The Running Commentary

CPA and Apathetic consumers……. a marketing struggle in South Africa

One of the hot topics over the past few days, from a marketing point of view, has been the government gazette sent out which invites comment on the proposed appointment of the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa as the custodian of the opt-out register for consumers.

Some detractors of this move have, correctly I would advance, questioned the appointment of the DMSA as the administrator.   They are questioning the independence and voracity with which a direct marketing association is going to be able to police itself, as an industry.  They are questioning the capabilities of the DMSA as an organisation after a couple of really poor instances of mal administration.  The first being the leak of the current opt-out list, which contained all of the individuals ID numbers and the second being the fact that they website was infected by malware and until this was point out by MyBroadband, they did not even know.

My view is that while I agree with their comments, I think that any administrator is going to be burdened with two points that are going to hamper the effectiveness of the legislation (as it pertains to regulating direct marketing activities)

The first and most important point is general consumer apathy.  The South African consumer is not vociferous around basic complaints.  We accept poor service all of the time and we do not complain. In fact complaints are so novel that they enjoy celebrity status on many social networking platforms.

Consumer Apathy

The drafters of the legislation knew this when they set-out to create the legislation, hence the inclusion of the following clause: “Except in respect of those existing clients where the direct marketer has proof that the existing client has after the commencement of these regulations expressly consented to receiving direct marketer, a direct marketer must assume that the a comprehensive pre-emptive block has been registered by a consumer unless the administrator of the registry has in writing confirmed that a pre-emptive has not been registered.

So effectively no consumer will have to register initially and the marketing organisations are going to have to approach the administrator, in writing, to verify this.  They then have to wait to receive confirmation, in writing, that no such block has been registered. I think it is going to be less intrusive and probably more workable for the marketing organisation to ask clients, under a separate cover if they want to hear from them.  Judging by the entire RICA debacle, however, it is my opinion that this entire process and indeed the legislation itself (as it pertains to direct marketing efforts) is going to fail.

The inclusion of the pre-ample that says if the organisation has proof that the existing client has expressly consented, does very little to help the process along. Many more organisations are going to find it difficult to bring this proof out when challenged.

Administrative Problems

How the DMSA or anyone else for that matter is going to administer this is beyond me.   I, along with many others of you, get swaths of mail that we are certain we never consented to.  Just because I have not opted out, does not mean you can claim me as a client.   When consumers start to complain the snowball is going to grow.  My contention is that within a year or so of the appointment of the administrator that the cards are going to come crashing down.

Genuine Consumer Education the key

When complaints do occur, for the most part they are blown completely out of proportion and the brand scurries around to cover these off.  This type of negative consumer review enjoys markedly more press that the good stuff.  I am not concerned with this necessarily, but rather that this in itself might point to a solution. My contention is that most of this time wasting could have been avoided with calm rationale feedback.  This is possible if the consumer organisations spend more time on educating the customer base as opposed to trying to cover off the handful of agony aunties.

This would be possible by genuinely inviting consumer feedback, not simple ratings exercises to gauge consumer perception. Most brands have become afraid of consumer feedback, because of the poor press that these receive.  Unfortunately many speakers often highlight these as case studies of how not to do it.

I believe that part of the process of redressing the balance of consumer vs. the consumer organisation, is to invite and inform debate.  This would probably be achieved through brilliant internal training of the staff that deal with clients on a daily basis.

What I would say is that if this happens, no client will ever say no to talking and engaging with your brand.

Consumerconsumer protection actCPAcustomer serviceDirect MarketingDMSAMarketingMarketing Strategy

Mike • July 25, 2011

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