As a small developing nation with an open economy that is subject to the vagaries of an increasingly competitive global environment, Barbados must improve its service standards considerably if it is to realise its potential.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, put it bluntly when he said that too often when it comes to service levels in both the public and private sectors, Barbadians and visitors alike were often forced to settle for mediocrity. He noted that these negative factors were hurting Barbados??? chances to earn revenue.
His comments were made recently when he addressed a presentation ceremony hosted by the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries (BCSI) to release a study of the Professional Services Sector in Barbados at its headquarters on the Harbour Road. The study was undertaken by consultants Alison Rice and Alison Holder of Kaizen Business Development Inc. with funding provided by the European Union.
Mr. Inniss pointed out that approximately 68 per cent of Barbados??? national economic activity resided in the very diverse services sector. He said that fact should make persons ???stand up and realise the importance of the sector to the economy and society.???
Emphasising this point, he recalled that in Barbados, at times, with respect to customer service, there was often no sense of urgency by the service provider.
Moreover, he added that the common courtesies that are taken for granted, such as saying, ???Thank you???, ???How can I help you,??? were often nonexistent.
In addition, there is often little eye contact, or attempts to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer. In fact, some service providers conduct transactions while engaging in conversations with others without even acknowledging the customer who is waiting to be served.
???There are, of course, many opportunities that we must grab hold of. But I am very concerned that if we in Barbados do not separate service from servitude we???re going to continue to beat ourselves up and complain to one another,??? Mr Inniss lamented.
It is worth noting that Barbados and other CARICOM states have signed a number of agreements and thus must comply with international regulatory standards, since the country and the economy depend heavily on the services sector to earn foreign exchange.
Services can be in the financial sector, legal arena, medicine, or hospitality, among others. Given Barbados??? lack of natural resources, vulnerability to external forces and impact of the global economic environment, the country has to get it right the first time or it will continue to lose much needed capital.
In order to do so, Barbados must develop its human resources to make it more of a knowledge-based, skills-intensive services economy, bolstered by the traditional standards of pride and industry and family centred values.
The Kaizen study revealed that Barbados had a surplus of doctors and lawyers, but needed more persons to specialise in the sectors that were developing. These were identified as smart energy and alternative energy, engineering, offshore pharmaceuticals, international business, and health and wellness.
Other areas that were growing included education, which was said to be the second largest developing market after health care at US$4.5 trillion, and information technology (US three to four billion dollars); along with the creative Industry, pharmaceuticals, agriculture-(agro-processing, biotechnology, hydroponics) and sustainable land use and planning.
Consultant at Kaizen Business Development Inc. Alison Rice, said that more linkages needed to be made with the creative sector, which, she stated was valued at US$172 billion, with much of that amount representing products.
She said that with respect to the tourism sector, Barbados should try to tap into the South America market since that area was growing.
She also emphasised the need to strengthen the linkages between tourism and health, noting: ???With the growing older population in the developed world as well as the local expertise that we have here in medicine there are strong connections that can increase our competiveness in health and tourism. The health and wellness sector is valued at US$27 billion and it is poised to meet the trillion dollar mark in 2017, it is something that we can capitalise on here in Barbados,??? she disclosed.
Ms. Rice pointed out that foreign exchange could be saved by using more local furniture in the tourism sector and said Bajan clay could be used for facials and the Bajan Cherry processed into powders or elixirs and included as vitamins.
Furthermore, she suggested that even cowitch, which is considered a nuisance, but is found in abundance locally, could be used for medicinal purposes to treat Parkinson???s disease or as an antidepressant.
She stressed that persons should be encouraged to pursue areas that would promote Barbados??? growth, adding that managers had a vested interest to make sure that persons with potential to ???move up the ladder??? were mentored. This, she noted would ensure the survival of the business.
So, if Barbados is to climb out of the recession, all stakeholders must capitalise on the opportunities that are available, be able to predict and adapt to market demands and re-tool to meet these trends. An enabling environment that drives growth, minimises waste and, improves service standards at all levels, must be paramount.