Making doing business easier

I believe we all agree that if we make doing business in Barbados easier, we will encourage more new businesses and attract much needed foreign investment into the country. Most of the time we criticize Government for not facilitating business, but this week I came across two instances where private sector businesses did not make it easy to do business with them.

On Sunday we went to a sports bar for lunch and my daughter wanted blackened fish but did not want either of the choices of sides that went with it. There was grilled sweet potato on the menu as well for an additional $5 and she asked if she could substitute that since she wanted neither macaroni pie, fries or baked potato (I think was the other option). Having worked in retail in Canada, where the customer is always right and you go out of your way to accommodate them, she was in disbelief when she was told it wasn’t possible, and asked to see the manager or supervisor.

Sure enough the supervisor came and confirmed that it was not possible to substitute the sweet potato for anything else. Her explanation was that the menu was fixed and therefore she couldn’t change it, or something that made no sense, but then proceeded to offer cooked vegetables instead. We were all dumbfounded because we couldn’t understand that logic. My daughter eventually took the vegetables and still ordered the grilled sweet potato, which we paid for.

Now I don’t know how much it cost the restaurant for the few pieces of potato that came, maybe the cost was in the grilling, but the fact that there was no room for negotiation, no desire to work with the customer to ensure their satisfaction was eye opening. We have been to Primo (for example) on several occasions and when my daughter has asked for a menu item to be changed to something else (for example sweet potato mash instead rice), it has never been a problem. For them, customer experience is obviously of more importance than for the sports bar.

If we as locals found that unacceptable, I am sure that tourists who are accustomed to expecting the customer to be always right and for companies to make doing business with them easy, they would have been less than impressed. All the impressions count when we are trying to make Barbados the destination of choice.

Later in the week I decided to use the points on my loyalty card to make purchases. I had had the card for quite some time and had never used the points accumulated. Well, I am beginning to wonder if that is a strategy the company employs to save money because after several tries I still haven’t been able to use the points. First of all, I got my card activated in the store and I went home and was able to go on the website and see how many points I had accumulated. I had gotten the customer service person to convert my points and she said she would call me in twenty minutes once the transaction was completed to let me know, but she must have forgotten. Fortunately I was able to see the conversion online for myself. I wasn’t told that I also needed to download an App in order to convert points in the future.

Well I figured that I now had cash on my card so another day I went back to the supermarket and tried to use my card but it did not go through. On going back to the help desk in the store, I then discovered that I would need to download the App for future conversions and I was told that my money had not been posted to the card. I’m not sure if it was because I turned off the auto-redeem button when I was on the site. Anyway, my cash is somewhere in cyberspace and three days later it hasn’t been posted to my account yet.

What I find amazing is that the App does not tell you how much cash you have available. It shows all your transactions and how many points you convert to cash but in order to know how much cash you have available, you have to keep a running total in your head or call customer service each time you want to verify the amount. How inefficient! You mean to tell me that a little more money couldn’t have been spent to properly develop the App so that you can also see how much cash you have on the card? What is more, if your purchase is for more than the available cash, the card will be declined. It does not seem to have the option to take off all the money and then let the cashier charge for the difference.

Technology is supposed to make life easier, but give me back my reward cheques any day. In the good old days, you would get a paper statement showing your transactions and a cheque attached to it every quarter. But then again, that meant not being “green” and it also meant that the money you accumulated actually got spent back in the supermarket. As I said, maybe the online strategy is for more than saving paper.

If I, who am fairly savvy with technology and use it every day, am having such problems just spending the money I have accumulated, how much more so my mother and people her age who probably don’t even know what an App is or how to download it. Granted they can go to the desk and have the conversion done for them, but who has time to wait around for that? I plan to carry out a survey to find out how many people actually use the points they have accumulated on their card.

I have to say that I was surprised that the reward is quite generous, at 10% of the purchases, but perhaps the generosity can be afforded because using it is so onerous that most people don’t even bother. However, I’m sure that will change when the full effect of the NSRL is felt. I honestly think that both companies and government departments should be customer-driven with the ultimate goal of making doing business easier. Once that is achieved, doing business in Barbados will be better and the country will be a more attractive investment and destination option.

Source: (Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme and was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016). Contact her at;

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