Practising Customer Service by Trial and Error: An Investigation into the Extent and Nature of Customer Service Training/Education Received by Owners of Small Business Enterprises in Central Johannesburg

George Mavunga


This paper looks at the extent and nature of customer service training received by owners of small business enterprises operating in central Johannesburg. Areas of the city covered in the study included Doornfontern, Jourbert Park and Hillbrow. The sample of small business owners who took part in the study consisted mainly of entrepreneurs in the retail of groceries, fast food, clothing and electrical gadgets. The survey method, using the questionnaire as a data gathering tool was used to collect the data. Semi-structured interviews were also used to follow-up on some of the issues that emerged from the responses to the questionnaire. It was established that most of the entrepreneurs had not received any formal training in such aspects of customer service as communication, hiring, training and retaining the best talent, creation of customer retention strategies, analysis of the business environment, creation of customer value and careful selection of pricing strategies, most of which are employed by established businesses. The entrepreneurs therefore gained some of these critical business skills by trial and error, from fellow entrepreneurs or in some cases, from family members such as parents. It was, however, also established that some of the entrepreneurs had received some form of formal training in some aspects of customer service through their own initiatives, those of the business associations that they belong to or those of government agencies under whose patronage they fall. All the entrepreneurs who took part in the study, however, still felt that more could still be done in terms of providing them with the training in customer service as it is critical for business success. Amongst other suggestions, the paper recommends the institutionalisation of training in customer service and other aspects of business such as finance, strategic planning and human resources management for entrepreneurs in central Johannesburg in a bid to improve the chances of their businesses’ success in the face of stiff competition from the big and well-established competitors.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n20p1475

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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