Changing Customer Service Gear

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Since time immemorial, it has of course, always been important to protect a brand. A successful brand not only makes promises, but matches them with consistent delivery. From a tourism perspective, regardless of whether that brand is an individual hotel, chain, destination or other singular or group entity.

Years ago, it was far more difficult to inflict damage on an image and reputation that could have taken generations to build. But nowadays, it can be destroyed in seconds just by using the social media, at absolutely no cost to the customer.

Let me give an example.

Last June I flew to Boston and collected a rental car from one of the world’s leading vehicle rental companies located close to Logan airport. There were long queues at the agent’s desks and it took nearly an hour to complete any outstanding paperwork. This is considering that I am a member of their loyalty programme and had pre-registered most of the information required like driving licence and credit card details. When we found the car at a numbered bay, it was frankly filthy with badly stained carpets and seats together with an offensive interior stench that pervaded the vehicle for a full week, even though most days the windows were kept wide open.

The sensible thing to have done at that time, would have been to return to the office and point out the defects. But, we did not want another prolonged wait, our hotel accommodation was a three hour drive away and it was pouring with rain, considerably restricting visibility.

On our return to Barbados, I reported the experience to the Customer Relations headquarters and received an automated response. Months went by and even after sending several reminders by email, nothing more was heard. Eleven months later, I was almost ready to forget the issue and had resigned myself to never (through choice) use the company again, even though I had been a regular client for at least two decades.

One more try perhaps, so I posted my displeasure on the company’s Facebook page. Within seconds (literally) a polite and apologetic response was received with the added bonus that some upgrade vouchers for future use had been mailed to me. The world may never have witnessed my few ‘internal’ emails, but now it was out there for a large chunk of the Facebook community globally to view.

And this is how we have to treat tourism today.

Any tardy ill-informed response lacking empathy can do so much damage to the business and by reflection, the destination. Reputations are valuable assets that need to be guarded, nurtured and managed, every single day of the year. Not only do ‘we’ have to respond, but equally crucial, we have to be seen to respond, and frankly that is where ‘we’ often fail dismally. It is absolutely critical to monitor negative comments on social networks together with other media outlets and attempt to promulgate at least a balanced and positive point of view.

I would like to finish this week’s column by adapting some words which may accurately reflect the malaise that many feel is enveloping our tourism industry, at this point in time.

It starts with leadership whose role is to inspire, direct and champion change. Leaders lead by example.

40 thoughts on “Changing Customer Service Gear

  1. It has always been amazing to us that your industry has never sought to set up a national SERVQUAL model with well defined and public known elements. Thereby developing a database of customer perceptions that can be compared over time as the basis for quality improvements.

  2. Interesting to hear coming out of the political discussion yesterday that Barbados tourist product is not competitive based on cost/price. Surprise surprise .

  3. Can you imagine that LIAT does not have a toll free number for customer service????? I had a problem at the airport yesterday with a flight reservation that was booked online and was screwed up. We were told to call Customer service and given a number that we have to pay for the call. This is what Liat calls service with a kick in our backside.

  4. David they are finally waking up to reality ? Why would anyone come here pay high prices for third rate service and goods??? Fool me once fool me twice.

  5. Tourism is all we have and a strategic plan must guide it given its strategic importance to the GDP. This tension which continues between stakeholders and an adhocism which seems to be prevalent must stop. Why should it have taken more than five years to roll out the White Paper or restructure the BTA?

  6. The rate business is done here is slow slower and slowest. We do not understand that time is money and the rest of the world is not waiting on us. We do not understand fast turn around of customers, we do not understand that every business MUST put the customer first and LISTEN to the customer to be successful. We now have to resort to naming and shaming them to get attention to our complaints.

