Traditionally, during the first week of October, businesses worldwide celebrate Customer Service Week. So, as the President of the Customer Service and Customer Experience Professionals’ Group of T&T (CuSPTT), let me acknowledge this year’s edition, from Monday 5th to Friday 9th October, 2020.

The pandemic has not spared Customer Service Week, so worldwide, with the many business casualties, celebrations have been fairly low-key this year. Here, in T&T, Customer Service Week has not been a crowd-puller over the years. We do have some wonderful businesses that bring on the celebrations every year, but they are in the minority. Of course, the reason for our nonchalance is because service excellence has not been a deal-breaker, a make or break standard, or an imperative for doing well in business in T&T.

Possibly, until now.

We have shrinking markets, cautionary consumer spending, a growing multitude of “newbie digital customers” and more expanded customer expectations. In my opinion and the jury is still out on this one, customers have become more unforgiving of service failures and more forceful in their service demands of the businesses with which they interact. What I know, is that service excellence is on its way to becoming a deal-breaker, by force, for many businesses, some of which will fall victim to the wrath of the angry, distressed and powerful customer. May I remind, that often, this customer belongs to the burgeoning group of “post-happy customers” who do not hesitate to post and tweet their stories about poor customer experiences.

Remember those days when you would’ve been waiting in a line at a business place and all it took was one customer with a big mouth and an unapologetic attitude, to begin complaining about the long wait time and few attendants, to agitate the crowd? Invariably, some official would emerge, calm the situation and that would be the end of it. Now, those scenes are being filmed and posted. A far worse fate for the business, if you ask me.

So , in this subdued climate and in the aftermath of the first wave of pandemic upheaval, where businesses are trying to resettle on the way to the next normal, the question is “what can my businesses celebrate?” Well, why not celebrate the fact that you’re still on your customers’ go-to list of service providers?. Why not celebrate that your employees continue to show up and produce (for the most part, at least)? Most of all, why not celebrate that your business is still in the game?

This year’s theme is “Dream Team” and focusses on the tremendous job that great teamworking plays in the delivery of a great customer experience. When teamworking works, great things happen. Inefficiency goes down, care and consideration go up, service slip-ups go down because of greater care and attention and ultimately, customer happiness goes up.

This year’s theme, I believe, speaks to the power of cohesion over patchwork. A cohesive approach to achieving an objective or a goal, is far superior to a disjointed approach. Just think about the NBA finals. The two finalist teams are often equally matched in talent, but it is the team with the greater level of cohesion, that creates defence impregnability, elevates passing predictability and reduces errors, that wins the trophy.

When a cohesive engagement process impacts the customer space, complaints can sometimes go down to near zero level. When this approach is applied to the employee space, the odds of emerging a highly motivated workforce, where employees are eager to serve customers, go up. I know that Customer Service Week is only one week (imagine that, worked this math out by myself), so I’m thinking that if your business is going to give the teaming and cohesion plan a shot, then one week may not be sufficient to get it right. Maybe we can stretch this year’s theme across the entire month of October and really focus on mastering collective fluency so that it can drive solution fluency.

On a very personal note. Whilst I am exuberant in my professional life about customer care and service excellence, kindness and improving the way we, as humans, demonstrate care for each other, is my passion. I believe that when a business puts effort into creating a considerate employee community, when its purpose guides its operations and when its leaders create a safe psychological space for employees to flourish, magic happens.

That magic is a sense of care that is organic, heartfelt and real, with displays of concern that are not manufactured, bolted-on or cosmetically infused. The business becomes a living organism where all inhabitants can breathe, can flourish and can interact at their highest levels of output.

Am I speaking about some unreal, nirvana-like business? Absolutely not. Just one where people understand that the way in which they do things, is the way in which they will come to be known.

To all of Trinidad and Tobago, Happy Customer Service Week and Happy Customer Service Month from all of us at CuSPTT.