Why SMS beats email in the current climate of crisis 

By Greg Chen, CEO, Mobiz 

In a time of email fatigue as we are bombarded by COVID-19 corporate messaging, communicating with customers via SMS can be far more effective.
Messaging really is all about timing. Even in the most normal of circumstances, it’s all about ensuring that a message reaches its intended audience as efficiently – in its most accessible format – and as fast as possible. And it’s also about the time it takes for your message to grab your customer’s attention. Time, as they say, really is money.
But now, we find ourselves thrown into a new reality, where we are bombarded non-stop by COVID-19-related messaging, and timing on all fronts becomes part of a company’s very survival.
This is where the power of SMSes comes fully into play. While the messages they carry may be limited to 160 characters, if worded correctly they will grab a consumer’s attention far quicker than long-winded emails. Plus, if there really is more to be said, the SMS can include a link to a personalised website to take the consumer quickly to individualised deals at a time when every cent is being carefully monitored.
In a time of COVID-19, cost is increasingly becoming a very critical factor in the decisions we make, including how we access information. As disposable income becomes tighter, consumers will limit their spending, which includes the amount they may be willing or able to spend on data – an email necessity. And, of course, during lockdown, many consumers will be severely constrained in their ability to access wi-fi hotspots.
SMSes, on the other hand, neither require customers to be online, nor do they cost money to receive. Technology today also enables highly individualised messaging that is tailored specifically towards the recipient, engaging them on a very personal level.
Plus research has shown that 98% of all SMSes are opened, with a click through rate of 19%, versus only 3.2% for email campaigning and marketing.
Granted, an SMS that contains a click through to a website will rely on a consumer having access to data – a cost to the consumer. But it is completely possible for the organisation sending the message to take on the data costs themselves, or even have their web-based communication zero rated with mobile networks.
Many people may consider SMSes to belong to a technology of the past. They have, after all, been around since 1992. But the bottom line is that new technologies are not necessarily always better. Layer on top of that the extremely tough conditions that COVID-19 now places on society, and clearly what we need first and foremost are robust systems that the majority can access within the shortest period and with the least cost. Now, more than ever, SMSes just make good business, communication and common sense.
About the author: Greg Chen is the CEO and co-founder of Mobiz. He has a long history in the South African mobile space and is passionate about the role technology can play in engaging the country’s people across the spectrum

Request to employers to participate in survey

The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) is a major employer stakeholder to the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education Training Authority (merSETA) since the inception of the Sector Education Training Authorities (SETAs) in the South African skills landscape.
RMI members, bar the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA) membership (falling within the ambit of the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority – W&RSETA), that can participate in this survey are typically those businesses in the automotive aftermarket including the repair and maintenance -; sales and support services – as well as in the components manufacturing sectors.
This merSETA survey is aimed at employers to better understand the impact that the pandemic has had on the firms in the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sectors so that skills planning and services are adequately considered given the current state of the sector.  This survey will run until 15 June 2020.  The questions are short and the surveys should take a maximum of 15 minutes each to complete.
Click on the writing below to open the link
merSETA COVID-19 Stakeholder Survey

Keeping in touch with customers

COVID-19 has changed the way MIWA members communicate with their customers. This may have seemed daunting at first, particularly for those members who have little experience in the digital realm. Fortunately, MIWA have been able to partner with Connected Life to offer all MIWA members a complete social media marketing package, including a website and daily marketing on all social media updates.
Digital marketing is such a great medium because it directs your customer’s attention to your brand.
“However, the real magic lies in the fact that they are empowered and in control of all decisions throughout the conversion process, which can work powerfully in your favour,” says Pieter Niemand, National Director of MIWA.
Niemand cautions that the attainment of this goal hinges on providing quality content across a variety of platforms, from your website to newsletters, emailers and blogs. “Again, Connected Life is able to assist in compiling targeted, gripping content that will hold your consumers’ attention,” he says.
This is the ideal time to reach out to customers. Regular communications will remind them that you are available to answer all their needs – but the flipside is that if you fail to start that dialogue, they may move on.
MIWA members can access the power of online for just R99 per month for the first six months. To access your free website all MIWA members need to do is visit https://clife.co.za/gethelp/ and you can view a sample of how the site looks at https://www.miwa.org.za/demosite/
“Don’t feel intimidated by this new world – it is a new way of connecting and doing business and you will reap the benefits,” concludes Niemand.

