When you are serious about building a remarkable business, there are times when you get it right, very right, and times when…well…you get it wrong and very wrong.
Our business model is not perfect and there are times when our business decisions and interactions don't have such a positive impact on our customers and the market place in general.
Every time, however, we learn from our actions and realise we still have some way to go to become a great company.
Most businesses would like to tell you only the good stuff. Well, we believe in putting it all out there…the good, the bad and the freaking awesome.
dozen employees from The Unlimited joined Chief Brand Officer, Gerard Metzer, for a 70 kilometre walk from Watercrest Mall to Umhlanga on 5 January in an effort to stretch their personal boundaries and raise money for charity. The gruelling walk kicked off after midnight, 12:30am and all walkers arrived by the early evening, having defeated thirst, blisters, heat, aching muscles and dehydration along the way.
For the 1st year, LinkedIn organized the “South Africa Talent Awards”, an exclusive annual event to celebrate the success of companies in South Africa in the talent acquisition and employer branding space.
With the theme of ‘talent intelligence’ highlighting an era that empowers you to use data and insights to shift lives’ and make people your completive advantage.
Against the backdrop of a technical recession and a youth unemployment rate of above 50%, South Africa’s economy needs urgent attention. Dynamic young entrepreneurs hold the key to turning this situation around, particularly when they are given the tools and support they need to thrive.One inspiring example of the potential of entrepreneurship is Sydwell Khoza, a former bricklayer from a humble background who today owns Global Direct; a financial services sales business that employs over 460 people nationwide. He started working for The Unlimited nearly 20 years ago and soon struck out to form a business of his own that sells insurance and other products from The Unlimited.
Nothing can compare to the pain of losing a child, and when a child dies by suicide, there’s usually additional agony and stigma to that grief. Worse still, if you have a death policy and suicide is not covered. As a result, Thulisiwe Mbatha’s claim was justifiably rejected when her 16-year old daughter, Snenhlanhla Mbatha, claimed her own life. After getting to know the family, we were moved by the circumstances of the tragic, premature death of this young girl and as a result we made the decision to shift the life of a mourning mother.
As you may know, on 6th March 2018 The New Age newspaper published an article entitled ‘The Unlimited accused of fraud’. In the article The Unlimited is accused of debiting the accounts of two persons without authority and is accordingly “fingered for fraudulent debit orders”. A copy of the article is attached to this correspondence.
by Steph Bester
There has been speculation about the transformational workshops Gateway and Genesis that we ask our employees to do as part of their introduction into our environment.
Let's look at the workshops in context. Our approach to business is definitely outside the norm and is thus viewed by many as unconventional. We are proudly different and we realise this may not sit well with people who prefer to play it safe. We are okay with this.
8 June 2017
One of our agents recently upset a potential customer when he said that our customers can call the RMI (Retail Motor Industry Organisation) to claim for repairs to their vehicles. Of course, this is not the case. When taking out any of our products like Auto Elite, the customer calls The Unlimited directly for any claims. We don’t belong to any of the associations under the RMI, but our partners do. Being part of RMI ensures our partners maintain high standards of quality and service to our customers. We are sorry that we have misled and upset you, Mr. Cowley.
11 April 2017
About two weeks ago, we came across something that made us look back at the December months of 2015 and 2016. In the December of 2015, we had a lot of calls that needed urgent attention coming through. Customers were unhappy with the way some of our agents in the field were behaving. However, in December 2016 - no call of this kind came through.
You know as well as we do that we don’t always get it right! Imagine how happy we were to hear that not one single person complained! One of the employees at Customer Services then said to the Sales team, "Thank you guys for the wonderful work you are doing".
Warmth filled the room simply because we realized we hardly take the time to thank each other for our efforts. Often we call each other out and it's not always easy to swallow but, before you know it - it's off to the next challenge.
So, making our customers happy right now is a team that knows they are doing something special and only want to get better at it - it's just how the words 'thank you' make anybody feel. These are little things but they go a long way. You see, the little things... they are actually very big.
2 February 2017
People are any company’s greatest asset and when they are compromised, it’s unacceptable. This is what happened this week at a respected company when three of our sales agents may have used dodgy tactics to sell to them.
We are truly sorry that we have compromised you and your people. We will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this and take those involved to task. As part of this, we are in conversation with the leadership of this company to make things right.
It’s time for us to reflect and relook at where we are not treating our customers fairly.
Here’s what one of our people wrote on her Facebook page about her time with us.
People can say what they like about The Unlimited Group but working for such an amazing company has taught me to live values that I will carry with me for the rest of my life! I have learnt a great deal that could only have come from you and I feel honored and privileged to have worked for such an awesome company and beside colleagues who became more than friends, but like family.
