Carpenters  without wood a future without service

But what concerns me as a minister is that we are still settling too much for mediocrity when it comes to customer service in Barbados and at all levels . . . and Barbados will only go forward if we say no to such. Customer is key and I don’t care how a customer attires himself or whether they speak standard English or Bajan dialect, they must be treated as your most important customer. 

–– Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss.

  It is perhaps an absurdity that a country that relies so heavily on tourism has issues with the provision of high quality service at all times.

The absurdity is stretched even farther when one contemplates that in an island where our development has been principally driven by what comes in, rather than what goes out, that there is even a need for a nebulous creation such as the National Initiative For Service Excellence.

One hardly ever has to convince a carpenter of the importance of wood. But we have to convince our people about the importance of building and maintaining an ideal that results –– at some level –– in the paying of our bills and sending our children to school.

But the oddity goes a bit farther. Barbados, like most of these wonderful emerald isles, is inhabited by people renowned for their good manners, pleasantness, willingness to help, and generally welcoming nature. Sociologists might suggest that as the daughters and sons of a colonial past, where subservience was part of the DNA of our ancestors, being nice, had nothing to do with any concept of NISE, but was strictly about survival. The irony is, that survival, though in a different context, is still the situation we face today.

Perhaps it is time that out policymakers and great thinkers look at making tourism-related studies and service provision excellence as intrinsic a part of the school curricula as English and maths.

Our primary school children should not only be boasting how easy the English and maths were during their annual Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Exams; but some little girl or boy should be able to connect the dots between the new car driven by daddy, the increase in tourist arrivals at the hotel where he works, and the possible reasons for repeat visitors to that hotel.

For A-rated service to extend beyond tourism considerations, it must become rooted in our consciousness. Too often we view service as Black serving Caucasian; poor serving the wealthy; chattel house serving bungalow; New Orleans serving Highgate Park. It is in circumstances like these that there is a necessity for entities that are NISE. Service must be in our psyche, akin to Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.

Minister Inniss is right. We settle too quickly for mediocrity. And this mediocre service is to be found in the private and public sector: the Queen Elizabeth Hospital; the Royal Barbados Police Force; the House of Assembly; as well as Mike’s Bar & Grill. It is to be found everywhere.So what can we do?

The prevailing economic crisis is perhaps a blessing in disguise. The times should give rise to a change of thought, a change of attitude. In essence:
change or die.

In circumstances where whatever Barbados has to offer is to be found elsewhere, and in an environment where businesses in the island are scrambling for their survival, that one simple commodity called service excellence will make the difference. And we must not cushion the fall of those who would deviate from the path. The best lessons learnt are often the ones that cause pain.

The economic downturn of the early 1990s that resulted in hundreds of lay-offs ushered in an era of entrepreneurship. People feeling pain were forced to redefine themselves and their interpersonal relationships to survive.

The present economic slide has once again occasioned a necessity to seek opportunities that are tied into service. Gone is the concept that Government jobs are safe; that long service redounds into job retention; that work can be fulfilled without productivity.

Those who fail or refuse to provide world-class service to the customer whose verb does not agree with the subject, and whose white shirt appears as though once green, must be allowed to fall on their own sword. Not everyone is bound for Heaven. Barbados is part of the world; and the world has lost its innocence, its naivete. The time has long passed that our citizens should have to be convinced that the service they provide is not unique to them.

But we acknowledge that this is not Utopia. Fools will still rob and maim tourists; six of nine tellers’ booths at commercial banks will still be vacant at 11:30 a.m.; police will still reach an accident scene outside their station after an hour; parliamentary representatives will still drive through constituencies anonymously; CBC’s automated answering machines will play musical interludes for an hour without human intervention; and Sanitation Service Authority trucks will still make collections once a week in some depressed urban communities.

The future really rests with those taking the 11-Plus!

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