Innovative development in online learning

The world of work is being profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the introduction of lockdown, and the phased re-opening of the economy, the Coronavirus pandemic has presented unique challenges to all types and levels of learning. These challenges have also stimulated discussion amongst MIWA and RMI ranks on the need for innovative development in online learning.
MIWA, under the leadership of the National Executive Committee and directed by Pieter Niemand, National Director of MIWA, participated, and will continue to participate, in the RMI’s National Executive Training Committee’s current initiative to develop a framework for digital remodelling of lifelong learning and work. In this context, MIWA has the opportunity to draw from the learnings and experiences of paid officials, elected office bearers and other members as subject matter experts on learning and training. This can be done anywhere and at any time as this is what is central to lifelong learning.
Andrea Bogner, the MIWA NEC representative on the RMI’s NETC, actively participated in the first framework discussion on 30 April 2020. This included the examination and re-examination of a range of issues on how digital education and training solutions can be utilised to deliver skills programmes, learnerships, and apprenticeships, further meeting the requirements of assessments and moderations by Sectorial Education and Training Authorities and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations. The inputs received included innovative learning methodologies for learners including apprentices who acquire re-skilling and upskilling at the workplace.
Electude and MIWA have worked together to find a solution for blended learning approaches particularly for the motor mechanic and diesel mechanic trades. The mapping of the Electude modules for the motor mechanic trade against the Competency Based Modular Training (CBMT) delivery method has been tested and found to fill the gap in the use of only hardcopy training material. The flexibility of the Electude solution is such that regardless of delivery method, legacy or new occupational qualification, modules get mapped against the requirements in the relevant curriculum.
“MIWA has demonstrated, over many years, its resilience and willingness to embrace technology to promote skills development,” concludes Niemand.

Moto Health Care news

Our last newsletter to you celebrated the start of 2020 and the hope that this was going  to be the year of plenty. Over the past few months, 2020 has turned out to be anything but plenty. With the arrival of the dreaded Coronavirus on our shores, life as we knew it would  change drastically for all of us. Businesses and everyday people had to adapt to a new way of doing things and the lockdown, which was primarily aimed to delay the spread of the virus until public health facilities could be upgraded and readied for the wave of new infections, saw many businesses negatively affected as they could not trade. The motor  industry as a whole was heavily impacted and many employers and employees have had to stretch their income to be able to ride out the lockdown.

How to disinfect your car – without doing damage

What’s the best way to disinfect your vehicle to help stop the spread of COVID-19? The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand-washing is crucial, but so is disinfecting surfaces, including those in your car.
The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves to clean and disinfect surfaces, and wiping down surfaces with soap and water prior to disinfection. For vehicle interiors, a soft or microfiber cloth dampened with soap and water can be used on hard surfaces.
Most common disinfectants are effective, but some are not ideal for vehicles, including bleach, hydrogen peroxide, benzene, thinners or abrasive cleaners that can damage upholstery and interiors. The CDC says alcohol-based wipes or sprays with at least 70% alcohol are effective against the coronavirus. These can be safely used in your vehicle.
For car screens, rather than ammonia-based cleaners, use screen wipes or a soft cloth dampened with soap and water to clean; then dry with a clean, soft cloth.
Here’s Nissan’s checklist for vehicle surfaces to disinfect:

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary strength and courage

This is without a doubt the most challenging economic and trading period the RMI and its associations have experienced in our history. The sustainability of the automotive aftermarket is at a critical junction.
I appreciate that the last two months have created a lot of financial pressure on all of our members. The survival of the automobile aftermarket sector is key for South Africa, not only as a vital employment sector and contributor to the fiscus, but also as a significant enabler of, and support function to, many other sectors. Without an effective and operational automotive aftermarket, strategically located in each district, community, town, metro and city across all provinces, we are of the view that vehicle safety and effective vehicle repairs and maintenance will be negatively impacted and detrimental to the much needed and speedy recovery of the economy.
In preparation for work readiness our members have adopted a phased approach to help alleviate financial pressure until business momentum can resume. It has allowed us time to ensure our businesses are all fully compliant with the stringent sanitisation regulations and protocols which need to be carefully adhered to. The reality is that just one positive COVID-19 case will close a business and we cannot afford that at this stage.
The RMI has accordingly developed an indepth COVID-19 business risk plan which will be used and updated for some time to come. We feel confident that our industry is ready and committed to implement all measures and maintain compliance at all times.
We understand that business recovery will take as long as six to nine months, if not longer, post lockdown to return to a sustainable and profitable return on investment. We not only have to deal with the impact of the virus and the lockdown, but at the same time the global retraction of the economy.
We need to be agile, adaptable and resilient during this time. We have found new ways of connecting and talking to members and customers with zoom calls and podcast and we have seen virtual training taking the lead. Moving forward we will continue to use these digital channels but I still see a more blended approach to avoid losing the power of face-to-face interaction. Our industry is known for its innovation and now more than ever, we need to find new, more effective ways of connecting with customers and staff. We will find a new normal.
I would like to end off by expressing my appreciation and pride in the way our member businesses have conducted themselves in these hugely challenging times. I would like to believe that this crisis will present an opportunity to come back stronger together.
Jakkie Olivier

