Two Vodacom Frontline Employees receive the Jaksonian Institute Frontline Research Awards for 2014

In this, our first year announcing all the winners of the Jaksonian Research Institute Annual Awards for 2014 it is a good time to briefly explain the Frontline Research concept and I shall do so now.

In what Americans still call the Mom and Pop small businesses the owners manufacture the product, sell it to the customers and fix it when it doesn’t work well enough; the owners are the Frontline and the customer deals direct with them. So it is easy and many of these small stores grow into big ones; the salesman becomes the frontline and is the first one to know if the customer has a problem with the purchased item. The salesman trots of to the owner, they discuss the problem and fix it. The job is done and everyone is happy and contented.

That is not the case with the large corporations of modern times. Some employ so many directors, each with a horde of secretaries and assistants to protect him/her from the level of their incompetence and none of them ever goes near the customer or the frontline worker. The frontline worker doesn’t know any of the directors; they have no access to repairs and maintenance departments; thus they normally sit there and blush or fumble when an irate customer has a problem and eventually the customer trots off to another supplier.

Smart Corporations like Wal-Mart solved that problem. If you recently purchased a hair dryer and still have your purchase slip you trot up to the counter in the store where you bought the hair dryer or any other Wal-Mart Store you see while visiting your Uncle in another town and the hair dryer problem came up when you are at your uncle’s place. There is a person [man or lady] at every Wal-Mart Store for this purpose; just ask and somebody will direct you to that person.

That person will have a smile on the face and you don’t have to be trembling in your shoes with a long story; he/she is most likely to interrupt you with “Do you still have your slip, Sir/Madam. OK leave that with me here, yes, I keep the item you brought in and you go get you a new one. You know where to find it?” If you say that you don’t know where, he/she will conjure up and assistant who will be told to just help this customer to get a new item like this one and anything else that he/she may need today.”

When you get back to counter with the friendly individual with the smile he will say, “Now OK Sir/Madam, no need to pay anything on the new hairdryer, just let me ring the new items that I see you bought today. Thank you for shopping with Wal-Mart.   Come back soon, anytime you want. Have a good day, Sir/Madam.”

But that is the quality of Wal-Mart that made them the largest retailer in America; it requires a rare though common sense of managerial skills that is sadly absent from big business today.

I was about to hand Vodacom SA the “Rubber spoon with a hole in it” Award for 2014 when I remembered and scratched through old records of the year and found my winners. They get the “Rare Precious Gems” Award for the year.

Veruschka Jarvis De Nobrega picked me up after weeks on 082155; she had seen the problem with an interim contract “migration”, took hold of it, solved it there and then, AND THEN, out of her own sent me a short clear email with her full names and her Department at the bottom. I so wish Vodacom will put her in charge of a task force to train all Vodacom workers in the art of email replies.

The second Vodacom “Rare Precious Gems” award goes to Morne Speelman of the Vodashop in Tyger Valley Durbanville branch.

After months of battling with a modem, and my Laptop by then messed up so much that I have no modem on it now by the imbecilic incompetent staff in the Weskus Mall Vredenburg Vodashop I packed both my computers and the cellphone in the car of a friend who drove me into Tyger Valley.

Morne Speelman took over. He is a quiet man; it was obvious that it was a busy store but it was well designed; customers sat on comfortable lounge chairs at comfortable “coffee tables” designed for this purpose with electric points for a number of appliances under the table; under pressure Morne remained calm, tapped here and there, asked me to test, then another few taps, asked me to test again, smiled at me and all my things were fixed, “no charge Sir, just the normal SIM card swap fee for the phone”, and I have not had a problem since.

He didn’t have to write me an email because he had done the job, with a smile and thanked me for supporting Vodacom.

Give these young people a hand. Vodacom, look after them or you will get it from me.

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