Elections … the customer satisfaction survey with a kick

JULY 25, 2016

When you pay good money for something you become a customer. Which makes every taxpayer and ratepayer in this country a customer of the political party that collects the cash.

These receipts go toward the products and services ‘advertised’ by politicians in their manifestoes. Stuff like well-lit streets, roads without potholes, reliable water and power supplies, schools, hospitals etc.

We ‘consume’ these products daily, making us both customers and consumers.

If we look at our interaction with the powers-that-be like this, we realise an election – municipal and otherwise – is really a customer satisfaction survey.

After all …

  • One of the biggest expenses faced by most of us is taxation; e.g. rates, licences, PAYE and VAT
  • We have to pay or leave ‘the store’; i.e. emigrate
  • We know what we’re getting for our money as we instantly feel the benefit of efficient services or suffer the frustrations of product failure
  • We can judge the quality of ‘management’ as we soon know whether we’re being ignored or assisted with empathy and understanding
  • Interaction with those running the ‘store’ tells us whether they are knowledgeable and trained to be sensitive to our needs or are hardly trained at all
  • We know when on-time delivery happens and when time has been wasted through inefficiency and incompetence (i.e. ‘lack of capacity’)
  • We know whether a brand treats us with respect, listens to us or takes us for granted
  • We know how the ‘store’ owner and staff deal with complaints, whether they are responsive or give us the run-around

Of course, over time the biggest insight gained by any customer is into the culture, values and ethics of the brand and/or store. This is reflected in the actions of the brand or store and staff behaviour.

As customers we always know when the store or brand experience is worthwhile and memorable.

In the commercial world, when the experience is shoddy we can take our custom elsewhere.

In the political world, such recourse is denied to the customer (aka the tax-paying public). Just try holding back your rates because your suburb’s water has been off for days and you’ll see what I mean.

However, we are given the opportunity to take part in the political version of the customer satisfaction survey.

In the commercial world, such a survey might be conducted at regular intervals during the year. In the political world, the chance occurs much less frequently; every five years if we’re lucky.

We may have to wait, but we can at least make our mark.

Of course, in South Africa there are examples of customer satisfaction surveys being carried out time after time with little discernible impact on the level of service or the quality of the underlying product.

But that does not invalidate the process.

All we can do is make the most of the opportunity, give an honest score and hope that this is one of those occasions when the brand takes the result to heart and actually does something about it. Let’s hope so …

*Aki Kalliatakis is Managing Partner of The Leadership LaunchPad, a customer service consultancy that promotes business growth through service excellence.