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A lot to learn about real customer service

Customer service is a phrase loudly touted in all businesses and in government around this country, but many times we are forced to ask: do we really know what that phrase means? I seriously doubt it. Many establishments do in fact have customer service representatives, but I am yet to see them practising real customer service.

You may ask why I chose to write about the subject. Sometime ago, my wife took me to Grand Bazaar shopping centre. I must confess I am not into shopping. We walked around for a while, then we hit upon a large new store at the southernmost point in the mall. The store is huge and has something to do with a coin. It is well-stocked and had a lot of customers for a weekday.

We entered the store. There was a young woman at the door, which she did not open but occasionally she greeted the customers and handed out sales literature. She was wearing a uniform with the sign ‘Customer Service’. Realising Joan would be spending some time in the store, I wanted to sit. I saw an empty stool, approached a security guard and asked whether I could use it. He did not know and referred me to the same woman at the entrance.

She said she did not know and had to ask a supervisor. All the while I was standing. She came back to say ‘yes’, but told the guard to tell me. I said it was alright, I would continue to stand. My wife had come to spend money in the establishment and to sit on a stool – customer service – she had to seek permission to allow me to sit.

Then it hit me. I looked around and realised that such a huge store did not have any facilities to accommodate the aged, the infirm nor tired customers. This situation prompted me to look around the ‘Bazaar’ and there is no real facility for resting tired feet. So apart from the store(s) not providing seating, the ‘Bazaar’ itself did not provide any rest areas as is done in the US, Canada and several parts of Europe.

A few days ago, a store in the ‘Bazaar’ delivered a freezer to my home and when asked to take the carton, the deliveryman said matter-of-factly they don’t do that, so it was left to me to get rid of the garbage. Is this customer service? I should think not. It was a Friday afternoon, probably the last delivery before the ‘lime’. And I believe it was a contract arrangement because the driver sat in the truck after the drop off.

It made me wonder whether the owner(s) of the various plazas all over the country knew or understood what proper customer service/customer satisfaction means. The key to good customer service is building good relationships with your customers; thanking the customer and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment to ensure that they leave with a great impression.

According to author Rick Suttle, customer service skills means representatives are professional and can communicate effectively. But in Trinidad and Tobago, are they? Let our business owners and managers know they still have a lot to learn. Take it from someone who put down his pen for a while and was a Customer Service Manager for Sears and Roebuck in a corporation which had 16 stores