Enhancing Worker Productivity Through Enhanced Customer Service

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The Productivity Council’s week of excellence attracted a wide cross section of government and private sector officials.

Inculcating a culture of work and service excellence within the Barbadian labour force was the focal point of discussion last Monday, during the opening ceremony of the Productivity Council’s annual week of excellence programme.

Under the theme: Engagement, Empowerment and Effective Results: Getting Employees & Employers to Deliver Excellent Customer Care, the event was held at the Grande Salle, Central Bank of Barbados, Tom Adams Financial Centre.

The session brought together representatives from the public and private sectors, who heard presentations from the government, private sector, the trade union movement and other agencies, on the importance of productivity and continuous assessment within in the workplace.

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, underscored the importance of the core values of professional ethics in the work place such as punctuality, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, delivering value for money and rendering excellence and compassionate service in the organisation.

While these are important attributes, he cautioned that this must be complemented with the requisite human resource tools to get the job done. "Therefore, our human resources must have the supportive environment, the tools and incentives to perform and this admonition applies equally to the private as it does to the public sector," he said.

Mr. Sinckler further stated: "The world is not waiting on Barbados, therefore, Barbados must not wait on the world.?? It is our job to ensure that we are leaders in productivity and excellence and not followers and observers on the sidelines."

Regarding the implementation of performance management systems in companies, the Finance Minister revealed that the findings of a 2009 KPMG study to measure the extent to which these systems were adopted locally, showed that while a high percentage of companies had implemented an incentive scheme, no more than 40 per cent had recorded any measure of success.

Even though it appeared that many of the schemes were implemented as part of a negotiation agreement with workers’ representatives, Mr. Sinckler argued that the study found that many of them had failed on account of inadequate managerial training.

Of equal importance he noted was that over 50 per cent of the employees interviewed, could not identify what were the incentives, had no knowledge of its link to productivity and how they as employees made any significant difference to the organisation.

"The study revealed much more, but these findings were instructive and provide useful lessons for all concerned, as many of these issues are replicated across Barbadian organisations.?? There is a failure on the part of management to communicate it’s vision for the company to one of its primary and most critical stakeholders – the employees.?? Without a vision a people perish and similarly, without information concerning the vision of the organisation, employees cannot contribute to making that vision a reality, Mr. Sinckler underlined.

Meanwhile, John Williams, who spoke on behalf of the private sector, called for a greater emphasis on customer service excellence.?? "…There seem to be so many contradictions when it comes to excellent customer care.?? We have amongst our hotels and restaurants, examples of truly world class customer service, and I am not just referring to those who are at the most expensive end of the spectrum.?? In fact, there are others who are willing to survive on mediocrity," he disclosed.

Mr. Williams further stated: "In our professions, we have dedicated individuals that are thoroughly up to date in their field and providing cutting-edge professional customer care.?? At the same time, others are willing to rest on qualifications garnered 30 years ago, buttressed by outdated protectionist legislation and rules which keep the competition at bay and their clientele unempowered."

He argued that within some government departments, there are some companies as indicated by the National Initiative for Service Excellence’s recent Customer Satisfaction Survey, which were given high marks for seeking change; whilst others resisted change and appeared to the users of their services to "put bureaucratic hurdles and delaying tactics in the way of their customers."

Likewise in the private sector, the official intimated that some companies offered excellent customer service, while others were contented with their existing business operations.

"It is clear that excellent customer service is possible in Barbados and we must ask ourselves why this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.?? There is no simple answer to this, but it is apparent that what we do need to start with is a clear message from the leaders of our society, that this is an essential national strategic objective."

In turn, President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Cedric Murrell, expressed disappointment with the island’s declining standards. "We are settling for too low a standard in this country.?? We are giving too much praise to mediocrity and we are sometimes, making those who seek excellence feel as though they were wrong to do so."

The participants also heard presentations from Chief Programme Manager with the Productivity Council, Anthony Sobers and Preferential Taxation of Productivity-Based Bonus Payments to Workers, which was researched by the University of the West Indies lecturer, Dr. Winston Moore and presented by his colleague, Professor Roland Craigwell.??

jwilson@barbados.gov.bb

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