By Louise Burgers, Retailing Africa Editor. Consumer revenge on brands is increasing globally as the cost-of-living crisis bites hard. Consumers will no longer put up with bad service and brands need to be aware. A study by Arizona State University showed that enraged shoppers were taking revenge on brands and retailers over poor customer service levels, with incidences increasing to 9% from 3% in only a year.
The US National Customer Rage Survey found that 74% of customers reported running into a problem with a product or service within the last year. This dovetails with research done last year by Bateleur Brand Planning in South Africa, that found that levels of customer service dissatisfaction had increased.
In their recent eBook, The Fears & Fantasies of SA Shoppers, free to download on RetailingAfrica.com in our LIBRARY, Bateleur research found that how consumers are feeling – happy or unhappy – impacts directly on how they shop and interact with brands. Consumers are already worried about quality of life, government service delivery, poverty, money matters, health, body and mind, education, pandemics, persecution, possible apocalypse, purpose in life, relationships, personal competency and technology. Throw in bad customer service, and you have the perfect storm, reports Bateleur.
While most brand shaming is done on social media, consumers have been known to take drastic action. Who can forget one of South Africa’s famous cases of consumer revenge which made headlines around the world. In 2004, a frustrated bank customer released poisonous snakes in a local bank’s headquarters, resulting in one employee being bitten and hospitalised. The customer was arrested and charged.
In the past, we’ve also had customers place billboard ads and banners outside mobile company headquarters and car dealerships to warn the public about poor customer service; or take out full page newspaper adverts complaining about customer service. It’s even easier on social media these days to “cancel” a brand or do serious reputational damage, with enough bad publicity. We all know word-of-mouth (WOM) has a powerful impact on brands – whether positive or negative sentiment is expressed – and social media is WOM amplified by thousands.
What can brands do?
Customer service is at the centre of how retailers can win in the post-pandemic retail wars and attract more loyal customers. Currently, 76% of South African shoppers find retail service in store “indifferent”, and 94% believe there is room for improvement, according to the Bateleur research.
Gordon Hooper, founder and managing director of Bateleur Brand Planning, says that while South African retailers are known for their friendly staff, they get low scores for staff “knowledgeability and attentiveness” across the board. Retail fortunes would improve if customer service improved radically, and staff were trained as “Champion Salespeople”. Such service cultures begin in the boardroom, with the overall organisational leader standing accountable for its creation and delivery, he said.
Retailing Africa Editor, Louise Burgers, was interviewed by radio station ChaiFM about the latest study on consumer revenge.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE: Chaifm.com
Louise Burgers is the Publisher, Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She also lectures post-grad students in Marketing and Advertising Communications at the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business; and works with the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in the Africa region on editorial strategy. Specialising in local and Africa consumer trends, Louise is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger this decade.
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