"Customer service is doing the customer a  favour by relieving them of their money, and offering in return a negative  experience with little or no opportunity for recourse when dissatisfaction  occurs" -

Very often people marvel at the fact that I write a  newspaper column every week and have been doing it without a break for over  ten and a half years. My activities are so diversified that there is usually  some event(s) which has taken place in the last week which is deserving of  comment. I usually stay away from the political issues and concentrate more on  those topics which are more directly linked to holistic sustainable  development.  Occasionally I get a  specific request to write on a given topic.  Not only did this happen last week but  I, in fact, had two specific requests on different  topics.

The first was from Reggie on nutrition.  He was extremely concerned about the  morbidity and mortality due to chronic diseases which could be corrected by a  disciplined adherence to an appropriate diet.  This article I have shelved till next  week while awaiting a copy of his paper on this topic. Then there was Jocelyn  who I must say gives me much positive feedback on my column, along with many  others, which in itself is a continuing stimulus for this weekly  exercise.

Jocelyn’s comment was ‘I'm sure you too are experiencing  the lack of service and gross incompetence being dished out around this  place of late.  As we talk about preparation for World Cup 2007 more and  more the service industry seems to be preparing less and less for it.   The banks are implementing charges across the board and none of the officers  have solutions to your concerns, you make purchases and have to remind the  attendants that the receipts require 10 cents stamps, store clerks seem to not  care whether you are served or not, the utility companies change their billing  cycles and don't bother to advise you and this whole thing goes on and  on.  The picture I'm getting is that the consumer no longer is taken into  consideration on any matters.  Do you think this is the way the new world  should be shaping?  I've been talking to people in my age group and we  are appalled at the 'new' trend.’   Her experience  seems to be  consistent with the observation in the opening text.

If one examines the statistics of the English speaking  countries in the Eastern Caribbean one will find that  we are really into a service economy including tourism, informatics, finance,  health, consulting, education, entertainment and sport. The percentage of the  economy which is driven by services ranges from 32.8% to 95.4% with a median  of 71%.

In a services economy there is a continual direct interface  between the customer and the provider and hence good customer service is  paramount for locals and tourists alike. As Diana Booher ( says ‘good customer service is no longer enough it has  to be WOW, unexpected service. In a nutshell, it means doing what you say you  will, when you say you will, how you say you will, at the price promised with  a little extra tossed in to say - I appreciate your  business’.

Based on the many random comments that one hears and the  random events that one experiences as we travel around the  Caribbean, it would lead me to conclude that if we were  to adopt a formal customer survey the hypothesis ‘the customer perceives  service as really lacking’ would likely be upheld. Based on this assumption it  is my belief that excellent customer service both in the public and private  sectors must become a pivotal element in our solution  strategy.

It is worth noting at this point the concept of ‘internal’  and ‘external’ customers. The ‘internal customer’ is about the relationship  between employers and staff.  The  ‘external customer’ is about the relationship between staff and clients. In  the developing countries of the Caribbean, tourism is the leading  industry, with service linkages, which  is not surprising from the above quoted statistics and it is therefore  mandatory that a strategy which promotes ‘excellent service every time’  emerges.  

  One observes the level of promotion and exposure that the  100% Bajan campaign has been given even though it is debatable in my mind  whether this is an optimal strategy in the context of the highly touted  Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The public and private sector  leaders in the services economy should give their immediate attention to an  ‘excellent service’ promotional campaign in the interest of increasing  productivity and enhancing competitiveness in this global services industry.  We must be at least as good as our global competitors if we are going to  maintain our market share on a sustainable basis. Let us now put our shoulders  to the plough and let the Caribbean be remembered by  our visitors as a destination where there is ‘excellent service every  time’.

  ( Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) - )