July, so we will contact you sometime in August”, was the laconic response. I promised to keep my readers informed of the outcome, so here it is, in its unvarnished glory.

August came and went, September came and went, so on 3 October 2023 the pensioner was back at the regional head office, exactly three months later, to enquire as to why he had not received any feedback. After joining the waiting queue, he was eventually summonsed to a reasonably friendly official, who expressed incredulity that the pensioner had not been contacted. The official looked up the details on his computer, and told the relived pensioner that the application had indeed been processed, but that as there was a big backlog, approval was still pending. At this stage, the bemused pensioner (also read customer) was only too happy to receive a reference number. There was no apology, so sense of remorse, just a shrug of the shoulders from the official, with no promises as to the timeline of the approval. So off went the pensioner, clutching the reference number to his chest, not knowing when this tortoise procedure would come to an end, and most probably knowing that in three months’ time he would be back in the queue, waiting for an answer. The tragedy is that this is not an isolated incident, as the pensioner related to me that on both sides of him in the queue were people who had similar horror stories.

What has become of customer care in South Africa? Or more accurately, customer care simply does not exist in government departments, and there are simply no consequences for such shocking levels of service. I can assure my readers that these tardy so-called employees are carrying out their sense of entitlement in their civil service roles, taking the cue from even tardier so-called senior management. It was for this reason that in 1992 I wrote my customer programme, and I can assure all and sundry that the service levels then were not nearly as bad as they are now. And I am sure my readers know all too well that stands for CUSTOMERS ARE REALLY EVERYTHING! I would love to dust off my programme and to revive my crusade, but alas I would be doing a Tom Cruise, as getting this lot right would be akin to a metro policeman not asking for a bribe. It would be mission impossible.

South Africa is in trouble folks, and not even a political upheaval will solve the problem. Maybe the Beatles have the answer with their 1968 song “Revolution” – a tortured song from tortured times: “You say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we all want to change the world. You tell me that it's evolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out. Don't you know it's gonna be all right? You say you got a real solution, well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan. You ask me for a contribution, well, you know, we're all doing what we can. But if you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell you is brother you have to wait. Don't you know it's gonna be all right? You say you'll change the constitution, well, you know, we'd all love to change your head. You tell me it's the institution, well, you know, you better free your mind instead. But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.” Interesting words, which can be interpreted in many ways. My interpretation aligns with the title of this module.