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STRONG SUIT: Tips to ensure promptness

Dennis Strong

STRONG SUIT: Tips to ensure promptness

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In a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality, many people look toward receiving a tip or gratuity. Indeed, many workers depend on tips to augment salaries that don’t quite meet their basic needs.
I wonder how many realize that the concept of a “tip” derives from the idea of ensuring promptness and was therefore given before the provision of services. Doing so signalled a certain belief that the provider was capable and committed to making it a worthwhile investment.
We are now faced with the reality that in most establishments, particularly hotels, a gratuity in the form of a “service charge”
is simply added to the customer’s bill. I can also confirm that service providers are disappointed and say disparaging things about guests who either question the practice or use this as an “excuse” to not provide a further tip.
It is worth noting that extensive research has been done on what customers perceive as quality, which is the gateway to customer satisfaction. Over the years, the ranking across multiple sectors has consistently been:
• Reliability: consistent delivery of what is promised.
• Responsiveness: being attentive in a timely, relevant way.
• Assurance: can be trusted if something goes wrong.
• Empathy: recognizes emotional factors that have personal implications.
• Tangibles: the appearance of what is being offered.
Price does not appear in these top five categories. The first two carry the most weight and engender trust.
Ironically, Barbados as a country seems to be taking the “mandatory service charge” approach compared to the way its service actually gets delivered. What we promise is ambiguous and renders reliability moot. Responsiveness (promptness) is similarly compromised.
What makes reliability so powerful is consistent performance over time, against a recognized standard. A good example is the game of golf where every hole that’s played has a score that is identified as “par”; as does the course. If one does not meet par, everyone knows. The player also knows where improvement is needed. Even the best players take golf lessons.
 We need look no further than the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) with its ambiguous mandate to make Barbadians “aware” of the importance of good service.
While NISE’s published ratings of service providers prompted some interesting discussions, many people I have talked to roll their eyes when NISE is mentioned as an example of Barbados’ commitment service excellence. They complain that the programme, with its extensive marketing, has not decreased their experience of poor service.
Responsiveness is questionable when it is almost impossible to get a timely response to a written enquiry; when people are billed and harassed for products and services that are intermittent or not fit for use; when there are long waits for emergency services; when predictable infrastructure breakdowns are the norm; when urgent business comes to a standstill because one person is sick, attends a funeral or is on vacation, and when levies are increased with no discernible return value.
Indeed, one must be “connected” to access what is advertised as available to everyone or be left “holding a rock” and “sucking salt”.
I have no doubt that you can add to this list. The point is, what message is this sending to our internal and external customers? How does affect our credibility and competitiveness?
• Dennis Strong is founding president at the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants.