I often hear the noise in the market that Bahamians do not support their own (local businesses) but maybe that’s because Bahamians don’t know how to serve their own.
There has been lots of emphasis placed on small business development in The Bahamas recently and I applaud the government that has been encouraging entrepreneurship and has even been providing funding and concessions for small businesses. However, I can’t help but question: Is there protection for the consumer? Is there a need for greater accountability?
Everywhere you turn some Joe is starting a business and in most cases it’s the same business idea as the Joe next door. So yes, small businesses are increasing in our community at an alarming rate but at whose expense?
One would think that since businesses have to compete in such a saturated market they would do their best to attain and retain customers with exceptional customer service. Yet, I am appalled at the nonchalant way in which we approach and respond to our customers. Customer service in The Bahamas has taken a nose dive. Service prices are at an all-time high while service standards are at an all-time low or are nonexistent. It seems the new norm for businesses is that customers are responsible to do the serving – the “they need me, I don’t need them” mentality.
What is most unfortunate, though, is that this is not isolated to any particular business type or sector. It is widespread. I am constantly disappointed as a customer, particularly over the last few months. I have even broken relationships with businesses where I have been a loyal customer for many years, and sadly those businesses did nothing to retain the business.
I recently encountered what I would refer to as my “service experience nightmare” as a first-time customer with a printing company. They appear to fall in that category where service standards are nonexistent. They showed no care to me as a customer, did not communicate effectively and simply refused to compromise. I had the opportunity to visit the office and walked away extremely displeased, to no concern of any of the attendants or the managers, who by the way refused to come out to address me directly, even after weeks of back-and-forth.
While there, I witnessed first hand the lack of care for the customer in the way another customer was being handled. To add insult to injury, I also learned during that visit that the business owner operates right out of that office. The sad reality is this was not an isolated incident. This is the culture of the business.
I would like to remind business owners that you do need the customer not only to survive, but to thrive particularly in such a small community. I implore business owners to take customer service seriously.
Make building good customer relations a priority for your business in 2019.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Connect yourself with a successful business mentor who has high customer service standards. This may help to develop both you and your business.
• Take customer service classes and incorporate regular customer service training in your calendar for you and your team.
• Recruit persons for your team who are passionate about exceptional customer service delivery.
• Continue to enhance your service delivery by soliciting regular feedback from customers. Be open to constructive criticism.
Remember the key to building any lasting successful relationship is loyalty. Apply these three principles that I refer to as the three Cs to help you build loyalty in your relationships.
Care: Show your customers that you care. Customers should know that they are valued. Show the customer that you are prepared to commit to the relationship by being responsive and follow through on all concerns to ensure an amicable resolution. Jesus said it best in the gospel of Saint Matthew 7:12 when he said: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them.” In other words give the kind of service that you want to receive as a customer.
Communication: Do your best to communicate clearly and concisely with the customer. Ensure you understand the customer’s request and are in a position to meet those expectations. Clearly describe the products and services that you provide so that the customer can determine if you are able to meet their needs and make an informed decision at that point. Clearly communicate costs and timelines and if there are changes in either, this should be communicated forthwith. There should be clear expectations on both sides. Too many relationships fail due to lack of communication.
Compromise: You have to be able to use discretion when serving. Be flexible enough to make adjustments where necessary. You should be able to give and take and sometimes that will mean giving up your right to please the customer. Be prepared to take an insignificant loss in order to experience long-term significant gain. You may have to allow a little cushion in your budget to accommodate that.
May God bless your business as you strive to put the customer first in 2019.
– Lady A.K. Wallace