The poor level of service being offered by employees in the various sectors of business activity is becoming more and more a matter of grave concern. If there was any doubt over a public outcry of this, the recent disclosure by one of the corporate giants in Barbados that it had concerns about declining level of poor customer service, seems to confirm this.
The poor attitudes displayed by some employees are both unbecoming and ridiculous. It is disgraceful that persons doing business in both the public and private sectors, and those who seeking to avail themselves of social and health care services, are sometimes made to feel that they are being reduced to the status beggars.
This is not what good customer service is all about. It would seem that some employees take pride in behaving the way do. The hostile, aggressive, dismissal and sometimes insulting behaviour which those guilty persons display, is not to be encouraged or tolerated.
In any jurisdiction that prides itself on being a service oriented economy, there is the expectation that excellent customer service would be the hallmark. It is not per chance that Government, the private sector and trade unions in Barbados, where the economy is built around the selling of services and tourism, understand the importance to be attached to promoting excellent customer service.
Despite the ongoing work of the National Initiative for Service Excellence, it would appear that the efforts to change the culture of employees are moving ahead at a slow pace. It is unreasonable to expect that change would happen overnight but at the same time the country has to wrestle with the fact that it would appear that far from there being an appropriate level of improvement, there seems to be a measure of decline in customer service being experienced.
In today’s world it is expected that human resource managers in both the public and private sectors would be paying much more attention to the delivery of quality service to be offered to the customer and clients.
In working to achieve this, it would involve empowering members of staff, and helping them to understand that how they function as individuals and as a collective, will redound to the good of the organisation. This means that management has to take responsibility for promoting and leading the change process.
As a starting point, it is imperative that management places significant emphasis on the training of staff, as this is a sure way in which to hold employees more accountable for their actions and performance.
Employers ought to see that they have a responsibility to their staff to provide training. This should start with the orientation of staff, to be followed by exposing staff to other training programmes. Employers should therefore be discouraged as a first option, from cutting their training budgets.
Admittedly, training might not be the immediate solution to the disgusting attitudes and snobbery displayed by some employees. It is advisable that employers commit to providing training for their members of staff, and to identifying a set of workplace standards that are to be observed by employees.
Part of the problem which many are experiencing with bad customer service, can be attributed to the lack of enforcement by employers of their own standards, or in some cases, the gentle slap on the wrist given to employees who have fallen woefully short. The other contributing factor is the lack of will on the part of supervisors to act.
The sweeping of failings under the preverbal rug, constitutes the genesis of the problem. On top of this, customers/clients who suffer humiliation at the hands of offending employees are often weary to lay an official complaint. The laying of complaints must be encouraged. However, this process would be meaningless if management does not take action.
It would appear that the private sector is less tolerating of indifferent behaviour of employees, as they recognise that the display of poor and indifferent attitudes could have a negative impact on their business. This is not to say that all is well there. This same may apply to the public service.
If the country is overcome by the poor attitudes and treatment that combine to make poor customer service, then a drastic response is required.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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