Dr. Valda Henry

Dr. Valda Henry

This week, we begin our series on “Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service” and focus in this article on the definition of customer service.

The Institute of Customer Service defines customer service as the sum total of what an organisation does to meet customer expectations and produce customer satisfaction.  Alison Doyle defines customer service as helping customers satisfy the need that brought them into the store/company.  Another definition is that customer service is the practice of providing customers with a positive, helpful experience.

How many times have you gone into a business place and received a positive, helpful experience?  How many times have you gone into a business place and encountered persons who were committed to fulfill your expectations and ensure you were satisfied or delighted with the service? How many times have you gone into a business and had your needs met in the manner expected? We would like to hear from you.

People often complain about customer service in Dominica with many ranking it poor based on indifferent or bad attitude, lack of knowledge of the product or service offered, lack of appreciation of the customer and gossiping while ignoring the customer.  This reputation for poor service is incompatible with our reputation for hospitality.  We, Dominicans boast of our hospitality, and will cite the fact that we will give up our beds for a stranger or visitor to our homes; yet we cannot make the same boast with respect to customer service.  Why is that so?

The answer may lie in part because we often associate service with servitude.  People make comments like “Slavery done!” “I am not a slave”. Other reasons include disgruntled employees who believe that they are not paid to serve and that in giving poor service they are getting back at their employer.  Lack of proper or effective training also contributes to this attitude of poor service.  The reasons are not limited to the employees.  Employers in part are also responsible for poor service as the culture of the organisation determines the quality of service that is acceptable.  Since culture is determined at the top, owners and managers must also bear some responsibility for the poor customer service.

The customer is the most important element of a company’s success, for without customers, a company, no matter how beautiful its building, well trained and experienced its staff, cannot be successful.  If the customer is so important, why is it so many businesses and employees neglect the customer and take umbrage when they hear the old adage that, “the customer is always right?”   Why do they go to pains to show the customer is not always right, often citing examples of disrespect or whining?

Let us explore the concept of “the customer always being right.” It suggests that if we were in business to fulfill the needs of the customer, then we must identify the customer needs and wants and provide it.  It begs us to take a different, more proactive approach to customer complaints.  We should see the complaining customer as a goldmine of opportunities for that customer often challenges us to enhance the quality of the product and service we provide and directs us to new markets.  While disrespectful and rude behaviours from customers should not be condoned, we should determine the cause of that behavior.  We may find a problem with our processes, employees, goods or service, and thus discover the opportunity to make amends and possibly secure new markets.  If we believe that the customer is always right we are constantly in search of enhancing our service.  We will not accept mediocre service and we will be committed to delivering “Red Carpet Customer Service”.

Donna Cutting (2008)  sees “Red Carpet Customer Service” as a place where red carpets are rolled out for you, the customer, wherever you went, where people greeted you by name, with a smile and boundless enthusiasm.  A place where you feel loved, wanted and expected wherever you travelled.  Would you like to be in this place?

Next week, we delve deeper into the concept of “Red Carpet Customer Service”, applying it to our local context.