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Thursday, October 21, 2010


It’s A Foolish Dog

It is sometimes dangerous to listen to Observer Radio in the early morning whilst getting ready for work and visiting the toilet. One may have to make a clear distinction between the action of listening and the action. It does require some degree of aural as well as intestinal fortitude. It cannot be that we are having a problem with customer service in tourism because we do not understand the value of tourism. Let us flush that nonsense. The fundamental problem is that we do not understand customer service within and without tourism. We are not generally courteous to each other, full stop.

St. Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica seem to have got something right. I suggest that that “thing” is not just training in customer service. Institutional training must be surrounded and embraced by a sense of national self and national pride. Years ago, on a visit to St. Lucia, I saw sections of the news on television read in patois. In Antigua and Barbuda part of our television news is read in Spanish and a few years ago some man went up his fundament by conducting part of the Independence Service in Spanish.

Barbados was once laughed at as Little England. The Barbadian seemingly made a quantum leap from little England to big Barbados. Quantum leaps are not impossible. Decades ago, when I went to the Catholic Church on Church Street, I was not at all impressed by the Latin and ornate worship. Years later, I suggested to someone that the church had made a quantum leap and had become truly catholic and almost a clap-hand church.

Sadly, Antigua and Barbuda is known as a country where “anything goes”. We can train as many people as we can and invite as many customers service trainers to tell us what we know and what we do not know. This training will work for a while but until we understand and tackle customer service as a national problem, and not just a tourism or job problem, we will continue to spin top in seawater. You do not tell a worker in tourism or in any other business to smile if you really want them to smile, you tell them to be pleasant.

It is indeed a foolish dog that barks at a flying bird (as Mr. Bobby reminded us). That flying bird is the tourist. Those who come in contact with the tourists are not the real foolish dogs. Workers do have responsibilities and many are found wanting. But it is the awful lack of clarity of the fundamental cause of the problem and hence our approach to the solution that is utterly foolish.

Dr. Lester CN Simon-Hazlewood