Let hellopeter.com deal with your frustration

Xolile Bhengu

Xolile Bhengu

Companies either love or hate the controversial www.hellopeter.com site, but in seven years it has become a powerful medium for consumer opinion.

The customer service site claims to have 180000 registered users and 400 local companies listed as responders. It says 2000 comments are posted daily, of which 78percent are complaints and 22percent compliments.

The top three sector complaints are said to be from the telecommunications industry (Telkom and cellphone companies), banks and the vehicle industry.

The most notorious sectors for a lack of response are the motor vehicle industry and state entities, such as municipalities.

Inventor of the site and customer services expert Peter Cheales said the idea was inspired by approaches from people after conference addresses, with their experiences of either good or bad service from South African companies.

He said he had been offended when referred to as a blackmailer, but he remains undeterred to the site's objectives.

"I am praised more than criticised. We aim to be constructive and I saw an opportunity to create a resolution platform for companies and consumers.

"Companies that use us recognise the potential for reaching, informing and educating more than one customer at once who may have similar complaints."

Cheales said the site was carefully monitored by eight staff members, who blacklisted users for derogatory comments.

He said that as South African consumers became aware of increased competition and their licence to demand good service, they were more inclined to use the site.

He also said companies were recognising the shift in power.

"In the not too distant future we, the customers, will select which supplier to use based on what they are prepared to give us when things go wrong. Anybody out there prepared to pay me R10000 for inconveniencing me or keeping me on hold on the phone?"

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