Montagu News!

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Well, it’s been some time since my last update – it’s clear that I’ve forgotten what it takes to build a house and move from one town to another. (And that I’m 28 years older than when I last did it!). We’re both exhausted – physically and emotionally – and I think the worst is yet to come!
It seems that we may have our first night in the new home tonight – a full month later than we hoped. Inclement weather has been the main culprit for the delay, and even yesterday we were lashed by rain in a place where I’m told the average annual rainfall is only 150mm! The upside, I guess, is that we’ll get to see the Karoo in all its glory soon, when the flowers really break out. (And it’s already started!).

From a business point of view, it’s been a very interesting time.

As many of you know, Finserv is continuing with its base in Pietermaritzburg, and all our accounting and income tax services are very well supported by staff up there. In addition, the business coaching and management service is also ably provided by our Business Buddies team of Stuart Holliday, Anley John and Mark Allen – also in Pietermaritzburg. I’m hoping to expand our operation down here in the Cape, while maintaining relationship with my many clients – some of whom I’ve worked with for over 10 years – via our modern-day communications network: the Internet (mainly) and cell phones. It’s this latter change which has proven to be the most interesting!

Firstly, I’ve discovered that you no longer need Telkom to do business in South Africa. And just as well! I contacted them at the beginning of May to advise them of my move, and that I needed a transfer of service from Hilton to Montagu. (The service included a broadband internet service and a landline). They told me that I had applied too early, but that they would process the application, saying that I would only hear from them nearer the time. At the end of May I called again – and remember, you have to physically go to their Telkom Direct offices since they don’t advertise a landline number on the their web site! I was told that my application was being processed. At the end of June – two days before I moved town – and now fairly concerned since I needed this connect-ability once I got here to Montagu – I was once again told that the status of application was – and wait for it: – “solving”. However, I was told that they would phone me (on my cell phone) and let me know what was happening.

Well, to cut a long story short – it’s now a month later. I haven’t heard from anyone. I’ve been in to their Telkom Direct office in Worcester who also promised to call me and let me know what has happening (because it seems their computer can’t really tell them what the problem is!) – and needless to say, I’ve heard nothing. Wonderful being a monopoly isn’t it?
Anyway – I’ve managed to get a great internet connection through a local service provider (wireless and fast), and got to know my cell phone a lot better. I’ve experimented with Skype Video and GoToMeeting, by having a few ‘conference’ calls with clients, and found they work quite well. I’m hoping to have direct access to my Pietermaritzburg server soon, and will then be able to work on line almost as effectively as the staff in the main office. The wonders of modern technology!

Talking about modern technology – it’s not always that great!

One thing I really hate is the automatic answering services, both on the phone and the internet. Whenever you phone a certain firm, you get asked by a ‘canned’ voice to press a certain number for a certain service. Once you’ve gone through this, you get to speak to a person, who has written greeting and good-bye message to read out while you wait (patiently, hopefully). If you are unable to get your query/problem sorted out, you may have to go through the whole process again, only to find that you never get to speak to the same person twice. This means that you have to go through the whole rigmarole all over again. Now, let’s remember that this ‘service’ has been designed to save time and take the load off switchboard operators. But what about clients time that gets wasted?
My biggest issue at present is with Cell C. (and if you google “cellC complaints” you’ll see I’m not the only one). I took out a 3G contract with them over six months ago. It was on one of their ‘special’ deals advertised at R149 per month. I went in to their shop in the Liberty Midlands mall in Pietermaritzburg (where the service is appalling and the staff anything but friendly), and after filling in the necessary forms was told that they didn’t have ‘stock’ of this special! Which meant that I had to go back there a few days later. All was fine until the first month’s billing, when I discovered that I was being charged a full R100 a month more than advertised. I have phoned them; I have contacted their customer services email address – and guess what? I get this idiotic automatic answering service. I have now been asked to send them a copy of my 3G contract on three occasions (it seems they don’t keep copies), obviously to three different people in customer services. When nothing happens, I contact them again, only to be asked for the same information. Well, I haven’t been able to follow up recently because of my move, but I will be putting a stop payment on my debit order shortly, and hopefully they will sue me. Perhaps Carte Blanche would like to do an expose of this appalling service provider?

In spite of this – I’ve been encouraged by the attitude of business people down here, even though it’s a lot more laid back than in Pietermaritzburg or Durban. Nothing has been too much trouble. The quality of workmanship has been great and so has the attitude of the general workers. I’m looking forward to working with local business quite soon. And – my Afrikaans is improving by the day (it really got rusty in Pietermaritzburg)!