I am a sucker for any type of good customer service but my heart strings sing a little more when the representative I am happy with is a beautifully handsome black brother on the other side of the counter.
Last Friday, I managed to drop my phone and shatter it into at least a trillion pieces. The day became trying to figure out a replacement – funds, logistics, the gamut. A very frustrated me ended up calling Brian at Sales Barbados. He fielded at least 40 calls in half an hour and facilitated the choice of a very cool piece of technology. I thank him for his grace. It helps when customer service reps want to service customers. It helps when they know their field and their product like their back hand. Good customer service is still too much of a misnomer in Barbados and it still feels like a gold mine to walk into it whenever it comes.
I sometimes wonder how we manage to remain so far behind the curve of ‘the rest of the world’ in many customer service issues. Although many of us either have cable television or the Internet blasting ads at us daily, or in other ways know of how standards have changed in several sectors over the years, we seem content to put up with poor service and mediocre value for our hard-earned money.
Take, for instance, the upgrade that one telephone company just completed. The only result for customers who have as much as 20 and 30 years of loyalty with the company is higher bills for service. If a network is faster and more efficient, if we have seen scores of people be retrenched over the years such that staff costs are significantly less, does it not stand to reason that the cost of the service by now should also be lower?
At one point, customers were the sole ones paying for the entire network infrastructure but now there is an entire other provider also paying rental fees. What have been the gains to long-standing and persevering customers? It feels as though the only reward has been increasingly poor customer service.
I agree that a lot of the problems in companies’ approaches to consumer value and service have to do with the seeming lax way that customers’ rights and concerns are addressed by the agencies established for oversight. Notwithstanding, there is a clear changing business ethos that is seeing companies become more aware of their corporate responsibilities, social responsibility and even their environmental responsibility. I do not understand, then, how Barbadian companies are happy to exist outside of good international practices.
Some companies, even though they have become either wholly or partly owned subsets of international conglomerates, persist in practices which they could not carry out in other jurisdictions. Take again the recent mounting of antennas on the South Point lighthouse. Can you see antennas mounted willy-nilly on the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty just because they ‘enhance coverage’? That notion is ludicrous, and it is offensive that in the current business climate, the people of Barbados are not seen as being more sophisticated and deserving of respect.
Speaking of globalization, there is a second point to be made about the conglomerate nature of some companies operating in the Barbadian space. Globalization has actually created a very uneven playing field for local, longstanding, established businesses. Take the eyewear sector in Barbados. As far as I know, it is illegal in Barbados to advertise medical and related services.
Whether or not I agree with the rule is not what I want to focus on here. The point is, if that is the law, one company should not get to flood the papers and other types of media with advertisements about glasses and eye care to the detriment of other companies in the space. It is simply unfair competition.
We consumers, ourselves, have a role to play in ensuring that we get Barbados past the hump of poor customer service. We have to ensure that we write and document instances of poor customer service. We have to bring these to the attention of the Fair Trading Commission and stand resolute until solutions are found. We must shop with companies that we recognize are being affected by global conglomerates in adverse ways.
Until we realize that our dollars have might we will have to continue to settle. We should be more than just a means to excessive profit reports at the end of the financial year.
Marsha Hinds-Layne is the President of the National Organisation of Women