Who comes first? Customers or Shareholders?

A quick thought for the day. I was recently trying to cancel my cellphone contract with Vodacom. Oh my, what an effort. I have no doubt that Vodacom instructs its call centre operators to do everything in their power to avoid a canceled contract. Amazingly, the agent told me that I was unable to cancel my contract until contract end date even if I was happy to pay penalties. We know that this is garbage. After what seemed like an eternity, he relented and abra ca da bra, my contract was immediately canceled.

It got me thinking. We all know those companies which are useless when it comes to client service but seem to make a lot of money. I am thinking Vodacom, MTN, the big 4 banks, insurance companies, Telkom and so forth. Nearly every dealing I have had with these companies has been unpleasant. I’d like to think that I am not the problem and other people have experienced similar poor service levels. I then think about a company where I have received fantastic service. They are not even based in South Africa. I am talking about Amazon. For example, I bought a fitness watch that broke twice. I contacted Amazon and with no questions asked they sent me a replacement. They paid for everything (new watch and shipping for the old one back to them). I could not believe how accommodating they were. I really thought I’d have to “fight” a call centre. When the second watch broke, I asked for a refund instead of a replacement. Again, no questions asked. Refund received, no hassles.

This is one example of a few great experiences I have had with Amazon. I know someone out there has had a bad experience. Every company has a bad day. The Vodacoms, MTNs etc of the world just seem to have them every day.

My point is this. Profitability. Amazons profits seem to be pushed further and further into the future. As a shareholder of Vodacom, I collect my dividend every year.

As a shareholder, which would I prefer? Will a company with horrendous client service continue to exist? Will a company like Amazon kill these non-customer focused companies? I don’t really know. I have no crystal ball. Perhaps, the answer is this. We need to have exposure to the companies of today as well as the companies of tomorrow. I will continue to hold my dividend payers but not be naive to think they cannot be disrupted. I am also getting involved in technology companies – both listed and early stage. I just won’t bet the house on either investment. This for me is a prudent approach.