When will Barbadians pay attention to customer service?
From gas stations and restaurants, to supermarkets and hotels, the level of customer service which is delivered is quite shockingly low.
And for a country where tourism is its biggest foreign exchange earner and economic engine, the lack of efficient and effective customer service delivery is dangerously appalling.
Workers in customer service must at all times aim to provide patrons with a memorable and enjoyable experience.
We can all attest to the fact that there are few things which are more annoying than receiving poor customer service, especially when you are prepared to spend your hard-earned dollars.
What has become of the active and ongoing initiatives from NISE (National Initiative for Service Excellence), the organization established by the Social Partners in 2005, which was at the forefront of a nationwide effort to help Barbados consistently deliver service excellence?
At a time when Barbados is struggling to recover from economic crisis, every dollar counts. And every dollar leaving the hands of people in times of austerity is a dollar too hard spent.
So it is imperative that customer service representatives be ever willing to give a unique and satisfying experience whenever possible.
The situation becomes even more important when dealing with tourists, on whose precious dollars we so strongly depend on to survive. One bad experience is enough to ruin a visitor’s trip to the island and possibly make it their last.
The recent story of one individual is as instructive as it ought to be sobering. Visiting Barbados for the first time, he was keen to take in some of the best sights, and eager to experience our much-talked-about food and culture.
But his head was left steaming as he strolled into a restaurant only to be met by a rude employee.
So upset was he that he stormed out, vowing never to return and actually asked to be taken back to his hotel.
And for the entirety of his four-day stay, the rude waiter was the main talking point – despite visits to Harrison’s Cave, the Animal Flower Cave, Oistins and St Lawrence Gap.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, a trip to the bank to exchange Barbados dollars to USD also proved quite harrowing; he spent over an hour waiting to be served, despite being among only a handful of other customers in the queue.
Unfortunately, his experiences are the norm and not the exception.
Let’s be clear: that he was a visitor to our nation, however, does not entitle him to a happier tale of good customer service; that ought to the birthright of all citizens, regardless of hue and class, for the subtle and overt discrimination against citizens or darker-hued visitors is a stain on our nation.
Customer service workers need to understand that service is not servitude or servility.
A 2015 survey carried out by Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative showed that 53 per cent of people stopped doing business with a company after just one bad experience. But 95 per cent stopped doing business after multiple bad experiences.
It is extremely critical that employers educate their employees, especially those who are on the frontline, on the importance of delivering quality customer service.
And our businesses too must play their part in a changing world, and should also try to make sure that systems are put in place to ensure interactions with the general public are neither time consuming nor unpleasant. In an era where the power of social media is at an all-time high, it is important for Barbadians to know their actions have far-reaching implications. One hashtag could easily ruin the island’s reputation. One viral video can cause irreparable harm to our island’s offering.
We are mindful that customer service employees face low wages, long hours and rude customers throughout the day. Employers need to be better servants, too – to their staff so that these faces of the firm are happier and ready to serve us all.