Executive Insights

The CEO of Edgars and CNA now deals with customer complaints himself – here's what other bosses can learn from his approach

Business Insider SA
Grant Pattison, CEO of Edcon. (Netwerk24)
  • Edcon CEO Grant Pattison took to Twitter to help customers with their problems over the past week.
  • He expressed frustration with Edcon's current customer service.
  • A client-service expert says his responses got it exactly right.
  • For more stores, go to Business Insider's home page.

Unhappy customers of Edcon-owned stores (Edgars, CNA, and Jet) unexpectedly received high-level attention from the company’s CEO over the past week.

Grant Pattison has been addressing customer problems via Twitter, while expressing his own frustration about Edcon’s customer services, which have been outsourced for a number of years.

He proceeded to interact directly with customers:

Pattison’s responses got it exactly right, says Brendon Bairstow-Klopper, customer experience specialist from the client experience company nlighten.

“He did not dismiss the customer's feelings, instead he acknowledged his frustration and demonstrated a genuine understanding of what the customer was going through.  

“It's important for companies to know that when customers take to social media, it’s a very loud and very clear demand to be heard. What could at first be perceived as a negative event, can very quickly turn into a positive one, if handled correctly.

“Social media can feel insincere at times, so when customers receive a personable response from the CEO of a company, and not just a standard robotic answer, it can go a long way to win over loyalty. Hopefully more CEOs can start being accessible to their customers and wake up to the power of social media as a direct means of engagement and improving customer service in SA.”

An electric engineer by training, Pattison started his career and Anglo American and became CEO of Massmart (which owns Makro and Game) at the age of only 35 in 2006. After overseeing the takeover by the US retail giant Walmart, he left the company in 2014.

Pattison joined Edcon in 2017 as the company was staring into a financial abyss. It has billions in debt, which had snowballed since the American investment firm Bain Capital bought it in 2007.

TAKE A LOOK: The first 'new' Edgars store has play areas, personal shoppers and a section where you can print your own t-shirt

He was credited with saving the group from collapse by securing a R2.7 billion lifeline, striking a recent deal with landlords, the Public Investment Corporation, and creditors.

Pattison shut the loss-making Boardmans and Red Square chains, and have closed a number of prominent stores – including the Edgars in Rosebank mall, and various CNA outlets.

(Compiled by Helena Wasserman)

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