In 2019, I wrote an article on how customer service overall was at the very least frustrating in Zimbabwe. At the time it seemed in dire straights but fast forward to today, and things are somehow worse. I do not wish to take away anything from businesses that are delivering sterling customer service in Zimbabwe. Several Zimbabwean businesses are doing quite well. However, all in all, poor business service delivery is now a norm in Zimbabwe. It is even ironic that most big brands are at the forefront of this disservice.

Customer Complaints Everywhere

You do not need to look far and wide to come across customer complaints – visit social media. For starters, just go to the social media platforms of mobile network operators (MNOs). You can also go to social media platforms of common big brands in Zimbabwe e.g. fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) outlets, fast food outlets, and so on. Chances are you will find a common feature being customer complaints in the comments. Better still you can go to dedicated social media platforms for customer complaints. One of the most common ones is a Facebook group called Name & Shame Them (Zimbabwe).

The group has over 47 000 members and there you will get a fuller picture of how most businesses in Zimbabwe are sleeping on duty. Then of course, in person, chances are that every one of us has been a victim of poor customer service. In fact, for most of us, every day is characterised by some poor business service delivery somewhere. It has become so common that weirdly some people now justify poor customer service. I guess that is what happens when you get used to being short-changed as a customer. You end up thinking it is normal to be treated as such but in earnest, it is not!

Think Of It As An Opportunity

I wish Zimbabwean businesses could use incidences of poor customer service as learning curves. I believe bad customer reviews are not necessarily a bad thing; they are a tool. They can help a business identify where it needs to work to do better. Sadly, many businesses are oblivious to that and would even resort to shouting at customers for calling them out.

Certainly, we need to see a change because this trend of dismal customer service by most Zimbabwean businesses is unacceptable. Many things can be done to put such businesses back in line. However, I will not be discussing that here today. Instead, I want to direct our attention to something I have been musing on for a while.

It is best encapsulated in what Doug Warner once said, ‘In the world of Internet Customer Service, it is important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. You can interpret that statement in several ways but it is a rich and rude awakening. It is very easy to spot where businesses are falling short. Since most of them are not making amends, it is high time you take advantage of that. Take advantage now, you may wonder? Well, just build better alternatives so that you either shake those dysfunctional businesses into a form or take them out of business altogether.

That might sound nasty but honestly, that is what I now seriously advocate. There is no point in only focusing on lamenting when they are not improving. Surely other players can rise and offer better and superior service. I submit to you that one of the contributors to poor customer service is lack of formidable competition. So, let us see more robust competitors coming in – that will be a game-changer.

An Opportunity For Better Alternatives

Maybe for MNOs that might be a long shot but anything is possible after all. Regardless, most, if not all, of the other poorly performing businesses can be replaced. It is a misconception to think that any business is too big to be outdone. Think of global brands like Kodak that used to be granted back then but were overshadowed over the years. Of course, it was mainly because they failed to adapt but that analogy applies to failing to improve service delivery.

I have noted with concern incessant complaints regarding most Simbisa Brands. I have been a victim many times as well. I have since stopped buying any Chicken Inn products because every time I do, I get sick. Mind you, that never used to happen; clearly, standards have deteriorated.

My question then is; can we not have better brands to serve that fast foods market? I am confident we can have such brands coming up to do better. Once prominent fast food joints have now increasingly become dissatisfactory in their quality of products and service delivery.

What boggles my mind is that the required improvements are apparent but they are not being prioritized. So since they could not be bothered it is high time new players come in with new brands and do better. This can be done for any slacking business in Zimbabwe. Now is the time to do it because customer service is predominantly at an all-time low.

You no longer need to scratch your head to figure out which business to start. You no longer have to struggle to come up with a good business idea in Zimbabwe. Just look at those businesses dissatisfying their customers; step in with a brand that does better than them. As simple as that we can have countless new businesses in Zimbabwe. I like something that Jack Welch once said; he said that you should either buy or bury the competition. All these Zimbabwean businesses poorly serving their customers must either be bought or buried by the competition. Now is the time!