  7. Speaking of customer service LIME is the absolute WORST. I called their customer service 1800 only to get a foreign voice which I hardly understood. The poor girl was having grave difficulty understanding me. Not only that the girl is clueless about Barbados’ set up so explaining my phone problems to her was a waste of time.
    Did not Macdonald announce a year ago that LIME customer service call center was moving back to Barbados so we could understand what the hell the service providers at the other end are saying?
    Sir Trotman seems to know what he he was talking about when he fingered LIME as major corporate LIARS.

  8. Adrian

    Want to share my “good news” car rental experience in Barbados in March of this year.

    I contacted Owen Kirton of Southern Rentals by email to make arrangements about a week before our scheduled arrival date.

    Was looking for Suzuki Vitara for a week. They did not have one available for the first three days of our stay, so was offered a smaller Jimny for three days and a swap to a Vitara for the last four days; to which I agreed.

    We were met as we exited the door at GAIA and walked to the Jimny, where Owen was waiting for us. We agreed to an early morning swap to the Vitara at our hotel on the fourth day of our stay, and were on our way..

    At the agreed time the Vitara was delivered to the car park of the hotel and the exchange was completed smoothly.

    On departure day Southern Rentals met us at GAIA and the Vitare was returned

    The price was reasonable and the service was friendly and prompt.

    Will rent again and recommend Southern to others.

  9. Luvs Bim,

    Great. Sounds like they WANT the business and are willing to do what is necessary to keep it.
    Have you posted your experience on FaceBook, TripAdvisor Barbados FORUM page and the BTA FaceBook page to share with others?

  10. @ Adrahn
    Then when the readers read they will BELIEVE ALL is like that ON Barbados .
    WHICH it aint.
    Isnt that some kind of DUPING of the Punters??
    Or is it we sayin LOOK WE CAN GET IT RIGHT ONCE?? Occasionally ,sometimes ?Maybe?
    I do NOT AGREE with your recommendation .
    Maybe at last you startin to become Bajun?
    You be in Gubbermint nex.

  11. Dr Love;
    Your 2.46 pm post is close to the most ridiculous one I’ve seen on BU.
    Adrian; A good topic and good suggestion.

  12. @Dr. Love
    See what I mean? Instead of telling the whole world that there are good things about OUR country you want only the bad things publicised. Note Adrian said he had to wait in que for an hour, even though he had made prior arrangements. Why is it that you only want to think that anybody who says good thing about our country MUST be in gubment> You and your ilk should be cited.

  13. @Adrian

    You must have heard the head of the Barbados Golf Club being very complimentary of TripAdvidor. He admitted that their business continues to be the beneficiary of good business generated from favourable comments on the site. You have been vindicated.

  14. I took a trip to the Sam Lords Castle property and walked down to the beach … First thought was what a spot for a clothing optional facility … Virtually a private beach …

  15. Don’t get me confused wid somebody else hear … two t’ings does get the juices runnin’ … the sight of panties and the sight of sheep … HA HA HA MURDA

    • The Plane, the plane!

      LIAT CEO mum as photos of new plane create buzz
      Posted by Admin ⋅ May 31, 2013

      The first of LIAT’s ATR 72-600 aircrafts is expected to arrive in the region early in June. (
      KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 31, IWN – Regional airline LIAT is expected to take control today of the first of the ATR 72-600 aircrafts that will replace its aging Dash-8 fleet.
      Chief Executive Officer of LIAT, Ian Brunton, told I-Witness News that the new aircraft is slated to arrive in the region early next month.
      He declined commenting on the new aircraft even as photos of the plane published on LIAT’s Facebook page and another of the plane in flight published on an aviation website created some buzz .
      “The aircraft are not in our possession as yet. We don’t take possession of the aircrafts until Friday, [May] the 31st. So, we can’t really say anything about the aircraft, they are not ours,” he told I-Witness News at a meeting here of CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
      “We obviously have people at the factory looking at the final preparations and going through the records and going through the paperwork but we can’t say anything official about the airplane until we take control of it on Friday, the 31st,” Brunton said.
      The ATR 72-600 can carry up to 72 passengers and can fly non-stop for up to 891 nautical miles at a speed of 275 knots.

