Caring for customers - Service in Jamaica not as bad as many claim
One of the island's leading customer-service representatives is challenging claims that Jamaicans are being served at standards that are less than others around the world.
Donnetta Russell, who as customer-care manager has led the National Housing Trust to the Best Customer Service Entity trophy in the Public Sector Customer Service Competition, on more than one occasion, says that the treatment of customers in Jamaica is not bad but it is inconsistent.
"I don't agree that it is bad, I believe we have got it right in some sectors and in some areas, but I believe that there is room for improvement and even within some businesses there are pockets of excellence.
"I believe that we do have a far way to go, but I believe that we have made some progress in the last 10 years," said Russell, who sits on the board of the Jamaica Customer Service Association.
"In the last 10 years, what I have seen happen in Jamaica is that people are now so much more aware of what good customer service is and they are more willing to hold people accountable to that," added Russell.
POTENTIAL TO BE EXCELLENT
She argued that despite people often comparing Jamaica to other countries when it comes to good customer care, Jamaicans have the kind of personality that goes with giving excellent service.
"I hear people talk about North America all the time, but I have been to North America, and I have received what I considered to be bad customer service. I believe that in our context, we are a lot more courteous than some people I have seen in North America," said Russell.
She argued that what needs to be done is to cause Jamaicans to understand the importance of being courteous to customers.
According to Russell, with a combination of proper recruitment and training, Jamaica will begin to see more favourable results across different sectors.
"We are not getting it right because of two reasons. I'm a firm believer that we need to hire the right persons in the right job. So I believe that it starts with recruitment, because if we find the right persons, then they begin with the right attitude and so the aptitude or the training will be much easier," said Russell.
"In terms of getting it right I believe that we are going to have to start at the foundation level. We will have to start at the formative years in school for persons to understand that customer service amounts to profitability in an organisation and so we have to train an entire generation that the service industry is vital for the growth of our country," added Russell.
The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has received several complaints relating to customer service over the years but there is not much it can do in that area.
"The general nature of the complaints include product malfunction, services paid for and not received, faulty goods, misleading and deceptive conduct, service interruptions, billing issues among others, " said Latoya Halstead, director of communications at the CAC.
"The general practise, however, is to determine if there was a breach of the Consumer Protection Act. Thereafter, the investigative process would vary dependent on the nature of the complaint filed," added Halstead.