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Putting the customer back on the throne

Published:Saturday | May 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
One core principle of customer service is as important for the bag juice vendor as the corporate empire: The customer is king.

Donnetta Russell, Guest Columnist

The Jamaica Customer Service Association (JaCSA) commends Robert Lalah for using his column to begin the much-needed conversation on customer service in Jamaica in The Gleaner of Monday, May 7, 2012. In the article, he hammered home his point that the customer has been dethroned, citing a number of experiences where he was offered less-than-desirable service in recent times.

It is natural that Mr Lalah would despair, based on the deplorable service which some customers receive. However, the JaCSA, a 10-year-old organisation, will not yield in its quest to raise service standards nationally, and wants to assure him that there are simple steps which we can take as a nation to ensure that "poor customer service does not remain like a thorn permanently lodged in the nether regions of the Jamaican consumer".

It is against this background that we share five simple actions with your readers that can yield huge results.

1. Business operators and public-sector bodies: The quality of customer service does not exceed the quality of the people who provide it. As a nation, we cannot get away by paying the lowest wage, giving the fewest of benefits, and doing the least training for our employees. This deficiency will show. We should, therefore, invest in the people who serve our customers.

2. It is no secret: People will treat your customer the way they are treated. Employees take their cue from management. Do you greet your employees enthusiastically each day? Are you polite in your dealings with them? Do you try to accommodate their requests? Do you listen to them when they speak? Think about it. Consistent rude customer service is a reflection not as much on the employee as on management. Now look around at the businesses that offer excellent service and think about the leaders of those businesses.

3. Are your employees properly trained in how to handle a customer complaint or an irate person? Give them guidelines on what to say and do in every conceivable case. People on the front line of a situation play the most critical role in your customer's experience. Make sure they know what to do and say to make that customer's experience a positive, pleasant one. You should also be visible as a manager and prepare yourself to respond to the customers' need.

4. Want to know what your customers think of your company? Ask them! By creating avenues to receive feedback, you prepare yourself to specifically meet and exceed the needs of the customer. After all, they are the reason you are in business.

5. Mr Lalah's lament focused on the most important tip of all, and the one that all employees in every Jamaican organisation needs to weigh in on.

It is the golden rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Employees everywhere must establish their own customer service brand. It is this simple: I give great service, I demand great service. You offer good service, I offer good service, we offer good service and there will be better customer-service delivery in our country.

Customer service is that discipline that is an important component of ALL professions. Let's now play our part in advancing the welfare of everyone we serve today.

Donnetta Russell is president of The Jamaica Customer Service Association. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jacsassociation@cwjamaica.com.