After the launch of its new system, the head of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) Astrid Ludin took part in Small Business Connect’s online radio show to help ease small business owners’ concerns.
Here are some of the questions answered by the commissioner. You can also listen to the show via www.SmallBusinessConnect.co.za/radio.
Question: Tell us about the new changes that have been introduced at the CIPC.
Answer: We’ve introduced quite a lot of changes over the last six months.
Between April and July we introduced a paperless back-office. We receive a lot of documents, not just to the website, but this new system enables us to store things electronically. The second thing we introduced, is the self-service centres. We see these as small business centres. We have one in Sunnyside Park and we have one in the Carlton Centre in Pretoria. Small business owners can use these centres to register a business or lodge an annual return, for example. The self-service centres are different to the website, but it has quite a lot of the functions that business owners would have on the website. Here, we have staff that assist people who are not that comfortable with technology to do their transactions. When you use these centres, you don’t have to submit any documents because we verify your information against the Department of Home Affairs’ database. The other option is to register using our new website – launched about a month ago (at the time of going to print).We have new electronic functionality available for you to use to transact with us. Based on some of the comments coming through from Small Business Connect readers, it was a big change for our users. I think we’ve worked through most of the problems on the website and we need to keep improving on this.
Question: What was the conversation leading up to the changes? Were there any key considerations taken into account that made you eventually decide to give it a go?
Answer: The most important consideration was that using an electronic process would ensure that we process applications faster. We can already see that the back-office is more efficient. But, there is always the change process.
When you introduce change what happens invariably is that it creates a bottleneck in the organisation and it takes a while to clear out.
Question: What has been the main problems users have encountered?
Answer: It’s been quite mixed. Mostly, it depends on the type of user – if it is an individual who wants to lodge one transaction then the website is very user-friendly. For high volume users, such as intermediaries, I think any change that we introduce has a possible financial implication and so they tend to respond often quite negatively. Over the last while, we’ve found that as we have managed to sort out the problems, particularly to the speed of the website, there were a lot of issues individual users faced. For example, they were not using the right browser (Google Chrome), or they have not enabled pop-ups or frequent users had history in their browsers that needed to be cleared. Once those issues were resolved, people were a lot happier with the website and it was quite fast and user-friendly.
Question: How can business owners use the website more efficiently?
Answer: We found that there were little things preventing business owners from using the website.
For example, people had two customer codes. In order to transact with us on the website, you need to have a customer code. In the past we would not have known about it, but now we synchronise and we only allow you to have one customer code. So some users could not get into the system because they had two customer codes. Effectively, they need to choose one. The other problem is that people have two email addresses. So when we send documents to them we send it to one email address.
The problem with this is that the email we use is sometimes the wrong one.
Business owners can log a query on our website so we can resolve it in our back-office.
Question: How have you been communicating around the new changes?
Answer: We issue customer notes and post these to our website. We find that this is the best way to communicate with our customers who transact with us electronically. We also allow people to transact with us electronically so whenever there is a new note, it then gets sent out to them.
That makes up a lot of our communication, but we can improve on it. We try to send text messages and it is about getting the balance right and sending out only relevant information.
Question: When will business owners be able to lodge director through the CIPC?
Answer: You’re able to lodge. The question is whether or not you’re having a problem.
I know there are some issues depending on how many users we have on the website concurrently, but the functionality on the website works.
What you might find is that when we get very busy, you struggle to upload documents and edit director details. We recommend that you either log in again or if you’re really not able to.
- Visit www.cipc.co.za for more information