Commentary: Examples of Poor Customer Service

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By Dr Neil Gosine

WHEN will our citizens be treated like human beings by public servants?

Everywhere we turn we see poor customer service but nowhere more so than the public service. It is time that the public servants realise that their job is to serve the people and not frustrate them. It is to provide a level of service that would exceed the expectation of the public. 

My recent experiences with various arms of the public service have forced me to put pen to paper. It is high time that the managers in the public service actually manage or go and plant peas in their gardens. 

Licensing office  – I visited the Licensing Office at Wrightson Road to conduct a vehicle transfer. Both the vendor and purchaser arrived just before one in the afternoon and were ninth in position. The wait was ninety minutes. I drove up to the inspection shed as instructed. The vehicle chassis number was verified and the documents taken and viewed by the clerk on the outside. We were told to go inside to see another clerk.

The documents were again inspected. The driver’s permit had the married hyphenated name and the identification card had only the maiden name. We were advised that they must match exactly. We then produced  a foreign driver’s license that matched. It seems that the public servant is there not to serve you, not to be helpful, but there to waste your time. The clerk advised that you cannot use two driver’s permits. The purchaser did not have her physical passport but had a photograph on her phone. The clerk again said that only an original was acceptable. At that point, after frustration had set in, the time was getting close to 3 pm. I just had to ask: Can the purchaser just come in the morning and bring the passport to conclude the transaction? 

The clerk responded that we would have to repeat the process of again joining the car line the next morning. It was only when the purchaser protested loudly did the clerk say that the purchaser alone could return the following morning to complete the transaction. To conclude the transaction took another two hours the following day. I feel certain that the staff at the licensing division must obtain a degree in obstruction before they can get a job there.

Bad customer service is when a customer feels their expectations are not met. This happens everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago. We see it at food establishments, we see it at TTPS, we see it at insurance companies, we see it at supermarkets and restaurants but we see it especially in our public service. They believe that they are doing you a favor, the poor customer service that includes long wait times, an automated system that makes it hard to reach a real human being to explain your problem, and having to repeat information multiple times over and over again. 

The poor customer service examples are: 

  • Lack of understanding your problem;
  • Rude customer service;
  • Difficult to reach a person; 
  • Keeping the customer waiting;
  • Not using the right channels; 
  • Poorly trained person with attitude; 
  • Lack of willingness to resolve the issue; and
  • Lack of human contact.

Who remembers that in early January 2024 a Woman Police Constable (WPC) attached to the St Joseph Police Station, whose terrible insensitive response to the victim of a house break-in caused widespread outrage, only because it was shared on social media? 

Only after the voice note was shared on social media, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher, had to do something and made a media release, condemning the officer’s sarcastic and inappropriate tone, and stated that unprofessionalism and poor customer service would not be tolerated in the TTPS. However, we have seen this happen again and again. It is sad to say but rudeness and uncaring attitudes are the order of the day. And often, there is no accountability!

There has been a tendency toward rudeness and abrasive attitudes to customers in our society for too long, where discourteousness, obscenity and violence outburst appear to have taken over in our society. Sometimes it is better to take a time out, take a deep breath and be calm instead of “cussing” back the person. Try responding with respect and calmness. We need to break the cycle of rudeness by allowing the other person to adjust their behavior. If this tactic doesn’t work, you can still be proud you didn’t go down the gutter to negativity and obscene language. However, for God sake let’s get our public servants trained in customer service because their attitudes are appalling. 

Neil Gosine is an insurance executive. He was appointed a temporary Opposition Senator and is also the treasurer of the UNC and a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.

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