EXCELLENT SERVICE EVERY TIME by Dr. Basil Springer
"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" - http://www.qca.org.uk
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 (www.booherconsultants.com) 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) - www.cbet-inc.org )