Letters to the Editor: Where is customer service in Cayman?

mumble to myself during every George Town jaunt, “I should have stayed in

has happened to customer service?  Simple
vocabulary like “hello”, “good day”, “have a nice weekend”, etc. Are those friendly
expressions so difficult to convey?  I
try hard to be nice – even if I’m having a bad day. And what’s wrong with a
smile? Gee give us a break – it’s not the customer’s fault you have a to go to
work each day, in fact without the customer you have no job at all , did you
ever think of that?

I struggle along trying to deal with lousy customer service – long call wait
times, automated customer service phone menus from Hell, phone menus that just
loop back on themselves, run arounds galore, sulks and so on – I can’t help but
think of the good old days when the customer service people were the company’s
front lines. They not only were there to help a customer fix a problem, but to
learn from customers’ experiences and to bring that learning back into the
company to develop a better understanding of the consumers’ needs. 

let me say right up front, I’m not talking about every teller, cashier, civil
servant or airline ticket agent on these Islands.  I am talking about the bad apples that ruin
the harmonious barrel and make the hard working employees look faulty. I’ll
give you an example – recently after waiting in line at a local bank I moved up
to the teller once the customer in front of me had finished his business.
Without taking the time to look me in the eye or to say hello, or to smile, the
sulk faced teller told me to get back in line; she was not ready for me yet.
HELLO – this is a bank not a customs inspection station, HELLO – I am the
customer I pay your salary! Or the grocery cashier, who scans my groceries,
takes my money and then moves on to the next customer without so much as a
“Thank You”. Or the security guard who has let a uniform swell his head. “Excuse
me sir, this is NOT a concentration camp and you are NOT an SS officer”!

I don’t have to deal with the impoliteness I try to do as much of my business
as possible in my office at home , but even that can be a nerve-racking task
when trying to reach an individual on the phone. First you have to covey with
an automated answering machine, I can’t stand these disembodied computerized
voices who say really stupid things like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that”.
Next thing I know I find myself swearing every four letter word I can think of
into the phone transmitter. I don’t know which is dumber, the voice or me for

there’s the machine that asks you to dial the right extension or press in the
last four letters of the person’s name on your touch –tone. Well – I don’t know
the extension and I don’t know how to spell the person’s name. When I do
finally reach the office of Mrs. X 
another robot answers to tell me that Mrs. X is not available, however
if it’s an emergency please dial Mrs. Z at this new number and extension. After
I get Mrs. Z’s extension her recorded message says she is on vacation but if
it’s an emergency I should dial Mrs. X. What is going on here? I want nothing
special – I just want what a customer is entitled to…service, and please, a
human receptionist answering the phone (a friendly human please). 

one that really makes my feathers ruffle are some of the pushy, nasty, cab or
mini bus drivers that aggressively herd up tourists for an island tour.  Just put yourself in the visitor’s place –
what a wonderful first impression of the Cayman Islands when someone sticks a
sign in your face the moment you step on land, then demanding you wait in his
hot mini bus while he rallies up more business. Some act like vultures waiting
for pray instead of island ambassadors waiting for guests. I realise it’s a struggle
trying to make ends meet as a taxi driver; after all there must be a thousand
to compete with, however what’s wrong with the nice approach. When I travel and
am in need of a taxi I will refuse to ride with a grumpy, sloppy looking cab
driver and I don’t care what the dispatcher says. I am the customer so please
give me someone good-natured who uses deodorant. Now let’s give credit where
credit is due, we have many civil, gracious drivers who are smart enough to
realise the importance of tourism, it’s too bad that a few rotten apples ruin
their reputation- and profit margin.

said all that, bad customer service is not just a Cayman dilemma.  Several times I have called the 800- number
to one of my American based credit card companies, with whom I have set up a
rewards account. In other words the more money I spend on the card the more
reward points I get to use as hotel stay, rental cars and even vacation
packages.  After I dial the 800- number
an automated computer asks me a thousand questions – for a while I politely say
“yes” or “no” forgetting that I’m talking to a contraption. When I’ve had
enough I start to sing to the device. The singing really mystifies the robot
receptionist –

sorry – would you repeat that”.  I sing
another song – finally the machine is so baffled it puts me on to a living,
breathing human.

day, how can we help you”?

I’d like to use my rewards for a car rental in Miami and a weekend stay at the
Motel 6”.

what is your 16 card number and expiration date”.

I just punched those numbers in the touch tone phone at your robots request”.

need them again sir”.        

repeat the numbers ….

is your mother’s birthday and maiden name”?

none of your business” I reply! 

we need that for security reasons”.

reluctantly obey – GEE WHAT IS THIS – THE CIA?

minutes and 20 personal questions later I’m starting to feel violated – Why not
just strip search me?

sir where would you like for us to send your reward certificates”?

you just asked for my address for security reasons and a now you wants my
address again”?

sir – this address is in the Cayman Islands”.

your point being….”?

we cannot mail certificates internationally”.

for 35 years, every month, without fail, you have been mailing my bill
internationally – yet you can’t send rewards internationally – I want to speak
to your supervisor”.

moment sir”.

seven moments later… still no supervisor and I have a dent in my ear from the receiver
and I give up – I’ve been on the phone for over an hour , I need a drink ,  I’m beat – 
for that day anyway. I repeat the performance the next day and finally
make contact with a sympathetic customer service administrator who takes care
of my problem. Had I not been aggressive I would have never received the certificates
due to me. In other words – “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”! Unfortunately
most will not follow that dictum, we have become so used to the grumps, sulks
and insolence that we simply just deal with it, which only helps flourish more
slackness. I make it a point to track down the owner or manager of any business
when I come in contact with rudeness, neglect or mope or when I witness the
same done to others. Any professional in a management position will appreciate
a valid complaint; after all they can’t be everywhere at the same time.  

folk’s good customer service has gone to hell, and I am not talking about hell
in the District of West Bay where we have one of our friendliest tourism ambassadors,
Ivan (The Devil) Farrington. It’s ironic to think that a pretend satan dons his
red costume and horns every day andthenpatiently has his picture taken
with hundreds of visitors. He jokes, teases and – smiles.  Yes, times are tough right now, we need to
tighten our belt; however, a simple smile costs you nothing. If the devil can
do it… so can you.    

G Nowak