Judicial Declaration of certain Lockdown regulations as invalid and unconstitutional

In a judgement handed down this week by the High Court of South Africa in the matter of Liberty Fighters Network & 2 Others v The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (case no. 21542-2020) the court ruled that, whilst the declaration of a national state of disaster by the State President in itself was legally permissible, most of the regulations published under Lockdown levels 3 and 4 did not pass the muster of being constitutionally compliant.
Despite this finding by the court, these regulations remain in force and effect for 14 days from the date of the judgement, providing the Respondent (Minister of COGTA) with an opportunity to amend these regulations in order to amend their legal defects.
This means that, for at least the next 14 days, the status quo as regards the application and interpretation of the Lockdown regulations remain.
Members are urged to continue applying these regulations until such time as they are amended. This means, in particular, continuing to promote and sustain the provisions of the Business Continuity Plan and Risk Adjustment Strategy that the RMI has provided its members with. It requires utmost care in applying measures that will prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the workplace.
Once these regulations are either repealed or amended, the RMI will, as usual, advise members of the terms of the new regulations and the obligations that arise for business owners.
Members requiring a copy of the Business Continuity Plan and Risk Adjustment Strategy that the RMI has provided its members with, may call on any of the Regional Offices. Queries and questions as regards the application thereof, may be directed at any one of the RMI’s Associational Directors, whose details appear below.

SAPRA Vishal Premlall082 886 6392
SAMBRA Richard Green 082 378 4899
MIWA Pieter Niemand082 812 5391
SAVABA Julian Pillay 082 560 6625
VTA Julian Pillay082 560 6625
NADA Gary McCraw082 560 6613
TEPA Hedley Judd071 892 1475
ARA Attie Serfontein082 452 5153

Auto workers’ and motor industry provident funds: Fund investment performance and the COVID-19 pandemic

On 24 March 2020, I communicated to all the funds’ members informing them that the funds are cognisant of the economic difficulties facing members, employers and society generally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor performance of world markets and that we are taking steps in the Funds to protect members’ retirement savings as far as possible during these difficult times.
As I am sure you know by now, there has been tremendous market turmoil in the past two months, with unprecedented levels of volatility and reactions, in the form of economic stimulus, in order to protect our financial system.
It is important that as Funds we keep you updated on how we have addressed this market turmoil and what our performance looks like during this period. I am glad to report that our investment consultants, Riscura, are satisfied that our funds have performed better than most others during this period. Members should therefore take comfort in knowing that our Trustees have acted swiftly, decisively and correctly during this period to members’ benefit.
As members of the Auto Workers’ Provident Fund and Motor Industry Provident Fund, your retirement fund contributions are invested in a defined contribution arrangement, which means that it is invested in the markets (shares, bonds, private equity, and similar investments) and whatever returns the markets give, you as a member receive – so, if the markets go up your retirement savings increase as well, but if they go down you also see a decrease in your retirement fund credit in the fund.
As you will know by now, in the last three months financial markets have been very volatile and have fallen significantly due to long-standing underlying structural economic issues which were brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some developed markets like the USA and Europe have fallen over 20% and emerging markets such as South Africa have also seen significant drops in financial markets, replicating those of developed markets. Our funds are invested in the global market and they experience similar impacts when these occur. As you would expect, our funds are not immune to such drops and have felt negative returns recently as a result of market performance, which has also negatively affected your fund credit.
As a member though, you must note that financial markets work in cycles, so they experience years of good growth and also periods when markets experience poor growth. It is hard to predict these cycles, so it is widely accepted that as a long-term investor, retirement fund members should not move in and out of markets just because of a temporary market fall – what generally happens is that this type of investor loses out when the market picks up again and falls into the trap of exiting the market at the wrong times, buying when expensive and thus losing out. Historically, it has been shown that markets recover well and quickly after experiencing a downturn, but it is difficult to predict when the upturn will start.
Our Funds have restructured their investment portfolios to bring them in line with market trends as identified by our investment consultants, so are well positioned to take advantage of the expected upturn. Our investment strategy also aims to minimise investment risks by diversifying into different asset classes, regions and asset managers, so we carefully consider the investment advice we receive and make decisions which will add value to our members’ retirement savings in the long term. So, while we have experienced losses, the extent of these losses has been limited through this new investment strategy, which we believe will yield significant long-term benefits for our members.
The one thing a member should not do at the moment is panic. So, considering withdrawal from our funds should be avoided. This is because your investment losses become locked-in and you miss the upside when it comes, so withdrawal should not be considered as an option.
For those members who are at or close to retirement and who have seen a drop in their retirement benefit, they should consider remaining in the fund for as long as possible if they can, so as to take advantage of the market recovery. Please consult with your financial adviser in these circumstances so that you can make an informed decision.
Our investment consultants, Riscura have provided the following investment performance figures for our funds, which are up to 31 April 2020.
 
