Fairheads Benefit Services is reaching out to members and guardians in a new and exciting way – we now have two field agents on the road, in a Fairheads-branded vehicle which doubles up as a mobile office.
In this way we are bringing service face-to-face service directly into people’s homes or at a place close to them, such as the car park of the local police station. Out come the table and chairs, the laptop and Themba Manzana and Lerato Mokgobu are ready to help!
Since May, the pair have already made day trips to Tembisa, been to Lesotho, Westonaria, Rustenburg, Soshanguve, Vosloorus, Soweto, Welkom, Marikana and Katlehong and are now planning a field trip to KwaZulu Natal. Themba and Lerato share the driving and both attended a 4×4 training course before tackling some of the country’s rougher roads.
Olefile Moea and Nikki Jacobs who are driving the project from Fairheads’ head office say that the project – in pilot phase until December – forms part of the wider regional roadshow initiative which has been highly successful for the past five years.
“What we are now doing is running the roadshows on a rolling basis from mid-October to mid-November, tackling three regions per year. This year we are holding the roadshows in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. The focus will be strongly educational,” they say.
Learnings from the roadshow over the past five years showed that, while it is a very valuable communication and education exercise, there remain non-compliant members (whose income payments were stopped because they had not provided an updated certificate of existence, for example). In addition, many of those attending were repeat attendees from previous years.
Nikki says that the field agents idea came about as a way of addressing the non-compliance issue more effectively. It forms part of Fairheads’ strategic aim of improving accessibility to clients in light of the challenges presented by the poor postal system and the high cost of airtime.
The field agents will spend longer periods in the targeted areas in order to provide clients with enough time to complete and return documents. In effect, Fairheads is now doing proactive tracing of those members who are not compliant and visiting them in their own homes to explain what needs to be done to resume/effect payments. If there are a large number of non-compliant members in a certain town or region, then a central venue is selected which could be a community, church or school hall, the police station or a TEBA Limited TEBA branch. (The January 2015 Fairheads Times’ lead story on distribution explained the agreement between Fairheads and TEBA in terms of which clients can be assisted by TEBA staff and submit documents.)
Four quick questions to the field agents
What’s the best thing about the job?
The surprise and joy of some clients when they get exclusive service from us and also a thorough explanation of the product Fairheads offers them (L)
The sheer pleasure of being out in the field. (T)
What are the main challenges?
Long hours! We are on the road from early till late, often having to wait till people have finished work or school. But it is worth the wait because once you get to the heart of the problem i.e why income is stopped, you can be accountable for what went wrong, and work with the client to devise an acceptable resolution. (L)
Security. We sometimes also remove the Fairheads sign from the vehicle for our safety and the clients’ of course, so that we blend in well with the community. (L)
Caution from clients. Some people think it may be a scam as they are not used to such personalised service. We have to allay their fears and prove our credentials. (T)
What languages do you speak?
Between us we cover most of the languages of South Africa, excluding Shangaan.
What motivates you as a team?
Wanting the project to succeed. (T) When I’m back in the office I kind of become sick, it’s too constraining – but on a serious note we are genuinely motivated by applying our abilities to the fullest. What we are doing aligns with our values and beliefs. (L)
Published in Fairheads Times, Issue 32, September 2015