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LEFT OF CENTRE: Service providers need a hand

Cheryl Gittens

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Service excellence in Barbados is possible once we identify the key steps that must be taken to move any dream forward. The key question is, how do we turn dreams into reality?
 Firstly there must be a vision which must be shared and bought into.
Secondly and key is that companies and Government agencies do not deliver service. People do.
 Thirdly, people must specifically be told what excellent service is – why they need to deliver it, why they should want to deliver it, how to deliver it, when they have met standards of excellence – and they must be rewarded by some symbol that evokes pride and re-engages their desire and commitment to experiencing delivery of excellence to others.
The National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) is strategically placed to assist Barbados in making service excellence a reality. As the holder of the vision, NISE leads capacity-building for global competitiveness by developing excellence as a competency. NISE paints the picture of what we as a nation aspire to as excellent service providers.
The bigger challenge of course is earning buy-in by demonstrating how citizens are disadvantaged at the local and global level when they fail to be excellent.
Unfortunately, being a small open economy in a global market with potential for losing market share is an insufficient motivator, as it appears to be a distant phenomenon as service providers go about their daily routines.
This is why and where people must be invited into the picture. Each of us has dreams that we work towards each day. Many of us know when we are performing or underperforming.
At the individual level, Barbadians identify with excellence. Yet the fact that we have an institution dedicated to helping us reach excellence, betrays our wavering efforts to move towards excellence. We all want to experience excellent service. We know it when we feel it, but often settle for less.
Yet the response to this apparent inertia remains typical and heuristic: train people, measure and reward success, benchmark, monitor and report.  
A paradigm shift is needed in our response and in our people. How do we get people to understand that poor service affects them personally while answering, “What’s in it for me?”
The missing piece is connecting that knowledge to their attachment to their personal dreams.
Motivating people requires connecting with their goals at the level where they care deeply. Their criteria are unique.
It means that in addition to enabling structures, systems, programmes and messages, shaping excellence must include the challenging process of helping each service provider connect their dreams to their company’s and their nation’s dream.
While we train to meet standards of service without defects delivered in a timely manner and with care, excellence will digest more easily once people feel they have a stake.
This can then be reinforced by symbols of excellence reported by NISE’s recently launched customer service index as more businesses and agencies are indexed.
A Zagat-style shingle on a Barbadian business door can mark real excellence and act as a motivator to continue delivering excellence.