The trinidad Guardian / There are certain customer service skills every employee must master if they are interacting with customers.

Without them, employers run the risk of their business slowly losing customers as they migrate towards a superior level of service.

Believing that the time had come for a new era of customer care in T&T, Dawn Richards said it was important to differentiate between customer service and customer care transformation which is what her business, DRA Consulting is all about.

According to Richards, her purpose is to work with organisations to help them improve their service to a world class level.

She said, “Customer care transformation is very different from customer service training. It is a culture shift. Service delivery has to be more than just smiling with customers.”

Seated in her office which is discreetly tucked away at Henry Pierre St, Woodbrook-Richards, defined world class service as a cohesive blending of an organisation’s human resources, products, processes and technology to meet the single purpose of delivering an exceptional customer pleasing experience.

The business professional whose career had its origin in HR, explained, “It’s not just front-line people smiling with the customer. The DNA has to be the same throughout with all members of staff being helpful, courteous, responsible and dedicated.”

Elaborating about the method she is still in the process of perfecting, Richards said, “DRA Consulting utilises an immersive model that first transforms its client’s human resources and their culture, before introducing systems that reflect the new culture.”

Revealing that such “interventions” can typically last between four months and two years, Richards said it meant changing the psychological contract with the customers from being a pain to serve, to one of being a pleasure to serve.

Noting the trickling of change in the local landscape, Richards said, “We have found customer service in T&T is maturing.”

However, she admitted, “It is less than ideal but it’s not as bad as it used to be five to ten years ago.”

Richards attributed this transition to disruptions currently occurring in the area of service delivery, which she said was being led primarily by customers who were now demanding a completely different level of service.

Richards, a mother of two, said as international travel became more accessible and persons experienced a certain level of service abroad, they have begun to demand a hassle-free experience.

“Businesses are realising their competition is not only the store next door but Amazon and Fed Ex. Customers no longer want to deal with sour faces. They are no longer willing to put up with poor service. They want value for money and for service providers to stop acting like they are doing them a favour,” Richards said.

The Glencoe resident said companies that are not paying attention to customers will find over time, they have been losing customers because their competitors are paying attention.

She warned, “When there is someone dedicated to improving your business, it means all customers becomes soft targets for them.”

Through DRA Consulting, which has been in business for 21 years, Richards has provided human resources and customer care transformation services to industries such as financial services, manufacturing, hospitality, credit unions, health-care sectors and the public sector.

Richards, who holds a degree in Economics from the University of Toronto, and post-grad training in business administration and marketing, credits her skills in strategic planning, transition management, organisational development and change management.

Revealing that her team often starts by delving into the psychological aspect of the employees before moving on to do anything else, Richards said they normally found themselves having to, “Go back into their childhoods, as there are other things are at work.”

Cautioning employers that it was not a 100-yard dash and required giant amounts of patience, Richards said their work begins internally before expanding outwards to the external customer.

She added that conflict resolution was another major topic which had to be addressed before a company could move forward, since building inter-office relationships was important in promoting a sense of community amongst the staff.

She said, “Employers must be concerned about when people roll out of bed in the morning and their first response is to groan at the thought of going to work.”

In order to measure a company’s internal and external growth, Richards said surveys are first conducted among the employees because if they were happy to serve and interact with each other, this positive energy would be transferred to the customers.

Commenting on a shift in the manner in which customer grievances were being aired, Richards said while many persons tended to ignore the performance card surveys at the counter of most businesses, they were quick to “tap out and blast” their issues to the world via various social media sites.

This she noted, was something that more enterprises should be worried about as “word of mouse” could have a serious reputational impact.

Richards said as T&T moves away from oil and gas dependency, the issue of customer care transformation had now moved to the fore as, “Service is the new generator of revenue.”

With Customer Service Week carded for the first week in October, Richards said she was excited about hosting a series of seminars to help companies better serve their clients.

Pointing out that habits of care and communication tend to start in the early years, Richard said her business would soon be entering the school system to begin imparting acceptable human behaviours to students.

“People need to be kind to each other. We are missing the bar of human kindness. We have moved away from it and we need to rediscover not just for business, but for a better society.”


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