Thank you especially to Janet Juckes who taught me to believe in myself and my abilities by providing opportunities to better myself. And to Candice Maritz who stepped in to help and teach me from the time I started this journey. There are so many more people who I need to thank but you know who you are! Here's to wishing the very best to each of you and gratitude for the learnings I carry with me to Australia. I love you all and miss you all. Nicky Duve
24 November 2016
We’ve been horrified to learn that at 5pm last night a number of our landline telephones at our customer call centre stopped working and were not fixed until 8am this morning. This means our customers couldn’t reach us to access our emergency evacuation services in this time, a situation that’s left us shamefaced. We’ve been working with Telkom to trace any calls that may have come through but if you were affected, please could you give us a call on 0861 99 00 00 so that we can make this right with you.
The Hilton Hotel in Cape Town recently had to share with us that the agents of our Business Partner did not act honestly when entering their staff canteen. This area is exclusive to their staff and strict rules are in place to keep out unwanted visitors.
Unfortunately, these rules were not followed, which compromised the safety and peace of their environment. We really messed up. Please see our letter below. Again, we are really sorry, especially given our late response.
In June 2016, over 400 people from the Upper Highway area volunteered to give of their time, energy and love. Five crèches all over the village were in desperate need of paint, vegetable gardens, repairs and general maintenance. A plea went out to the Upper Highway community and the response from everyone was just amazing.
People arrived with garden tools, seedlings, new curtains, paint and paint brushes and endless energy to make a difference. Kids joined their parents and turned something that was run down into something beautiful. In the spirit of Ubuntu and Matsupela, the community came out, gave of their time and their love.
The smiles on those kids' faces were priceless. A massive Thank You to each and everyone from the Upper Highway community who transformed these 5 crèches. You guys rock!
The Unlimited has been built on some incredible business partnerships, many of which have been going for more than 10 years. Among these is our partnership with one of our underwriters, RMB Structured Life and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate this company’s great results recently published in the Ombudsman for Long-Term Insurance Annual Report for 2015.RMBSL is to be congratulated for its complaints stats – as it is among a very small handful of companies that have been reported as having 0 complaints!
The stats published in the Ombudsman’s Annual Report reflect the number of complaints received, the number of cases considered, the number of cases finalised and the number of cases resolved. It is put together to promote accountability and transparency and the report also encourages insurers to benchmark their standards of complaints handling against other insurers and to learn from insurers that appear to be better at complaints handling..
RMBSL’s zero complaints stat is a reflection of the professional approach that the company has towards its business and we really are privileged to partner with them. It is incredibly gratifying to know that RMBSL’s customer centric approach is carried through to all our customers too and goes a long way to showing you that you really are everything!
It’s always a rewarding experience when we see that we’re on the right track. Keeping you smiling is what keeps us going so it’s great to know our customers are trusting us to get the job done.
By Steph Bester – 29 February 2016
On the front page of The Mercury this morning there is an article about The Unlimited’s transformational workshops which, over the years, have led to much speculation and debate – mostly from people who haven’t experienced them first-hand.
We appreciate that anything out of the norm gives itself over to talk and criticism. We also believe in being part of the solution when it comes to making a difference to the people working for us, the community and to the country as a whole. Today we are proud to be making a meaningful difference to unemployment for the youth of South Africa by employing over 1000 people as well as helping our government and nation solve the challenges of education with over 90 000 children in our early childhood education programme, The Unlimited Child.
A picture speaks a thousand words so instead of telling you what you will experience in your first couple of months at The Unlimited, we’ll show you instead!
We all know how this feels – at the time you can’t believe you are putting yourself through this and the discomfort is agonising. All you want to do is hit the stop button and quit. But you push through and when it’s done, the exhilaration you experience is out of this world.
This is what will happen to you when you join our business. We will push you further than you thought you could ever go; we will make you totally uncomfortable; and at times, you will want to quit. That’s because we know that to grow, you have to be forced out of your comfort zone. You have to stretch yourself to see new opportunities that will shift you beyond your potential and into a whole new reality.
And we do this because we want you to live your best life and go beyond what you ever thought possible.
Our business is not exempt from having to make very challenging decisions when it comes to our alignment and focus towards the future. Perhaps the biggest difference is that our approach to these decisions and how we implement them is done with love, dignity and a complete respect for our friends and colleagues who are impacted by them. Our vision is “to build a remarkable business for our children’s children that will still be shifting lives 100 years from now” – this has and will from time to time require new alignment and a change in company focus. Saying goodbye to friends who have partnered with us on this journey is never easy and we honour and thank every one of them for their commitment and contribution to our business.
We haven’t taken this step lightly. Our win-win approach to business, life and our people will always come first. The family members leaving will be well taken care of with our full support, love and well wishes.
A 702 listener recently called Stephen Grootes about one of our agents who allegedly sexually harassed her friend with explicit text messages. 702 gave us the opportunity to respond and explain the results of our investigation into this case as well as the support we have offered to the victim. Listen to the station’s interview with Steph Bester, CEO of The Unlimited:
It's really important to us that you have a voice – that you can speak your mind, whether it's good or bad. That's why we really love Hello Peter. It gives us an opportunity to listen, learn and more importantly, to take action if we slipped up or set the record straight if we didn't.
