Lewis takes a stand to combat customer issues

By Jessica Anne Wood

The Lewis Group is launching a specialised call centre to help enhance the credit sales process. This was announced on Monday 8 February.
 
The establishment of the call centre follows a number of incidents where customers have complained about the fees they were charged. In the most recent case, a George gardener was allegedly overcharged for a washing machine. According to the gardener’s employer, the man was charged R17 955 on a R5 999 washing machine.
 
In another case earlier last year, a secret shopper experience discovered that Lewis store employees were allegedly altering people’s information, such as employment and income. There were also questions raised about the fees that they were charging customers. The matter was referred to the National Credit Regulator, which the Lewis Group challenged.
 
The call centre
 
The aim of the call centre is to improve the compliance, transparency and oversight of Lewis’s in-store sales and credit application process. In addition, it will also assist in limiting potential misunderstandings that customers may have about the costs, services and fees to be paid.
 
Johan Enslin, chief executive officer of Lewis Group, noted: “This additional call centre is a big step in enhancing the way in which we operate and engage with our clients. We believe there is a strong future beyond the current economic and regulatory challenges and we are committed to investing in initiatives such as this one that will support our strategy as we look to grow the business through market share gains.”
 
The call centre will be based at the Lewis Group head office. It will be launched in April 2016, and will employ 50 consultants who will operate independently of the company’s national customer care call centre.
 
What will the call centre do?
 
Enslin explained that following the completion of a credit sale application in store, the store’s manager will ensure that the customer speaks to a call centre agent.
 
The credit sale application process (prior to speaking with the call centre agent) includes “a comprehensive affordability assessment and an interview with the manager during which all components of the contract are explained, including what services and fees are optional, and the total cost of credit,” highlighted Enslin.
 
“Only once the call centre agent has completed the review with the customer will the transaction be approved by the call centre.  Even though more than 50% of our business is with existing customers, all customers will go through this process,” added Enslin.
 
The store manager will have no involvement in the call between the call centre agent and the customer. Customers will also have the choice of speaking to an agent in one of five languages. These are English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sepedi. In addition, all calls will be recorded to protect the interest of both customers and Lewis.
 
The call centre agent will need to establish if the store manager conducted the interview with the customer explaining the contract, with emphasis on the costs, as well as the customer’s risks and obligations. The agent will also be responsible for ensuring that customers are aware that insurance, delivery, maintenance contracts, Masterguard and Club membership are optional services.
 
Furthermore, the customer’s employment status will be checked, as will the insurance option they selected, to ensure that the appropriate insurance product was sold.
 
“In addition, the total cost of credit, monthly instalment, interest amount, interest rate and the credit multiple will be highlighted and reconfirmed and the customer will be asked to again confirm that they can afford the monthly instalment,” said Enslin.
 
Customers will be reminded that they have a five day cooling off period following the purchase of an item where the contract can be cancelled without penalty. The customer will also be informed that they are to receive a signed copy of the contract before they leave the store. 

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