  16. David,

    Interesting, as LIAT previous announced they were going to take delivery of the smaller (50 seat) ATR42-600 first. We must assume this version (70 seats) is on lease as it still carries its French registration F – WWEN.
    Also what will be critical is WHERE this plane is stationed, as it is more logical to put a 70 seater on middle-distance routes like BGI/GEO, BGI/ANU, BGI/SJU and BGI/SXM. If it remains stationed at Antigua, I personally cannot see how it possibly be cost-effective. Also, who is guaranteeing the lease payments, as the shareholder Governments have again not told us the facts.

  17. David,

    Perhaps at the upcoming National Consultation, someone may ask the question but who on earth knows have been invited to the meeting. Is it just Government cronies or a cross section of the country that isn’t intimidated to ask probing questions?

  18. Liat needs to improve their customer service , it stinks! The customers are regarded as the enemy. They don’t depend on their customers they depend on the governments so who the hell cares???

  19. Note that the issue of the subsidy for CAL is on the Heads of Conference agenda set for July. Prime Minister Ralph Gonzales has been making a lot of noise about international transport. Maybe it is because he has lead responsibility for it at Caricom. His role not withstanding we would like to her Prime Minister Stuart keeping some noise given that Barbados is a lead shareholder.

    Ps. Can we have an update anyone about the plan to make Barbados a Category I airport jurisdiction?

  20. ‘Grantley Adams International Airport will be Category 1 by year end’
    ‘This assurance was given by Minister of Tourism, Noel Lynch, in the House of Assembly yesterday’
    31st October 2007

    David, you mean it didn’t happen. If I could just have a dollar for each broken promise.

  21. BTA is back in Toronto

    One of yesterday’s Toronto newspapers included the glossy CINEPLEX magazine, an advertising supplement promoting movies at Cineplex theatres. Page 5 includes a BTA ad for the Barbados Island Inclusive give away program, and an Air Canada Vacations Crop Over ad. See them at

    One of today’s Toronto newspapers includes the glossy SHARP magazine advertising supplement featuring high end advertisers, TAGHeure and RAYMOND WEIL watches, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Cadillac cars, Hugo Boss, Armani, YvesSaintLaurent etc. Page 44 is headed “Barbados – Imagine and island that’s all about sailing, golf, and drinking good rum” It includes brief profile/promos for Apes Hill, The Cliff, The Lone Star, Sandy Lane and Mount Gay Visitor’s Centre, clearly targeting the big spenders There being no flying fish logo suggests no BTA involvement – so no cost to the Barbados taxpayers.

    The back page of of the first section of today’s Globe & Mail is a glossy full page Saint Lucia Tourism/Air Canada Vacations for 10 properties. It refers to Saint Lucia’s Go Bananas discount card, apparently Saint Lucia’s version of the Island Inclusive. It clearly targets the mass market vacation spenders.

  22. The Pangaea Network is taking credit for the successful marketing of Barbados in Europe for this quarter, they claim the BTA did not do enough, obviously the major players outside of a few high end hotels did not do enough either but sit and complain.

    • Good to see St. Lucia properties in Morgan Bay advertising on NBC during the highly watched Formula 1 Race.

  23. If the Sinckler man did not Sink REDJET there would be more business in BIM , Some cant afford hotel rates in BIM when every thing is in USD. Before 2007 fraud games in BIM , Going to svt was $80bgi and then went to 100 usd its more, unless you get a deal. . We stop going for svg.
    Looking at the EC , BGI ,, GT,, SU,TT DOLLAR who in the CC can afford the hotel rates in USD? , The Market seem they dont want CC members , but USA, CAN, ENG, euro These people are more welcomed , In SVG CC members get better rates at the Cobble STONE hotel
    We cant even get duty free , like Barbados charging the Citizen more for living at home ,

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