South Africans expect bad service

South African companies have set such a low base of customer expectations, that consumers are shocked when they receive good service, according to Paul Galatis, director of

Speaking at the uAfrica eCommerce Conference, held in Sandton on Wednesday (11 September), Galatis addressed key points which he believes has led to Yuppiechef’s success over the years.

Founded in 2006, Yuppiechef has built a strong reputation in the South African e-commerce space with its level of service which takes a personal approach to dealing with customers.

The site offers and sells over 4,000 products from 100 brands with free delivery to anywhere in South Africa, and hand-packs each product with a personal style, and attaches a hand-written card and other touches with each delivery.

Over the past two years, the site has boosted its staff from seven people in 2011, to a team of 65 people in 2013, and is currently in early days, or “testing the waters” in expanding its delivery network into Africa.

According to Galatis, it’s not difficult to be remarkable when it comes to servicing customers online, as South African consumers are so used to bad service that they’re actually shocked when things run smoothly.

Paul Galatis
Paul Galatis

“We are working off of an incredibly low base of customer expectations,” Galatis said.

“I think for the last 10-15 years, people have been trying to engage [with customers], but have been so bad at it that customers don’t have great expectations.”

To illustrate the point, Galatis pointed out that Yuppiechef once received a Hellopeter compliment, thanking the company for sending a new knife to a customer after the one that was previously received had a broken handle.

According to Galatis, this was a service failure – not a success – yet the customer was still singing the company’s praises.

“Effectively we are being thanked for delivering a product in 48 hours instead of 24, as expected. The guy was just so happy he didn’t have to fight us to fix the issue,” Galatis said.

Galatis highlighted several approaches Yuppichef takes to dealing in the online market, all focused around building a relationship with its customers.

Aside from the personal touch, the director pointed out that it was as simple as treating customers as humans and appreciating them, taking responsibility, and not treating the brand community as a marketing channel, but rather a “group of people who choose to hang with you,” Galatis said.

“Great customer service requires people to genuinely care,” Galatis said. “We stuff up – sometimes people complain with good reason…you just hope that there’s enough of the good stuff going around that it outweighs the bad.”

Yuppiechef was named the 2013 best e-commerce website in South Africa in the uAfrica e-commerce awards – a title it has held for the past three years.

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South Africans expect bad service