Tag: transformation

Are we too digitally dependent?

By Nadia Coetzer for Biz Community

Businesses who still think that brand and customer loyalty are what will keep them ahead of the competition are in for a nasty surprise.

In today’s age of digital transformation and accelerated technological change, customers are looking for exceptional experiences and are shifting their loyalties to the brands that offer them.

In this way, the experience a business offers has become its brand differentiator. Because customers are increasingly making online purchases via their tablets, phones and laptops, savvy businesses are focusing on improving their online experience and digital channels.

Digital transformation allows companies to better engage with their digital audience and deliver the seamless experiences they demand. This transformation integrates digital technology into all business areas, bringing about dramatic changes in the way a business operates and delivers value to customers.

Leaders in payroll and HR software, the Covid-19 pandemic proved that businesses need to be more digitally available, as companies had to move to work from home environments practically overnight.

Digital technologies have given customers more autonomy over the way they manage their own businesses, as well as more channels to interact and engage with other businesses. Look at a call centre, for example, they have chatbots, telephone, email and social media as ways of communication.

However, this digital-led world begs whether we are too digitally dependent. The answer? Not yet.

In the South African market, we are not there yet. Although the pandemic proved that we need to be more digitally available, it is still our preference as to whether we want to be digitally dependent or not.

The human touch remains critical to customer experience (CX). Human nature has proven that we rely on empathy. It is so important because people want to feel valued and understood. All studies reveal that empathy in communication and active listening increase customer satisfaction all around.

From a service level, while online services are convenient, helpful human customer service still stands out. The human touch still trumps everything.

Customers use digital and social channels to research and review products, make online purchases and engage with peers on forums. However, when customers are looking for problem-solving assistance with an issue they are experiencing, they will contact a business via telephone and look to speak directly with a person. Customers prioritise human interaction when they most want to feel understood and heard by a business.

To make customer service exceptional, businesses need to create memorable experiences to ‘wow’ their customers and a personal touch is more memorable and shareable than any other method or channel.

Meeting customer expectations is a must. However, going above and beyond to exceed their expectations creates these ‘wow’ moments and sets you apart from the competition.

Creating meaningful connections and relationships with customers is key to customer satisfaction. Communication is also key. Keep language simple, and don’t overcomplicate things by using complex language, as this can confuse and isolate customers.

In addition, by listening to customers’ needs and telling them how you will meet their expectations, you will help them and maintain the important human touch.

At the end of the day, staying ’humanly’ connected with people and adding a human touch is vital to nurturing and sustaining long-lasting relationships with customers. In the digital age, they want the best CX, but this means a real experience they can remember. They need to feel important, and that they’ve made a good choice in choosing your company.

CX is the number one priority, and you cannot have this without a human touch. Even in the digital age, human touch is more important than ever before. Technology enables businesses to reach out from everywhere and allows them to lower costs, and increase efficiencies. However, human touch is what provides a world-class experience.

What is key is finding the balance between people and digital, connecting with customers and offering them something more. This is what turns a business transaction into a long term relationship.


By Ann Crotty for Business Day

Shareholder activists are gunning for fashion retailer Truworths in a bid to force changes to its board and executive management, which, 24 years after the country’s first democratic elections, continues to be dominated by white men.

Transformation in the retail sector, which does not rely on government for licences or for business, has lagged sectors such as mining and financial services.

With two black women on its 11-member board, of which one was appointed in February, and only two women and no blacks among its 19 divisional directors, Truworths falls short of even the low levels of transformation in the retail sector. In the mining sector, 50% of directors must be black, of which 20% must be black women.

Shares in the retail sector have been hit by weak economic conditions, which have knocked consumer spending. The general retailers index is down 18.1% since the start of 2018, lagging the all share index, which has shed 12.27%. Truworths is down nearly 14%. This has added to calls for board and management changes.

Bishop Jo Seoka, chairman of Active Shareholder, which advises nongovernmental organisations how to vote their shares, said the Truworths board was dominated by white men who had been directors for a worryingly long time.

“They seem to treat these as lifetime appointments; it’s amazing that they don’t realise that this looks like the quintessential old boys’ club.”

‘Lack of transformation’

Active is voting against two of the five directors who are up for re-election at the retail group’s annual general meeting on Wednesday.

It is voting against former Truworths executive Tony Taylor (71), who is described as an independent nonexecutive director, although he has served on the board for 19 years. “His reappointment is opposed on the grounds of the lack of transformation, the lack of independence and the fact that younger directors are not being introduced,” said Active in its proxy statement.

It said it was also voting against recently appointed Hans Hawinkels because it believed it was not appropriate for the board to appoint another white man in his late 60s.

In his chairman’s statement, Hilton Saven, who has been on the board for 15 years and is deemed independent, described the Truworths board as “strong, well balanced and diverse in its composition, expertise and opinions.”

Chief operations officer David Pfaff said the board was unaware of shareholder concerns, and that the board would “like to engage with them.” He said the group was already close to its own target of 30% women and 30% black directors.

Shane Watkins, chief investment officer at All Weather Capital, said the “demographics of the board and of the executive management team is completely detached from the demographic of their core customer.”

Although All Weather Capital did not hold Truworths shares, Watkins said he would attend the annual general meeting to engage with the management about the lack of transformation. Analysts from All Weather Capital, whose executive chairman John Oliphant chairs the Code for Responsible Investing in SA, are represented at most annual general meetings as part of their strategy to champion governance and empowerment issues, he said.

Active is also voting against proposed fee increases for non- executive directors.

Average director fees have increased 210% since 2008, compared with an increase in profit before tax of 108% over the same period.

Directors’ fees have also increased at a much higher rate than employee wages.

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