Why is EXCELLENT customer service so elusive?

I honestly don’t think people realize it WHEN they’re doing it but it’s a shame with all the knowledge about excellent service = excellent profits that the service experience ratio seems to be one great experience to every one hundred bad.

Just to make sure that I was using the correct word I checked the definition for elusive.

1. hard to find: difficult to find or catch

2. hard to pin down: difficult to understand, define, or identify

3. hard to remember: not easily called to mind or memory

I think the three definitions summarizes what is happening in Trinidad and Tobago today.

Excellent customer service is NOT a consistent phenomenon. It fluctuates between a 1 (horrible) to a 10 (excellent) depending on the person you interact with at a particular company.

Can we then conclude based on the results that perhaps business owners and employees find it hard to pin down or describe and as a result don’t easily call it to mind?

The thing is it starts with individuals.

I have found professional service providers – electricians, plumbers, yard maintenance folks, joiners, air condition repair men and painters for example interesting in the way the way they operate. You almost feel like they hold you to ransom because you do need to get whatever it is attended to and because everyone in their niche is usually unreliable, you should be happy that they show up. Forget that they sometimes show up without the right tools or without telling you up front ALL of what you’re supposed to get so somewhere mid job they will have to stop progress and wait while you furnish THEM with the additional material and then when they leave – they leave you with a huge mess to clean up.

Then there are the companies that have several branches. You go looking for something at branch X and don’t get it. The person you’re dealing with tells you that perhaps there West Mall branch or their Trincity branch has it. And there ends what I guess they think is great customer service. Erm – could they not call and find out for you like RIGHT AWAY?

Or you buy something at a branch in Trinidad to be shipped to the branch in Tobago for collection and when you call the branch in Trinidad they tell you to call Tobago. And when you do call Tobago, you hear the receptionist wondering aloud (while you can still hear of course) “She say she call Trinidad and dey say to call Tobago. Why dey tell she to call we? Steups.” You then have someone else take over the call who  appears to be the manager of the store and you think stupidly that it should get better but it doesn’t because when you explained that you were told that you should get the goods by Tuesday/Wednesday by the Trinidad store and it’s Friday she then tells you about all the problems with the boat between Trinidad and Tobago.

Now since they KNOW that there is only one boat sailing at the moment, shouldn’t delivery times be given based on this information? Well clearly not. The manager then says that it would probably come tomorrow to which you say “will you call if my order isn’t on that shipment?” To which the manager replies “well that’s what I do. I follow through to the end.” Really? Erm – who initiated the call in the first place?

Or what about the luxury hotel I visited recently in down town Port of Spain. Asked for a Sapporo (Japanese beer) was bought a Carib, told the girl serving that I asked for a Sapporo, only for her to return to say “no Sapporo” so I end up taking the Carib but then when my bill comes – Mr. Sapporo is on it AND before I could explain to her the error, when she saw me approaching bill in hand, she knew it was the Sapporo charge I was talking about because she acknowledged it before I TOLD her anything!!!!

The solution most say is training. I don’t think so. Most people have been trained. But if the manager is not an example, what’s left for employees?

Many people think customer service is about smiling and being polite. So I guess as far as they’re concerned – what more do you want?

I think we need to eliminate the label customer service altogether.

Maybe we should get down to basics: caring, respect, taking responsibility. Perhaps we may be able to integrate these principles more readily and practice them than continue striving after the elusive customer service.

photograph from http://www.stvnhp.net

One response to “Why is EXCELLENT customer service so elusive?”

  1. Perfect! This article should be published everywhere in T&T, send it to the Managers lol certain text in this article should be highlighted as well to place some emphasis, to make it easy for them to read and hopefully grasp!

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