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EDITORIAL – It’s your fault, boss

luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL – It’s your fault, boss

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THE National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) has been in existence for a number of years, and every now and then that agency issues favourable assessments of the level of service in Barbados.
Often we are stretched to find agreement with these assessments from a wide cross section of Barbadians. Yes, from time to time we see glowing accounts of good treatment expressed, in the Press mainly, by one or two persons. But it is never a deluge of compliments.
As a result, we feel that the country might as well face up to the fact that service here is broadly of an unsatisfactory level.
Our pessimism is not helped by the fact that last Sunday, in delivering a sermon to mark 32 years of the Barbados Defence Force, Reverend David Tudor lamented the low level of service in Barbados.
Using the word “courtesy” but clearly referring to what we Barbadians tend to call “service” (hence expressions like “They give really good service” or – more likely –  “The service in there is poor”), Rev Tudor bemoaned the poor treatment of customers. And he named names and recounted experiences (as numerous others can do over and over). His culprits: the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Immigration Department.
He encapsulated the whole unsavoury thing in the phrase “contempt for the common man”.
We have to agree that ordinary people are frequently denied good service.
While there is no doubt about the illness, we wish to humbly suggest that the wrong medicine has been prescribed.
People in workplaces are not giving bad service because they don’t know what good service is and therefore need to be trained. As the goodly reverend said: “Courtesy is taught in schools. It is taught I suppose at home. It is drilled into the staff engaged in private enterprise . . . .”
So where does the fault lie?
Yes, there seems to be a disturbingly short supply of personal pride in work and in conduct, twinned with the failure of many to seriously hold themselves accountable for good performance.
But what facilitates all this?
We feel that it is largely the inaction of employers and their proxies – supervisors. It is the fault, quite frankly, of the bosses. They, in many cases, do not make “service excellence” a vital element of doing business.
And so, workers on the front lines of interaction with the public know – almost universally in Barbados, it seems – that they can get away with treating customers badly. Neither their comfortable existence in their jobs nor their holding on to those jobs is made to depend on their performance in this critical area.
So while NISE with all the best intentions continues its hard uphill climb to, in many cases, nowhere (the phrase “rolling a big rock up a hill” seems quite fitting), the bosses have the suitable crane parked. And thus we are left with our steupses, our burning rage, our temptation to loudly use words that would make our mothers cringe.
It is a fact of life that people will engage in brinkmanship whenever the opportunity presents itself – they will try to get away with what they can get away with.
When they are inhibited, there is often a positive change in behaviour.
So, bosses must monitor their staff’s handling of customers – and firmly deal with transgressions.
They (not NISE) must make winning treatment of customers a non-negotiable responsibility of staff members.