Last week I spent well over 30 minutes on the phone speaking to the locally based Managing Director of a multinational company which has a major presence in Barbados. It was a result of a quality control issue on a recent small purchase. Quite simply the conversation was a revelation and it brings in focus just how many hoops, hurdles and unbudgeted additional expenses our private sector is forced to endure if they hope to survive, let alone flourish.
While our private sector has recently received a government bashing from certain ill-informed sources, there are of course, always at least two sides of every story or scenario.
If I recall accurately, when a journalist asked the late hotel mogul, Lord Forte, what was the deciding factor which influenced him buying a particular hotel? He responded by saying that he went into the closest lavatory to reception and if it was spotlessly clean, that was a clear indication that it was a well managed hotel and worth acquiring.
In my particular case, there was absolutely no obligation that the managing director had to contact me either by phone or email. But he did, rather than delegate the task to a lesser mortal, and it clearly demonstrates, at least to me, the imperative of attention to detail and the critical role it plays in retaining customer loyalty.
Some years ago, while my Mother-in-Law was staying with us, sadly fell and broke her shoulder in two places. It was obvious that she could not fly back to the UK on the scheduled day of travel. So I contacted the local office of the airline, which at that time still existed, fully expecting to pay a change of date fee. They refused, stating I had to book and pay for a full fare single ticket.
Having flown with British Airways many times, up to seven return flights per year to Barbados alone, and in the past with group bookings during my time with Swiss tour operator, Globus Gateway, I called the then Chief Executive Officer, Sir Colin (later Lord) Marshall. He was busy on the phone, but his secretary assured me that the call would be returned and within a few minutes he personally called back.
In his legendary calm and controlled voice, Sir Colin said ‘Adrian, please just pay for the ticket with a credit card and we will ensure it is fully refunded’. True to his word, it happened and I was left thinking what incredible attention to detail and hoped that one day, I might reach that level of positive response.
So often in tourism, we do not get a second chance to ensure the very best experience is delivered, so ‘hands-on’ management is essential, especially in a modern socially media driven world. Our tourism planners and policymakers can do everything right, but all it takes is an initially tiny problem not to be dealt with in an expeditious and transparent manner for all to witness and be assured by.
A recent classical example is the South Coast Sewage saga.
Some politicians they may think there is voting mileage in criticising the private sector, especially among the less versed electorate, but my advice to them is to look in the mirror and ask – have I done all that I could have?