SSC gem shares success recipe
His genuine love to help others and a desire to make a difference in their lives is the fire that drives 47-year-old Samuel Cloete, who last year earned the coveted title of Social Security Commission (SSC) Customer Service Excellence of the Year.
“I am very proud of this award, because I can see that people can recognise what I am doing, which motivates me to work even harder,” Cloete said during an interview with the Windhoek Observer this week.
Every day, the father of three gets to live his passion, by working tirelessly to help individuals who walk through the SSC doors.
“It is something that was instilled in me from a young age. I was taught to respect and accommodate people. You put yourself in their shoes, because tomorrow you will also need help.
“I love to work with people and trying to solve their problems; that is the one thing that drives me. I love going to sleep at night knowing that I have changed someone’s life,” he said
The SSC’s principal operations include registering employers and employees, collecting and investing contributions, assessing and paying claims, providing benefits, as well as providing training and employment schemes and providing financial aid to students.
“When people come in with their maternity claims, retirement claims and so forth, we are the ones who assist them. We also assist those who want to register their company or their employees. We give them forms and help them to fill in those forms and issue cards,” Cloete said.
As one of the faces on the front line of the SSC’s operations, Cloete’s job entails giving detailed information about the commission to those who enquire. To do this well, he needs an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the SSC.
“For one to become a customer service officer you need to be patient and hardworking, and know how to deal with people. You have to listen to them and try and help where you can.
“Usually people assume bad things about us, but when they come to the SSC, they get a clear picture of what we are doing. We might not be able to solve all their problems, but we try to meet them halfway and make them feel comfortable, and listen with a smile,” he said.
In order to do this, Cloete does extensive research, as well as regular training.
“Sometimes people misunderstand what SSC is all about, so it is important to explain and try to make them understand,” he said.
Through the SSC, the humble, down to earth and dedicated part-time musician has reached greater heights and plans to rise even higher.
“I attended a one-year course in South Africa at the University of Johannesburg in Social Security Law, which taught me about social protection, social economic contexts, as well as social security policies, because the needs are different from country to country, so we have to look at our own situation and see how we can assist our own people. Do they understand social security, and as a commission what are we doing?” he said.
The training was aimed at equipping employees on how the SSC can accommodate domestic workers, job seekers and poor workers, so they can receive social security assistance.
Cloete was born in Mariental in 1969 and started school at Hoachanas. He then moved to Gibeon and attended the C. Oaseb Secondary School where he was expelled for political reasons in 1987.
In 1988 he came to Windhoek and went to Jan Jonker Secondary School, where he failed Grade 12 in 1989.
In 1990, he worked at a pharmacy, where he delivered medicines until 1995. During that period he rewrote his Grade 12 examination and passed.
In 1996, he started working at the SSC as a registration officer. After two years, he was promoted to the position of a debtor’s officer, and later became a customer service officer.
Over the years, he has worked hard to change the perception that customer service in Namibia is very poor.
“Employers must help encourage and give their employees the right training. People do not get training and that is why customer service is so poor in the country,’ he said.
His employer has also made his life easier, by encouraging him and his colleagues to work hard, through incentives.
“The SSC has an open door policy, where when you have problems you can air your views.
“Our management encourages us to become better and reach for greater heights, which is the secret that is clearly working. They want the best, not only for the company, but for me as a person,” he said.
According to Cloete, it is always important to know what the client is asking for, in order to be able to help them effectively.
During his spare time, he plays music and spends time with his family.
“I am a musician. I was at the College of the Arts doing piano. I had my own band, Face2Face. Because I now have children and I am married, I am not part of a band anymore,” Cloete added.