Sunday, December 15, 2013

CLICKS - stuck in a BAD SERVICE rut

Dear Consumers,
Clicks CEO

           Below is what I wrote in April 2012 under the heading Clicks Humpty Dumpty stock situation. But judging by this week's Sunday Times it is as Humpty Dumpty as ever. 
              It's odd the way some of these big companies can't change course once they are programmed to do something, even it is clearly bad for business. 
          Clicks, headed by CEO David Kneale started with health, home and beauty stores, but when it added pharmacies it seems to have forgotten that these require pharmacists. And as there is a great shortages of these qualified people Clicks is constantly rubbing its customers up the wrong way.
           Add to that the general poor service.

               This is what appeared in this week's Consumer Forum in the Sunday Times. The problems its readers had at the pharmacies mirrored my experiences of more that a year ago, although it's Healthbasics supply problem has improved.
           The second item headed And poor service at others refers to the Long Beach Mall branch which is in my area. I don't go there very often now but when I do I have found the service virtually non-existent.

            My wife and I now get our medication from the family owned Sun Valley Pharmacy which is in the same mall. Its motto is: A Passion for Caring and the service there is everything that Clicks is not.

            Through the Sunday Times Clicks assures readers that the issues will be addressed with the urgency they deserve.
                   I find this very hard to believe. My bet is that in another year nothing much will have changed particularly at the pharmacies.
                    Clicks had a 13.6% increase in turnover to R17.5 - billion in the year to August 2013. So no wonder it doesn't worry too much about giving bad service.
              But if it goes on like this:
              All Kneale's staff and all his men
              Won't put Clicks together again.

April 2012
Dear Consumers,
         It’s your Consumer Watchdog here and this time he was wide awake with all his senses on full alert. In the numerous gaps on the shelves he was able to get a whiff of what had been there, but even his keen nose was unable to establish how long ago this was.
         As he walked down the isles in the Clicks stores his tail was not wagging happily; it was drooping pathetically. You see us sniffer hounds have to have our daily vitamins for our coat to remain glossy and to be able to do our job properly.
         Alright he couldn’t check all the 590 stores across Southern Africa that include Musica and The Body Shop that are in the Group  and you might say that two in Cape Town are not a fair sample.
But they turned out to be just the tip of what the Group admitted had been a huge stock headache.
Things had not been clicking in the stores that include 280 retails pharmacies, which is the largest chain of this kind in South Africa.
         Funny how I got wind of this many months ago when I complained to  David Kneale that I couldn’t get any salmon oil capsules at the Long Beach Mall branch. He rectified this by having the branch manager deliver some to my house.
         But it seems the much wider problem of too many missing items went unchecked. Even Healthbasics, which is Clicks’ own vitamin brand, was often not there.
         In one isle alone in the Long Beach branch, which is not very big, I counted over 200 gaps on the shelves. And a lot of them had Out of Stock stickers on them for you shoppers, who are too stupid to realise what empty means.
When I continued to complain at my local branch the staff would shrug their shoulders as if to say We get the flack for something over which we have no control.
         This time I not only went to the Long Beach branch but I also visited the one at Constantia Village, which is in a very upmarket area and could be the busiest mall in the country. It was the same story there.
         So your Watchdog, who is always mindfully of the interests of the consumer, sent another barking email to David in his ivory tower at head office. He did what too many CEO’s do when they are contacted directly; he passed the buck to Amanda Graham, his head of merchandising.
         Don’t you think it would have been a far better public relations exercise if David had personally answered my email complaint?     
        We’ve had a torrid time with our private label (Healthbasics) and we’ve let the customer down, Amanda told me. They had moved to different suppliers twice in the last year and this had led to out of stocks for long periods of time, a situation which we are still experiencing.
         That’s pretty Humpty Dumpty don’t you think? If they had got nothing else right you would have thought that a large Group like Clicks that is quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange would have made sure of getting adequate stocks of its own brand wouldn’t  you?

         Their lack of stock had been particularly bad in the vitamins and supplements section, Amanda went on. This was also due to unanticipated demand.

Humpty Dumpty is everywhere.
         The steps that are being taken to rectify the situation include, of all things, providing additional space. Would it be too much to ask for them to first make sure that the existing space is always full?
         I would like to take this opportunity to again apologise for the inconvenience you and your readers have experienced, were Amanda Graham’s commendable parting words.
         We’ll have to see if a real improvement actually materialises. But one thing is certain your Consumer Watchdog will continue doing his rounds; sniffing here and there and looking to ensure you consumers get the best service possible.
         NEWS FLASH: It’s 11.00 am, Sunday and I have just been to the Long Beach branch to collect chronic medication (that keeps you alive) for myself and my wife only to find that Humpty Dumpty had taken over the dispensary. It was securely fenced off because the duty pharmacist had not pitched. And we couldn’t get our medication anywhere else because Clicks have our scripts.
        NEWS FLASH 2: It's 11.00 am, Wednesday 2 May and the pharmacy is once again fenced off. What about people who need medication urgently but can't get it because Clicks have their scripts?
         So if the posts on my blog cease you’ll know why.
         Yours faithfully (like all dogs),

         Jon, the Consumer Watchdog with an excellent sense of smell, provided he can always get the necessary vitamins.

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