/ Customer Satisfaction

High performing brands reap tangible business and investment returns through Customer Experience strategies – The National SA-csi

Fast-food industry performs tops in Customer Experience while financial services companies make some progress.

Companies that deliver great customer experience understand that keeping customers’ satisfied will take more than just selling products and services at ridiculously low prices, or even giving away freebies. These companies understand that their customers have certain expectations of their products and services that they deliver, the confidence of being treated fairly in a cases where their expectations were not met. These are the type of companies that have their customers recommend them to their friends, families, colleagues or business associates.

The SAcsi produces customer satisfaction benchmarks for a multitude of companies, industries and economic sectors, which together represent a broad swath of the South African national economy.


The SA-csi benchmark covered 24 industries, mostly in the third tier of the South African economy: service-related, consumer industries. This has included 97 brands and has drawn detailed insights from a sample of over 307,000 individuals. These industries are crucial to the development and evolution of the South African economy, as the country transitions into a sophisticated, service-oriented and information technology-driven market.

Prof Adré Schreuder – Founder and Chairperson of the SA-csi, is one of the CEM Africa's first Leadership Council and speaker. Prof Adré Schreuder delivered a strong message to South African companies, encouraging them to focus on achieving a more consistent level of Customer Experience since there has not been a significant improvement in the National Index. An improvement in customer satisfaction will result in the South African economy reaping the benefits of the positive financial outcomes associated with higher levels of Customer satisfaction.


Banking Industry: Capitec has led the industry in the measure, with its SA-csi score rising from 83 in 2013 to its current level of 85 in 2017. Its cumulative annual revenue growth rate rose from 28% in 2013 to 63% in 2017 (using 2012 as a basis).
During the same period Standard Bank’s Customer Satisfaction score lingered around the 75 level, dropping to a low of 72 in 2016. This was mirrored in the company’s muted cumulative revenue growth rate of 9% in 2013, 5% in 2015 and peak of 16% in 2017 when Standard Bank showed a noted improvement in their SA-csi score that moved them out of 5th position, leaving ABSA in the trailing position.
The Cellular Networks Industry: The trend was even more evident in cellular networks, where Vodacom led the industry with a SA-csi score starting at just under 78 in 2013, improving to 79 in 2017. Vodacom’s cumulative revenue growth rate rose in line with this improvement, from 8% in 2013 to 18% in 2017. MTN, on the other hand, lagged the industry with a score that fell from 78 in 2013 to 74 in 2017. MTN’s cumulative revenue growth rate has languished from a negative growth rate (contraction) of 2% in 2013 to just 1% in 2017 and reaching a low of -6% in 2015 (again using 2012 as a basis).
The Short-term Insurance Industry: In Short-Term Insurance, industry leader for a number of years Santam’s SA-csi score has remained steadily above the 80 mark, while revenue grew from R19.4bn in 2012 to R29.7bn in 2017 – this represents 53% revenue growth over five years. After three consecutive years of being in a leadership position, Santam’s SA-csi score dropped slightly from 81.3 in 2016 to 80.2 in 2017, essentially contributing to the scenario that Discovery Insure, Old Mutual Insure, OUTsurance and Virseker all be classified in the leadership category for 2017. Virseker has come out as a top performing brand with the highest SA-csi score of 81.1 in the industry, and is thus eligible and statistically verified to claim the Best-in-Industry accolade in 2017,” says Schreuder.

Over the five-year period, consumer industries such as fast food, cellular handsets and life insurance were the best performing sectors, with SA-csi scores ranging from 79 to 82. On the other end of the spectrum, municipalities and wireless internet providers delivered much lower scores (67.8 for wireless internet industry and 59.3 for main metropolitan municipalities).
Industries on the rise, that have improved their year-to-year averages, include cellular handsets, banking, fast-food, life insurance and full-service restaurants. Short-term insurance, cellular networks and medical insurance have been stable over the period, while municipalities and supermarkets are on the decline.

Relative to international satisfaction benchmarks, The SA-csi revealed that South African brands performed better than most other markets and on par with US companies. This is largely due to the fact that South African consumers still have fairly low expectations compared to international first world economies. This is a situation that could change dramatically as more South African consumers are brought into the mainstream economy, with a steady growing level of expectations as consumers realize they have consumer rights and are starting to exercise these rights. One area where South African companies perform above world-class benchmarks is the resolution of customer complaints (average of 55%), whilst the same cannot be said about the incidence of customer complaints where the SA National index (small improvement from 17% in 2013 to 15% in 2017) is still significantly higher than the world benchmark of 10%.

“The success of fast-food restaurants demonstrates how consumer-driven the South African economy is,” Schreuder says. “It’s a good recession-proof industry that often experiences a slight uptick during economic downturns, as consumers spend more time at work and eat out more often.
“The common thread between the best performing brands through every measure, has been a clear focus on consistent delivery and Customer Experience. Doing so correlates with positive revenue growth, even in a distressed economy e.g. in Retail clothing, Woolworths and Pep scored similarly across almost every metric, although they target very different markets and employ very different strategies suited to their segments,” he says.

Customer Experience Strategies
“Customer Experience isn’t a random phenomenon, but an increasingly vital business function that demands a very detailed, scientific strategy and constant focus,” Schreuder says. “Company restructuring, change or crisis can reveal the resilience of a brand’s Customer Experience strategy.”

Absa’s split from Barclays and its subsequent rebranding meant an internal focus that distracted from customers. This was in turn reflected in recent declines in the brand’s SA-csi score. Capitec, on the other hand, maintained a simple, clear offering that resonated with customers, even overtaking Nedbank in market share.

“Other examples include Liberty’s recent leadership instability as well MMI’s decision to reinvent itself into a retail brand,” Schreuder adds. “Santam, on the other hand, has experienced various internal changes over the years, but managed to stay connected to customer needs, particularly during the high-claim period experienced due to the recent flood disaster in the Western Cape. This is reflected in the company’s consistent leadership position in recent SA-csi measures.”

Similarly, brands or entities that recorded the lowest SA-csi scores over the last few years are now out of business, such as Altech Autopage. The only low scoring industry that remains in business – and it has the lowest scores across the whole measure – is municipalities. An argument can be made that they still function as a ‘business’ as a result of government bail-outs and relaxed debt repayment measures.

Let's look at the top performing Brands.