Take a look at how we've been doing on Hello Peter:
It gives us goose bumps when our customers share their experiences with us, when we hear how our products have delivered above and beyond. It’s why we loved Estelle Benjamin’s recent post on Hello Peter and want to share her wonderful story.
“I called The Unlimited: Heli Rescue Plus on Saturday as my daughter was in respiratory distress. Jabu answered my call, confirmed my details and said he will call me back. He called me within 1-2 minutes and connected me to the ambulance service for directions. I was then multitasking to get things together to leave to go to the hospital. Within 5 minutes the ambulance arrived, Martin & assistant, polite, efficient, experienced, competent, sympathetic and concerned. Off we go to the hospital in the ambulance. 4 minutes from my home my cellphone rings, confirmation that the ambulance arrived, I thanked the caller for following up and told her we are on our way. Approximately 3 minutes, maybe less, my cellphone rings again, this time it is Jabu from The Unlimited, confirming all is in order and I thanked him and told him that we are at the hospital.
I could not have made a better choice in signing up for this service, maybe I should look at the other services too.”
Estelle Benjamin, Hello Peter, Monday, 20 April 2015
As a business we do the right thing regardless for our customers – when our service falls short of our customer expectations, we stand by our values and Brand, take accountability and move mountains to make it right.
by Sam Watt
Note from Steph Bester: When I got back after the year-end break I found this wonderful letter on my desk. Straight from the heart, it is by one of our people and celebrates the "firsts" she achieved in her first year with us. It is honest. It is touching. But I am sharing it with you because more than anything else, it is inspiring. Enjoy!
When I joined The Unlimited in February 2014, I felt like Alice who had just fallen down the rabbit hole – anxious, but fascinated by a company that was so different from anything I had ever experienced.
Many have seen our Brand, have been intrigued by our culture and different approach to business, but are still asking the very relevant question: What do we do? Are we an insurance business? Are we a financial services company? Are we in the health industry? All of the above would be right but not 100% accurate.
We are a growing business and we interview many candidates but not everyone is successful. This letter was sent to our HR Director, Belinda Young, following an interview for a position in our Franchise Ownership Programme. We were blown away by the author's honesty and her appreciation of the value she got out of the process.
Over the past couple of days there has been a heated conversation about The Unlimited on a social media group page. Whilst there were some positive comments, there were also "nasty" remarks and for us, seeing this has been as painful as watching your child fall off their bicycle at top speed.
Today our backs are up! We've just got wind of a scam that's being run in Johannesburg in which fraudsters are claiming they are fundraising for The Unlimited Child. It makes our blood boil that these unscrupulous individuals are using not only our name but also early childhood development to line their own pockets.
We put our customers first. After all, without you, we wouldn't exist. Which is why if any of our people put that relationship at risk, we take action.
That's what we did a couple of years ago when we found out that some of our franchise businesses were operating in way that wasn't in line with our values and our customer experience was suffering as a result . We held the franchisees accountable and gave them the opportunity to correct their behaviour but when this proved unsuccessful, there were consequences. We did not renew their contracts and where necessary, criminal cases were opened.
So we find it baffling that a group of the individuals involved refuse to accept that what happened was as a direct result of their own behaviour. They have made some serious threats against The Unlimited and some of our employees – to the point that we have had to seek legal action. And we are not alone in our view. Facebook found the comments on a page set up by the group were so malicious that it blocked the page.
So if this happened in our business again, would we do the same? Absolutely! Why? Well, because to us, you're everything. And there are no excuses for anything but a brilliant customer experience.
Customer care isn't just lip service in our business. That's why, when we make mistakes, we will do everything to fix the problem and use the lesson to improve our service. So when a customer feels they have to take their issue to a consumer watchdog such as Wendy Knowler, we are downright ashamed. This was the case with Mr Naiker...
Do you cringe and get annoyed when you get a sales call? We know how you feel, but have you ever thought about the person who's on the other side of the phone as it could be one of our agents. They make up to 100 calls a day. People are rude to them. People put the phone down on them. But they carry on and make that next phone call. They are driven by the knowledge that there are people who don't have any other way of getting information. For them, our products can change their lives and the lives of their families in a big way. How big? Well, we've paid out over R35 million in claims in the past five years. And this begins with a phone call. Makes you think, doesn't it?
We've recently celebrated our certification as one of South Africa's Best Employers in 2012/13 for the second year in a row. We're among only 73 companies in South Africa considered worthy of accreditation by the CRF Institute so our HR policies and processes are right up there with the likes of Unilever, Microsoft SA, Anglo American Platinum, Ernst & Young and MTN. We think that's pretty awesome and worth shouting about!
We had a call from a friend of Ms Honono who told us that Ms Honono was upset because she didn't know what to do about our debit order on her account – she had never had a call from us, so how did we get her banking details?