Answering the call
Customer complaints prompt Port authorities to make changes
Following numerous complaints from customers, the Barbados Port Inc. has embarked on a plan to address customer service issues at that Government agency.
That assurance has come from manager of marketing development and public relations Freida Nicholls who said the Port had engaged the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) to help improve customer experience.
“We did it for our regular customers but we are working with NISE to do it with our commercial customers to determine what we need to do to upgrade and make better the service,” she said in response to questions at the International Association of Barbados Communicators’ (IABC) planning seminar yesterday at the Savannah Hotel.
Nicholls acknowledged that the Port had “a problem” with customer service delivery but said the staff was very hard working.
“Service delivery is problematic and we know that. So we are working on training people but we also remember that there is a culture in the Port, and you will tell your staff ‘you have to be decent and kind to customers’ and they will say ‘we have customers come in and cuss we’. So it is a difficulty in the organization but we are working to correct it,” she noted.
Nicholls said that given the need for people to change their mindsets, improvements would take time.
“Change is not easy for anybody to accept. I have been there 20 years . . . most of the people at the Port have been there between 30 and 45 years,” she noted.
The Port will be gathering feedback from customers, via short surveys. Staff will also be asked to complete similar surveys.
The Barbados Port Inc. generates approximately $7 million in revenue annually, which Nicholls said was “way down”.
That, she said, was another challenge officials were seeking to address.
Meantime, in giving advice to the communication specialists at the planning seminar, Nicholls urged them to constantly develop their skills in order to remain relevant; get buy-in from their chief executive officers and boards; and learn the best way to handle situations where their advice was not heeded.
She also encouraged the participants to welcome different world views, communicate regularly with their “frontline” staff and know when and who to ask for help.
Saying that communicators were charged with a very important and challenging task, Nicholls added that there was a lot of apathy and ignorance in society and it was critical that those in the communication business helped to change that.