Personal investing

Everything can be improved

We are obsessed with always providing you with the best service and hope that, if we fall short of these standards, you will complain. Your honest feedback teaches us valuable lessons about what we need to change to make it easier for you to do business with us. Michael Summerton elaborates.

'Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.' - Bill Gates

As a company with its roots firmly planted in the rational, it seems a big leap to base our client service strategy on emotion. The two, by definition, are polar opposites. From our philosophy to our investment analysis, emotion is not welcome. Conversely, rationality and logic seem often to hinder, rather than to help, the delivery of great client service. It is the combination of emotional connections with clients and the rigorous application of rationality and logic to problem areas that distinguishes our service offering.

A surprising source of innovation

Take our complaints process as an example. We take every complaint and query very seriously. Our client service mantra is to build trust, confidence and satisfaction with each interaction. Since a complaint invariably involves a breakdown in one or all three of those emotions, we recognise the importance of each client concern. When we receive a complaint, it is personally acknowledged and a turnaround time committed. We notify the relevant Allan Gray staff who would best be able to resolve the complaint (in many cases this involves one of our directors). The complaint is then investigated thoroughly, discussed and, where possible, a solution for the specific issue selected. The complainant is kept up to date regularly with the status of the query and informed telephonically and via post once the complaint is resolved.

We do not stop there

Although complaints sometimes are uncomfortable to deal with and not always easy to resolve, they often teach us valuable lessons about what we need to change to make it easier for you to do business with us. Like sand in an oyster, the bit of pain we experience up-front during the resolution process is often a catalyst for beneficial process, form or system changes, which we may not have identified unprompted. Each complaint is dissected and the root cause established. These are discussed at a monthly meeting attended by senior members of our staff. Where possible, a solution is implemented that could either eliminate future client frustration completely, or reduce it substantially.

As an example, since the introduction of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), many of you have voiced your frustration with our seemingly rigid rules around what documents we will accept for FICA verification. While we continue to prioritise the safety of your investments, we have heard you. We have thus expanded our range of acceptable FICA documents and empowered our people to use their judgment better during the process. We are pleased that the number of FICA-related complaints has diminished substantially as a result of these changes.

PLEASE COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING THAT CREATES EXTRA EFFORT FOR YOU IN DOING BUSINESS WITH US

Incidentally, the custodian of the local savings industry, the Association of Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA), recently released a nonbinding Standard on Complaint Resolution (effective date 1 February 2012). Amongst others, the Standard stipulates the maximum time within which a financial service provider should acknowledge, attend and communicate resolution to a complaint (20 days). While our existing processes fall well within the minimum requirements (five-day turnaround time), our aim is to get any issues resolved as soon as possible.

We ask that you continue to hold us to the highest service standards and give us honest feedback when we do not live up to these standards. Further, please complain about anything that creates extra effort for you in doing business with us.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

A number of years ago, I endured a particularly challenging job interview with a hedge fund manager in the US. He posed a seemingly simple question: 'Pretend I am your grandmother. Explain to me what a hedge fund is and how it works.' Thinking that I had the job in the bag if this was all that I needed to solve, I relied on my formal accounting training to answer the question. I quickly found out that explaining how a hedge fund works in layman's terms is not as simple as it sounds. Suffice to say, I did not get the job and my own grandmother remains largely uninformed about the workings of a hedge fund.

Much of what we do every day at Allan Gray is trying our best to bring simplicity and transparency to each interaction with you. From talking to us over the phone, navigating our website, reading our forms and understanding our processes, our aim is to make it easy for you to do business with us. We welcome your feedback and invite any suggestions.

Our secure website

We have noticed a shift in client behaviour over the past couple of years. Many of you seem to prefer self-service, with increased traffic to our website to check market values, prices, fund factsheets and to download transaction histories, statements and tax certificates. There has also been a noticeable increase in email traffic.

In acknowledgement of this trend, we have expanded, and continue to expand, the functionality of our secure website. You can now do almost anything online that you can do in the offline world, along with other features and services. We encourage you to register for a secure account if you do not already have one. Simply visit www.allangray.co.za and click on 'Register'. If you are already an online user, you may wish to experiment with the tools. For example, you can:

We are very happy to help you help yourselves with a great range of online tools, but we also encourage you to call our Client Service Centre to experience the Allan Gray personal touch. We believe there is simply no substitute for service oriented individuals who take ownership of queries and ensure they are answered quickly, accurately and in a professional and respectful manner. We are committed to ensuring that every service experience you have with Allan Gray builds trust in us and instils confidence in our abilities.

The financial services, products or investments referred to on this website are not available to persons resident in jurisdictions where their availability or distribution would contravene local laws or regulations and the information on this website is not intended for use by these persons. This website is for information only and does not in any way constitute a solicitation or offer by Allan Gray Proprietary Limited or any of its associates or subsidiaries (collectively “Allan Gray”) to buy or sell any financial instruments or to provide any investment advice or service.

By selecting one of the countries below I confirm that I have read and understood the above and that:

(a) I am not a South African citizen; or 
(b) I do not reside in the Republic of South Africa; or 
(c) I am not otherwise a person to whom the communication of the information contained in this website is prohibited by the laws of my home jurisdiction; and 
(d) I am not acting for the benefit of any such persons mentioned in (a),(b) and (c) and 
(e) I confirm that any investment with Allan Gray is based on my own initiative and not due to any offer or solicitation by Allan Gray.