Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Short Blurb about Customer Service

Some time ago I stopped in the supermarket in Barbican to pick up a few items, while in the line I noticed the cashier with the most miserable grumpy look on her face… I started wondering why is customer service so bad in Jamaica, what could possibly make this woman so unhappy and upset.

Then I started to observe the customers and I quickly realized why this woman was so upset and unhappy. Jamaican Customer service providers and customers are locked in a vicious circle of dislike, the poor girl had to suffer one disrespect and abuse after another and it did not matter the economic status of the customers. So it seems customer service providers go to work and before they face the customers put on the “do not mess today face” to combat the onslaught of verbal and physical abuse that they must deal with on a daily basis. On this particular day I decided to do the opposite, when it was my turn I walked up to her with a big “Good morning my love, how are you today” and a smile. The animated change in her face and mannerism was amazing, priceless, first it was shock as she was taken aback, then realization, after which she had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, as she responded “I am fine thank you, how are you doing?”. We chatted a bit about the day while she rang me up and said our good byes while wishing each other a wonderful day.............

I went to a Government office downtown, it was pack, noisy and unruly as one man shouted at the girl behind the counter... “Hey dutty gal, yu foot dry so, yu naw come serve man!” … to the laughter and agreement of the crowd… I stood there in silence with a disapproving look on my face with my papers in hand. The girl walked up to the counter and called me forward... “How can I help you today” and before I could answer the same man unleashed a string of verbal attacks which she ignored like a true champion, I conducted my business and exited the office leaving him cussing like a drunken sailor..........

My first job on leaving school was working for the Government dealing with customers so trust me when I say that Jamaicans are not the easiest people to deal with. Most have a master/slave relationship with customer service providers in which they are the masters and the provider are the slaves who should take any amount of abuse, because they think the customer is always right. Then there is everyday common manners and courtesy which most lack, no pleasantries, just rude, papers thrown on desk or at the person. One of my co-workers at the time got spat on, flush right in her face simply because she dared to tell a customer to wait a bit.
Goa'uld System Lord
Apep, The Serpent God
Brother of Ra

Evil Bad Guy!
Think of Customers Service Providers and Customers like a “Goa'uld” (pronounced “go-AH-oold”) from my favorite science fiction TV show Stargate SG1 (Yes I am a Geek), with each person having two different individuals sharing the same body, one aggressive and rude the other passive, kind and polite. Then just before they interact with customers, they consciously gives control over to their aggressive “Goa'uld” personality as a mean of self-preservation, a kind of fright or flight response mechanism. Customers must put on their game face thus hulking out to deal with service providers and service providers do the same before they approach the counter. I saw it first hand with my co-workers, they are nice and normal in the back room and before they exit to start their shift of Customer servicing they tranforrm!!! Like Mumm-Ra in the Thunder Cats or Dr. Bruce Banner into the Hulk…

It does not take much to change the customer service experience and customers must realize that they are just as responsible for the kind of service they get and the kind of service we are given and service providers must try harder to be indifferent to aggression, like water off a ducks back stick to the script of being nice, polite and attentive to customers and try to defuse any tension that may build up between both of you....Jah know the alternative is not worth the bother.

Customer No Service

  • At JFK I gave the man two dollars American to carry my bags to the check-in counter, he said thank you and put the money in his pocket. At Norman Manley airport I gave the man five dollars American to take my bags out to the curb, he took one look at the $5.00 and gave it back to me, saying that it cannot buy anything and if that was all I was going to give him. I gladly took back my money, put it in my pocket and told him thanks for helping me with my bags. The man at JFK understand the concept of one one cocoa fill basket much more than the man at Norman Manley who wants an already filled basket from each person.

  • I had a wedding to attend one Saturday morning and realized that I needed to buy a pair of socks. So at 9AM I drove down to the plaza near manor Park to see if I could get a pair. When I got to the store it was closed and because the wedding was at 12:00 noon, I decided to wait.  At around 10:45 a lady came to open the store but I decided to wait another 10 minutes to give her a chance to settle in before I enter.  I went in and look around but could not find any socks, by this time she was on the phone, I said “excuse me, do you have any socks” with the phone still pressed to her face she said “Ova deh so!” with a motion of her head, so I went “Ova Deh so” to see if I could find it but still no socks. After a while I said “excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I could not find any” and with an annoyed look on her face, she told the person on the phone to hold on, then said “So hold on, is want, you want me to go ova Deh So and show you?.. “.  With more detail instructions and searching I was able to find the socks but it was not “Ova Deh So” as she first instructed.  I really should have walked out of the store and go elsewhere but it was almost time for the event.  Most businesses would do a lot better if the right customer service practice was in place but most Jamaicans feel that their employers do not pay them enough to turn up, much less to care.

  • I was talking to a friend about customer service and good business practices at which point a certain food place came up. I stated that it takes the entire lunch time just to get to the counter to place your order.  In this particular place the manager behaves like the cashier or the cooks, happy go lucky, Jokes and fun to be had. The cashiers spend most of their time talking to each other and playing around with the back room staff than taking and placing orders. In most cases they almost always get your order wrong and at times you end up at work with someone else’s order. One would think that the manager would put in place a better system to deal with the lunch time crowd. My Friend then declares that sometimes it is the customers who are slow.  Here he outlines the following conversation between the customer in front of him and the cashier:

Customer: "How much for di oxtail?”
Cashier: “Large or small?”
Customer: -"Large"
Cashier:  $8
Customer: "Dat come with rice and peas?”
Cashier: -Yes
Customer: “How much for the small one ?"
Cashier: -$6
Customer: "Ya have stew chicken?"
Cashier: -mm hmm
Customer: "What di small plate look like?”

(Cashier walks to stack of plates to point to the small plate
The thing that bothers me is there are only two plates stacked up

Customer: "It come with plantains?”
Cashier:-Which one, the oxtail or the stew chicken?
Customer: "Di Oxtail"
Cashier: -Yes
Customer: "All rite den, Make mi getta small oxtail, and a carrot juice"
Cashier: - what size carrot juice? Small, medium or large ?
Customer: - "How much for di small one

(Now not to drag this one but we go through a question and answer session with the cups about price and size. Yes, there are THREE stacks of cups again, in size order.  Now homeboy’s cell phone rings ....... he answers.)

Customer: "Yeah man whattagwan ?
Customer: "Me here at Mckenzies gettin some food."
Customer: "Hold on, lemme ask her ....

Customer: Miss , how much fa di Jerk chicken ?
Cashier: - What size?
(At this point I’m ready to box the dude in his head!)

  • Given the choice between bad customer service in Jamaica and raciest customer service I would take bad customer service any day, I remember entering clothing store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and immediately picked up two tails, who followed me everywhere I went or entering the supermarket and being asked continuously where certain items were even though the staff wears a uniform. A situation that was to be repeated many time in the United States, again no "excuse me, do you work here?" just the assumption that you must work here. 

Thank you for visiting, please do come again and have a wonderful day.

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