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Over 80 public service officers at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) were recently trained in Customer Engagement.

The training, organised by the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, through the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, was aimed at providing participants with key and critical skills necessary to provide excellent customer service at ports of entry.

BTMI’s Chief Product Development Officer, Marsha Alleyne, speaking on why the training was necessary, stated: “We say in our business that you never get a second opportunity to make a first impression and that first impression should be a good impression, so that it really sets the tone for the destination from the very beginning to the end.

“And what we wanted to do was to ensure that the two priorities, the priorities of health and the priorities of tourism came together so that the customer gets a fantastic experience, but we also ensure that the safety and health of the destination is paramount and is maintained.”

Trainer and Management Consultant, Rhonda Bryan-Hutson, who conducted some of the sessions explained that she focused on helping participants recognise that no one department is separate, they must all work together to give excellent service both to internal and external customers. She emphasised to participants that “it’s not what you say but how we say it and service excellence is in the details”.

Some of the information participants received during the sessions included how to improve their communication skills; the use of introspection when dealing with customers; being efficient in expediting processes; how to deal with difficult situations, and using a ‘toolkit of positivity” to turn the situation around, for example, take a deep breath before responding; use the person’s name when talking to them; maintain eye contact, and create an atmosphere of comfort.

Public Health Nurse Pamela Cummins, who shared her views on the training, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed this training.  The training in customer service was very important; it was very informative and detailed. My takeaway point from this training is excellence is in the details. We must be patient [and] we must be kind; without tourism we are nowhere and without our external customers we are nowhere.  This [training] can be used going forward because, in my line of work, I have to deal with customers on a regular basis.”

Another participant, BimSafe Technical Support Assistant, Niko Shepherd, shared that the training was very informative and beneficial. 

He explained that he learned a lot from the training and it helped him to understand that his job and the service he provides makes a difference in how visitors feel.

“Being the first contact for people coming into the island, it leaves a lasting impression and negative impressions are often more memorable than good ones, but good ones are still good to have….  I will use it (training) to help put myself in the place of the passengers, making sure that they understand the reason why things are the way they are, and helping them rectify certain situations in a calm manner,” Mr. Shepherd said. 

Prior to these sessions, officers from various departments, including the COVID-19 Unit, Immigration, Customs and Custodians based at GAIA, received the same training, which has been taking place periodically over the last year and a half. 

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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