This was the Wednesday Drama in Cape Town!

It was Wednesday the 26th July 2017. The day has finally arrived and I felt excited. It was 6:30 am and I was ready to meet a ‘man with grey, no white hair, eating a bowl of oats’! Well, that was his exact instruction the day before.

After months of preparation the 2017 Customer Experience World Cape Town annual summit finally arrived. I spent the night at the Townhouse Hotel, Cape Town’s favourite stay for people on the go! I was meeting Jeremy Maggs, the chairperson, for breakfast at 7 am, to discuss the final preparation for the day.

I found Jeremy Maggs, with his bowl of oats, in the Townhouse Hotel dining room. As a regular business panel and conference facilitator, with 30 years journalist experience, Jeremey was relaxed and clearly confident in chairing the premier South African event of 2017. He asked a couple of questions, smiled at me and said: “Well let’s go and make the event a success” At that moment I felt proud! Proud to be in such a classy hotel, proud to be in the company of such a great man, proud to be part of this business-changing event.

The Townhouse Hotel Conference facilities are world class and I have setup delegate badges and laid out the event brochures the day before. The Townhouse Conference helpful staff, Tracy and Colleen, ensured that the delegate breakfast and coffee were ready and waiting. We all made ourselves visible and available to the delegates as they arrived with their own expectations for the day.

Jeremy Maggs stood behind the podium at exactly 08:45 am, facing the leaders of the top South African businesses, ready to start the 2017 Customer Experience World 2017 Cape Town Summit.  He asked who in the audience were not from Cape Town to raise their hands and about 50% of the delegates did so. Jeremy politely asked them to please leave the water on the tables for the thirsty people in Cape Town and everybody relaxed, smiled and giggled.

Duncan Wallace, from Treehouse Global in Australia, was up first. With over 20 years’ experience as a Board level executive around the globe and responsible for numerous greenfield start-ups in the UK, Europe, South Africa, Japan and Australia, Duncan did not disappoint. His message explained the role technology and in specific robots will play in the customer experience of tomorrow. Even though the issue of job losses was clearly a concern for some of the delegates it became clear that the future holds great prospects for the employee and customer alike.

The rising star of the South African business world Mark Angus, CEO and Managing Director of Knowledge Executive and, offered his expertise as one the most formidable researchers and media experts in detailing the global customer experience trends and innovations. In explaining the path to 2020 every single person in the room was taking notes eagerly to remember every word.

If you live in South Africa the controversial adverts of Nandos are known. Kirsty Niehaus, head of Art Initiative & Internal Communication at Nando’s, had everybody in the room roaring with laughter when she shared some of the ‘banned’ Nando video clips. But minutes later everybody quietly wiped a tear when we watched how a 29-year-old PERi-PERi African farmer enjoyed the opportunity to ‘love his wife’ and ‘being the boss having people working for him’, a Nando’s people development initiative. Clearly when Robbie Brozin founder of Nando’s said: “It’s the people that make the chicken” he meant every word. Kirsty explained how people, emotion and culture play the most important role in customer experience whilst technology will always be the enabler.

It was time for a Tea Break and when I saw the small doughnuts with cream, beautiful fruit arrangements laid out on long tables with white table cloths I knew why the Townhouse Hotel is such a popular conference venue and I was eating too much. 

After break Ask Africa Managing Director Sarina de Beer explained the Ask Africa Orange Index as the largest and most widely-referenced service excellence benchmark in South Africa. She made it easy to understand and emphasized the importance of paying attention to the smallest personal detail using buying MacDonald’s for her children and the importance of receiving all the meals at the same time as an example. The delegates smiled and appreciated her as a humble, gentle ‘giant’ in the South African corporate world.

Driving excellent customer experience with the right people was explained by Kay Vittee, CEO of Charisma, Kelly and Quest. Kay’s message was packed with tips on how to leverage social media and sourcing suitable candidates but also how predictive analytics will drive the right culture fit. She spoke fast and excused herself saying it is an ‘Indian thing’ and everybody appreciated her human touch and the vast amount of information she shared.

Lunch time arrived and I threw in the towel. With a ‘6-star’ buffet lunch displayed beautifully but invitingly there was absolutely no way that my plate was not going to be filled to the brim. Hands on Treatment massage therapists were eagerly waiting for delegates to finish their meals in order for them to treat the delegates to a 5minute head and neck massage. The buzz in the Townhouse Hotel Conference dining room was noisy filled with excitement by delegates eagerly sharing their thoughts on the speakers of the morning and sharing some of their best ‘take home gems’ digesting all the information received so far.

Kingprice’s one of a kind pricing model was explained after lunch by Marno Boshoff, Culture Evangelist at Kingprice. Marno’s relaxed explanation of some of the culture initiative had every delegate on the edge of their chairs ready to learn something new. Asking your employee to write down in the morning what he/she would like their customer to say about them that day and then working towards finding someone that day to match that was such a helpful tip and I heard delegates still speaking about in the parking garage later that evening.

That concluded all the keynote sessions for the day. Jeremy Maggs facilitated a speaker panel discussion with Marno Boshoff, Kirsty Niehaus, Sarina de Beer and Mark Angus. The delegates participated and asked the panel of speaker’s questions more relevant to their business needs and requirement. Another Tea Break with some more nutritious food and by now I did not even notice the fact that my food intake was rather excessive for the day. Delegates were comfortable with each other and exchanged ideas freely. Some approached me and requested information on future summits and especially what The Focus Group was planning for 2018.

It was time for the workshop, the highlight of the day when every delegate had the opportunity to implement what was learned during the day under the guidance of Duncan Wallace following the Holy Trinity guidelines. Groups were formed and everybody was debating and discussing digitization solutions preparing to present their conclusion to the rest of the delegates.

The 2017 Customer Experience World Cape Town annual summit was done and I almost felt disappointed that it was over so soon while everybody proceeded to the Townhouse Hotel bar area for a drinks reception.

A summit of this calibre is just not possible without the input and assistance of many other businesses. I would like to thank The Focus Group, Rich Simmonds, Apptique, Feefo, Ask Africa,, Support Small Business, HTDL Webdesigner and others for designing the programme, marketing the event and assisting in making the Customer Experience World Cape Town annual summit such a huge success!

It is also true that without delegates a summit serves no purpose and therefore I recognize the following companies participating and attending the 2017 Customer Experience World Cape Town annual summit: WNS Global Services, Absa Bank Ltd - Home Loans, Altron TMT, Finchoice (Pty) Ltd, Quest, Ask Afrika, Woolworths Retail Operations Group, Momentum, Glacier Financial Holdings, Ned Group Investments, Knowledge Executive, Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd, Kelly, Nando's, Mercedes-Benz -South Africa, Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd, Foschini Retail Group (Pty) Ltd, Ornico Group (Pty) Ltd, Mr Price Financial Services, Multichoice, RCS Cards (Pty) Ltd, Connection Telecom, Capitec Bank

So what is next?