September 25, 2006

Edward Harris At Large


While we are bombarded with the talk of improved customer service, it is difficult to experience even the minimum level of service in some of the large organizations where hundred of thousands of dollars have been spent and continue to be spent on such training.

Service necessitates a level of passion for the job you are doing and empathy for the customers who seek your assistance. Maybe having a sales background raises my level of expectation when I deal with companies’ representatives who take my money in exchange for goods and services and treat me with scant courtesy. In some instances, especially where there is not much choices, you are given the take it or leave it attitude and wait until I feel like attending to you. These types of attitude are a vexation to the spirit, especially when the persons involved know better and are expected to do better.
Does timeliness matters anymore? Don’t leave for tomorrow what can be done today. Exercise a level of urgency and be responsive to the customers’ needs.

Who is to guard the guard? How often does management take a check to see how their employees interact with the public in discharging their responsibilities. There must be some means of auditing the performance of your staff, especially in the area of customer service – the pillar for continuous growth in any business. Satisfied customers are repeat customers and beyond their own patronage, they are your best means of advertising through word of mouth, sharing their experiences in dealing with the company.

With all the noise about customer relations / service, how many times have you received a phone call enquiring if you are satisfied with the service that you received from the staff. In these days many firms do not even know their customers. I would like to suggest that a system be employed to record customer information that could provide information that will make management aware of who are their customers and what are their expectations. Large firms in the developed world have sophisticated means of keeping track of their customers and regular surveys keep then informed about changing buying patterns and general expectations of their customers.

Small businesses have suffered immensely from a lack of understanding the customers’ needs. If you do not take time to find out what the customers’ needs are, and seek to impose your own understanding of their needs are, you are destined to fail. You must be abundantly clear on their needs. Don’t assume anything. But if on the other hand you set out to identify an established need from the customer point of view and fill it, you are on your way to success. In our region, not enough time is spent in finding out about the business/product, before an investment is made. Many times multiple duplication of a business types make viable businesses no longer attractive and the investment is lost. Many of us have learnt this the hard way. In recent times, the Office of Private Sector Relations (OPSR) has been providing assistance to firms in the areas of Diagnostic Studies, Business Plans and Implementation Programmes. I feel that Customer Service should be an essential item in these studies.

Why I am labouring these obvious points? Many times, we fail to do the simple things that are so important and in many cases they make the difference in the experience. I feel that given the hive of activity as we approach Cricket World Cup 2007 and St. Lucia Jazz 2007 if we are to truly benefit from the positive spin offs from these major events, Customer Service must be the watch words, not the buzz words as our future will depend on the level of service we offer at every stage of our interaction with the visitors. We need to show that we care about our guests from the ports of entry. I feel we should be very clear about what we expect from our Immigration and Customs Officers and every other aspect of business services during their stay on the island. The year 2007 is our year to shine and every citizen must be made aware of their role in and benefits from being the best hosts we can be.

Have you heard about the Caribbean Business Club which was launched here about two weeks ago? It is a grand initiative by JAMPRO of Jamaica and NDC of St. Lucia that will expand across the region and which hopes to capture the business energies of CWC 2007 and catapult it beyond as the benefits derived from the exposure accrue. I am reviewing the information on their website and as I write this article, I am awaiting a response to my application. Visit their website at

The NDC is expanding its reach and in its latest initiative seeks to impact on the micro and small business sector. I sincerely hope that more corporations will follow suit so that the humble beginning could be expanded to really make an impact on this much needed area of financial assistance. The collaboration with the established support agencies, namely SEDU and the Belgrave Memorial Fund should make a difference in meeting the special needs of the sector.

Keep the Faith, God is in Charge!

Edward A. Harris

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