Op-Ed: Jamaica’s Customer Service Crisis

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By Ramesh Sujanani
Op-Ed Contributor

About a week ago, my wife went into a store to make a purchase.

She explained what she needed to one of the attendants, who had to go back to another attendant, to explain what the item requested could colloquially be called, and where to look for it.

The confusion, both in language and delay in serving, was unnecessary.

I went to my bank at Constant Spring two or three days afterward, and found myself in a customer service line with five service desks, and learned only three tellers were present.

At the time, there were three customers, myself included, and three desks attended. I thought to myself, “I will be out of here in a few minutes.”

No such luck.

One of those being attended was having a long drawn-out discussion with one of the clients, so I became curious.

Looking across, there were no documents or papers, just talk. The second attendant was a young lady being quite friendly with her client, but, after a while, I suspected it was just chit-chat.

Still waiting, I saw one of the security guards, who came to me to ask “If I was getting through.”

When I asked him where the missing workers were, he responded:  “They have three now, and that is usually all they have every day. Some one or two are absent every day, customers or not.”

I was appalled. I have managed tellers in my lifetime, and they could not take a break once clients were waiting.

Not even for lunch.

No doubt an employer must ensure that there are sufficiently-trained employees to run the business, at all times, and customer service managers must be on the floor, vigilant for a breakdown in service.

How many times have you been on a phone with the message, “all of our agents are on the phone assisting other customers,” and you wait in vain.

Many employers do not train employees to use a telephone properly.

There is a utility company doing some road work just outside my gate. Their equipment and vehicles are not attended at 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM, even on Mondays, when everyone goes to work.

But bad agents lead to bad supervisors, lead to inadequate managers.

I had to change my pin number on a bank card recently, and went into a nearby bank to do so. The teller, after taking the card, verified the name, ID, address, telephone, account numbers on the card, and called her supervisor.

The supervisor, after greeting me by name, instructed her teller to call the bank that first issued the card, which, I thought, was an outrageous waste of my time.

I had to wait until the call was made to an appropriate person who would verify; it seemed that the verifier was a little peeved — at having a simple matter deferred so long (this was my third visit about the same matter).

All over Jamaica, in many companies that serve the public, there are exceptionally good reps, but there are many that don’t give a fig.

How do we adjust it? The customer must not be passive, but complain, to managers and other supervision.

We need to ask educators to see if a course in manners, ethics and customer service is possible in Jamaica.

Ramesh K. Sujanani can be reached at rsujanani78@gmail.com.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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