Tackling the Jamaican customer service dilemmaSunday, February 25, 2018
You walk into a funeral home to make the last arrangements for a loved one. You are heavy with grief. The funeral home rep doesn't ask you how are coping. Instead, he is insisting that you pick the colour of the casket because the
workers are busy.
Or you go into a hospital and a security guard pats you down, you take a number and sit down with no one speaking to you until, eventually, your number is called. You fill out a form and sit back down. No one inquires if they can help.
These are examples of customer service issues facing Jamaicans every day and cause companies and institutions to be less than the best they can be.
Yanique Grant has been in the customer service business for the past 10 years and is clear that poor customer experience begins with leadership.
“Customer service is not rocket science,” Grant explains, “It is based on how you treat me and how I treat you and the standards of such a dynamic comes from leadership.”
The challenge for leaders, Grant concedes, is that there is a “push-pull dynamic between employees and employers, so there needs to be included in the conversation on the importance of sales. Leaders need to sit down and have a conversation with employees about how increased sales trickle down to the employees. Leaders need to translate benefits into the lives of the people who help you to advance, you cannot achieve anything without employees”.
Yet, on the other side of the coin is knowing how to determine which employees are the ones a company should invest the time to train. And this is where Professional Training & Occupational Services Limited (PTOS) comes in.
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship (Branson Centre) introduced us to PTOS as one of its scale-ups and Grant, who is past president of the Jamaica Customer Service Association, shared her entrepreneurial journey and the opportunities and challenges that exist in the market.
Dennise Williams (DW): Labour productivity is a big problem for both the private and public sector. And a disengaged workforce is one of the manifestations of low productivity. How did this create an opportunity for your company to work with organisations seeking to fix this?
Yanique Grant (YG): Customer service/customer experience is a lifestyle. How we treat each other and the conversations that we have daily that drives our behaviour is what will determine the success and longevity of our businesses.
When I started this business, it was clear to me that the quality of the customer service experiences we have can be greatly improved — both as consumers and employees. Employees can feel so much better about the work they do and the companies they work for if they had the right type of leadership, coaching and guidance.
When you hire someone to work for your company, it is your direct responsibility to develop and grow that team member continuously. Training is not something that should be done every five years, humans require repetition and reinforcement for any change to occur.
Just think about when you exercise either to build up your energy levels to be fitter or even to lose weight — these do not happen overnight and even if they do — they are surely not sustainable.
DW: Speaking clear English for doing business is another challenge in the workplace. Many businesses bemoan that Internet English combined with patois results in terrible communication practices. What is your view on this and the solutions available to companies?
YG: Communication is the lifeline of any service experience regardless of the channel being used – social media, face-to-face, telephone. Sadly, instant messaging and the shortened words that a majority of employees may use will come across in their written communication unconsciously in a customer interaction.
Recruitment of the right talent is critical to break the trend. Ensuring that team members who may have direct responsibility to communicate with customers in written form have an excellent command of the English Language, so they do not exercise the bad communication practices.
Again, reminders and reinforcement of this from managers and supervisors to speak proper English and write proper English as well is important.
DW: Sales is the lifeblood of any business. Yet, most people view that as a function of the sales department. How can companies open the eyes of employees to create a sales focused enterprise?
YG: Sales is critical for any business success. However, leaders and/or business owners need to share with employees how increased sales will impact their lives. The buy-in from your employees is very important for the success of your business.
If the employees feel that when there is more money, nothing changes…my life does not improve…my working conditions have not changed…my salary has not increased…there is no upward mobility – then sales will be impacted greatly.
So, the business needs a plan, a mission, a vision, a set of core values. The business needs to translate what an increase in sales will mean for the employee because the number one thing the employee is thinking is “W.I.I.F.M.” which means; “What's in It for Me?”
If you can clearly show how their continuous input will result in an improvement in their lives and that the business has a vested interest in their success and their development just as much as it has a vested interest in meeting targets and growing — you will have a “Winning” result.
DW: You speak a great deal about the importance of leadership. With leaders pressured by their board of directors to meet targets, there isn't much room for hand holding of employees with challenging backgrounds. How can companies balance this reality?
YG: The 34th President of the United States of America, Dwight D Eisenhower, once said; “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do what you want done because he or she wants to do it.”
I strongly believe that the most important role of a leader is to grow and develop people. The leaders who spend 60-80 per cent of their time coaching and developing have greater results than those who spend 60-80 per cent putting out fires and doing operational activities like trying to fix a situation that has gone wrong.
As a leader, you must have a plan for the employee and if the plan does not work in terms of changing their behaviours and improving their performance and the quality of their interactions, then you must have a frank and honest conversation about the employee not being a good fit for your team and plan their exit strategy.
As a leader, you must know when to let go and when to keep holding on.
DW: In your professional experience, what role has the Branson Centre played?
YG: Its intervention in my business allowed for more structure, a better understanding of the big picture, a clear and executable growth strategy and the confidence to know as I go along that they are always willing to provide guidance and a clear path forward.
The international access that The Branson Centre affords entrepreneurs is also amazing because now you have access to people whom you never would have been able to connect with before, and this helps you the business owner to grow and of course it will also help your team.