“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Customer service excellence by far, is one of the most important elements of any business if they wish to be successful, and remain relevant in the public eye. Frankly, many employees in Roseau and environs have yet to get the memo.

With so many similar businesses popping up all over the place, one thing to truly raise your reputation and to set yourself ahead of the competition would be great staff interaction with customers. Sadly, my experiences indicate that this is at an all-time low here on island.  From restaurant servers to bus conductors, the service is bad and seems to deteriorating quickly.

By no means am I expecting anyone to be perfect, but I do expect a certain level of professionalism and service that I’m certainly not getting from most places that I attempt to do business with.  It is sad to say that I have refrained from re-entering several business places due to bad customer service. It is frustrating to me to see that some employees do not understand the value of the customer, so let me break it down.

If you are employed at an establishment, whether self-employed or otherwise, to pay bills and meet personal obligations you need money. To make money, you need persons to buy your product or service. In order for that to occur you need to build a reservoir of loyal customers.

Every time you come into contact with a customer will determine if they will return or not. One of the ways to encourage customer return is to provide them with quality customer service. With that in mind, there are particular characteristics and behaviors of employees that do not portray the most basic requirements of satisfactory customer service.

For instance, an unpleasant demeanor and a bad attitude will scare away many persons. I particularly hate it when I walk into a building and the workers look at me if their lives have taken a turn for the worst and I am the reason for it. I don’t want to say that I don’t care about people’s problems, but your problem should not become my problem. Service with a smile goes a long way, and if you look angry and speak to me in a hostile manner I am less likely to want to purchase anything from you.  For me, this happens most often at check outs. The cashier either gives me the death stare, sizes me up or has a blank dismissive expression and continues to stare at me until I ask for my total – talk about uncomfortable.

Along with that, many stores seem to have ghost employees. There have been numerous instances where I’ve stood in the middle of a business place and asked out loud: “Does anybody work here?” Only to find the employees huddled in one corner of the store, or at one desk gossiping or talking about God knows what, oblivious to the fact that you’re standing three feet behind them. When I dare to ask a question, such as, “Where can I find such and such an item?” The response is usually: “ Over there” or “ At the back” or, “Ask her she’ll help you.” Usually, I have no idea over where to look or which spot at the back or who is the ‘her’ more capable of helping me than the person I already asked.

Restaurants in particular seem to have the problem of not being able to adapt to the needs of the customers. Yet, it is very simple. All we ask is that you pay attention to what it is that we are asking for, and try your best to follow through. So, if I can’t have a lot of sugar, and I ask you for a glass of juice with no sugar, and you tell me “well is juice with sugar we have” I will just take my money to another business place either willing to make me a glass of sugarless juice or who already cater to my needs. Additionally, if you make a mistake with an order or the like, I feel that it is best to rectify the situation ASAP instead of trying to let me pay for your mistake. For example, if I enter a restaurant and I want a fish salad and you give me a chicken salad, you shouldn’t ask me if I still want the fish salad (because obviously I didn’t want a chicken salad) and I should not be charged for something I didn’t ask for.

Lack of professionalism and competence is another area where customer service representatives are lacking severely. How is it that I walk into an establishment and none of the floor staff can provide any assistance, because according to them, “I don’t know about that.” How can you have three to six employees clueless about the very products and services that their company provides? And why is it that it takes a million years to be directed to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about? This I find irritating, especially if the person starts acting up like watermelondra from the block and is not very professional with their approach.

Bear in mind that not every customer will openly complain to staff or management about their dissatisfaction with an experience, but they will rant about it on social media and with other people. Therefore, your business will be at a greater risk of receiving a negative reputation and loosing many customers. To direct the odds in your favour, it would make sense to first, hire persons who are either cut out or willing to provide great customer service. Also, to continually train staff so that they are competent, professional and are in a great position to quickly meet the needs/demands of the customer.

In the end it all boils down to this, what I want and I think many other people want are better interactions with staff. Give us a smile, ask us if we need help, sound like you know what you’re talking about, pay attention to what we ask for, own up to mistakes and try your best to fix it and for heaven’s sake – be professional about it.

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