Lesotho’s Retail Service Sector and the Techno-Savvy Customers of the Future

By Nvulane Nhlapo

Multichoice Marketing team scoops the two coveted awards presented by Mamosa Makaya (right).
Multichoice Marketing team scoops the two coveted awards presented by Mamosa Makaya (right).

Social media has largely become the domain for not only casual social interactions in Lesotho, but has grown into a space for development of e-commerce, socio-political ideas exchange and influence, and is fast becoming the major source of news among the youth.

The advocacy surrounding customer service in Lesotho gained momentum in 2012 when the group Fame or Shame of Retail Service in Lesotho came into the scene on Facebook created by Mamosa Makaya while she was living in the United Kingdom, the group has 11 406 members as of January 2018.

The group’s steady growth over the past six years is a sign that the topic of customer service in many spheres of business in Lesotho is of great concern to its citizens. “I started the group with the aim of developing an understanding that a culture of good or even excellent customer service can be achieved in Lesotho, if it can be done elsewhere, why not at home?” She said.

Her theory is that the best way to effect change is through citizen-driven dialogue and then engaging retailers online. The group has effected a marked change with some big chain retailers and has enticed them to be part of the conversation. The movement has also educated Basotho on their rights and awareness of their attitudes as customers.

Some of the popular complaints and compliments on the group range from issues such as face to face interactions that customers had with customer service agents at retail outlets, poor product quality, attitudes, call centre services, and the most popular being data and airtime and value added services and charges by mobile network providers.

In December 2017, a retail forum and award ceremony was hosted by Fame or Shame of Retail Service in Lesotho where members of the group, the general public and retailers were invited; see Lesotho Times’s report on the event.

The dialogue was focused on sharpening the focus of Lesotho’s retail sector to a more customer centric service.  Mr Samuel Mphana Co-owner of Pick ‘n Pay Maseru, who has been a leader in the retail sector of Lesotho for over 30 years, highlighted the value chain his company uses.

Mr Samuel Mphana speaks on Pick ‘n Pay Lesotho’s focus on service and local business development.
Mr Samuel Mphana

He said Pick ‘n Pay emphasizes on offering quality goods and services, training of staff, continuous learning and development while building a reputable brand that cares for Basotho, promoting local business development.

A question from the audience about inclusion of smaller businesses in Pick n Pay’s supply chain was asked.  Mr Mphana’s response was that Pick ‘n Pay recently held a workshop with local small businesses and farmers to discuss the standards required by the company to bring quality fresh produce that meets its standards, an example of much needed empowerment of local farmers and a pathway to creating sustainable jobs and business growth in Lesotho.

The retail forum included an award ceremony whose aim was to elicit a sense of ownership by members of the group, and to celebrate the joint achievement with retailers of developing good customer service in Lesotho over the years.

Members voted for their favourite retailer in a poll between November and December 2017, in two categories namely; Best Customer Service and Best Online Engagement 2017.  The awards were both scooped-up by Multichoice DSTV Lesotho.

On analyzing group posts in 2017, Multichoice DSTV Lesotho had the most consistent positive posts about customer service for the year.  The two awards were received by the marketing and customer service team of Multichoice DSTV Lesotho led by Ms Refiloe Mohlotsane.

The awards demonstrated the power that social media has in citizen-driven change especially among the younger audiences, the average age group in Fame or Shame is 25-34.  The group also resonates with Basotho in the diaspora, Facebook group insights show that of the 11 406 member of “Fame or Shame” 10,028 are based in Lesotho, mostly in Maseru District, followed by Mafeteng, Leribe, then TY and Mohale’s Hoek.

The group also has an international following in South Africa, 1 079, United States of America, 42, Botswana, 41, India, 26, United Kingdom, 16, Zimbabwe, 10 and Belgium, 9.

Makaya said, despite the group being a nonprofit organization based online, her plan is to develop more avenues of dialogue in the coming years using technology and face to face interaction, to effect attitude change and exposure in the retail and business sector of Lesotho.

“As more and more young entrepreneurs arise in the country, they will need a competitive edge in order to win a profitable market share, they will need to have a sharper focus on satisfying the customer of the future who is increasingly techno savvy, vocal, and expects accountability by service providers” She said.