PERFORMANCE TABLES TO 30 APRIL 2020
 
As you see, there is indeed no need to panic – while fund values saw a drop of approximately 15% during the pre-lockdown period between February and March 2020, our funds have started to recover well from this recent market collapse and achieved over 10% positive returns during the month of April 2020. It therefore makes sense to remain calm and optimistic that we will make up the poor performance in the coming months.
We will provide you with further investment updates in the next few months.
Please stay safe.
Yours faithfully
Anesh Soonder
Chairperson

COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme: what you need to know

The COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme is aimed at supporting small and medium businesses who have lost significant income as a result of the steps taken by the South African government to curb the spread of COVID-19. Announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of the R500 billion stimulus package, the details of the scheme were agreed by the National Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank and the Banking Association of SA (Basa) in May.
The National Treasury has provided an initial guarantee of R100 billion to the scheme and it has indicated there is an option to increase the guarantee to R200 billion if necessary and if the scheme is deemed successful.
The scheme will provide government-guaranteed loans through participating banks to firms with an annual turnover of less than R300 million. The loans will improve business liquidity and help these businesses stay active for the duration of lockdown restrictions and return to being economically productive once all restrictions are lifted. In the longer-term, its objective is reviving the economy and preserving jobs.

How it works

The National Treasury, South African Reserve Bank and commercial banks represented by the Banking Association South Africa, have agreed on the relevant legal framework, and financial and operational requirements.
The National Treasury provides a guarantee to the Reserve Bank, which records the guarantee as a contingent liability on the government’s account. The Reserve Bank will then lend the money to commercial banks at the repo rate (currently 3.75%) plus a 0.5% guarantee fee.
Banks will lend this money to qualifying small and medium-sized businesses at the repo rate plus a fixed spread of 3.5%. Each applying business may get only one loan under the scheme and they have five years to repay the loan.
The Reserve Bank is the administrator of the scheme and it will publish an annual report setting out how much each bank has used from the scheme and the performance (default rate) of each bank’s COVID-19 loan portfolio.
The government and commercial banks are sharing the risks of these loans and while the arrangements are designed to encourage banks to lend more than they would otherwise lend, the Treasury still expects banks to make sound lending decisions and avoid reckless lending.
Treasury said the intention is not for the banks to make a profit from the loans. It said any net profits would be pooled to offset losses in the scheme to minimise total losses to SA taxpayers.

Which banks are participating?

Absa, First National Bank, Investec, Mercantile Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank are accepting loan applications from eligible businesses which bank with them.

Which businesses qualify?

To qualify for the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme a business must:

To read the full advisory note, please go to https://www.businessforsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-06-03-Loan-Guarantee-Summary-.pdf
RMI members with any queries in this regard are requested to please forward them to Sanelisiwe Jantjies (Sanelisiwe.jantjies@busa.org.za).

Links

National Treasury http://www.treasury.gov.za/
The South African Reserve Bank https://www.resbank.co.za/Pages/default.aspx
The Banking Association of South Africa https://www.banking.org.za/
Further queries regarding applications should be directed to the individual banks, which are administering the scheme.
However, Business for South Africa would be interested in hearing about any difficulties people may be experiencing in accessing the loan. Please write to us at info@businessforsa.org