Trinidad and Tobago has long had a topsy turvy relationship with this thing called customer service.
It really depends on one’s experience which can sometimes be good, fairly decent or pretty awful. The reputation of customer service across the country may differ but if it’s one thing for sure there’s a lot of work that needs to be done locally.
Ironically, Zena Tucker, a Trinbagonian woman, has been showing the world how to do customer service right. Though she’s now based in Los Angeles, her business, coached, has remained committed to developing customer service throughout the Caribbean.
On a short visit home last week, Tucker sat down with Women’s Empowerment offering a frank assessment of customer service in T&T, “I think we’re yet to understand the seriousness of this very important part of the way we interact with people.”
As facilitator, founder and managing director of coached, Tucker has spread her wings across the region namely Turks and Caicos, Barbados and Aruba and with the successful launch of her new website, she’s now making serious inroads in the American market.
Philosophy of coached
She told us why she chose this venture as an entrepreneur, “I got into this business because I believe that everyone is uniquely different and as Caribbean people we need to be authentically elevated through learning and development based on our uniqueness. This is the philosophy that serves as the foundation of coached.”
It’s a testament that not every company has gotten customer service right and they’re willing to change that. However, she admits getting the hierarchy of companies to see investing in customer service training as exactly that, an investment, as opposed to an expenditure can sometimes be challenging.
Tucker told us, “It’s a question of whether companies want to invest in these people that give service every day and invest in themselves, most importantly, because leadership plays an important role in customer service. I don’t think that’s the general perception of customer service but having worked across the Caribbean I can deduce that leadership plays an integral role in customer service.”
Customer service is the new Marketing
She added that more companies are now seeing the benefits, and importance, of having good customer service. “I’ve seen some sort of evolution with customer service because there are more businesses that take customer service seriously. They know that customer service is the new marketing, and so, they take it more seriously. They invest in their staff. In some instances, there are countries across the Caribbean which invest in their people as it relates to them giving better service so I have seen some improvement,” Tucker said.
Across the region, where customer service can sometimes seem a secondary thought, Tucker has often come face to face with trainees that don’t see what she’s doing as important. She told us, “The biggest challenge I have faced in my career is satisfying my most challenging trainees, the ones who perceive training and development as discipline rather than a benefit that advances their career. The skills I have acquired from across the Caribbean have prepared me to address this misconception, and I have been able to adjust my approach to ensure that I make a meaningful impact, even on my most challenging trainees.”
The elevated Caribbean experience
She believes it becomes even more imperative when the tourism talk begins. With T&T selling sun, sea and sand to the world in a bid to push its tourism industry and diversify the economy, Tucker says leaders must look into what aspects of T&T culture can be packaged as a nation, providing an experience to people who visit, and ultimately sold to the world.
The Bournemouth University graduate added, “I think it’s very important to understand that people are not coming here for the palm trees. You can see palm trees in Los Angeles. People are not coming here to see mountains. You can see mountains in Arizona. I think it’s more about the experience that we provide as a Caribbean nation. We’re very different from the United States. We speak differently, dance differently, engage differently with people and that has to be sold as an experience. That’s a package in itself.”
Quest to lift standards
We sat down in the executive club of the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, the place she once worked in various capacities before taking her career international. Yet, Tucker has remained deep-rooted in her quest to lift the standard of the Caribbean. She explained what her rise has meant to her, saying, “It means that I’m in a very unique position to be able to elevate us as Caribbean people and it does not matter where you’ve come from. It does not matter the city, the town or the home, or what your life looks like. What matters is the impact you’re able to make, the positive changes you’re able to make because the truth is there are not a lot of people pouring into us the way they’re supposed to pour into us.”
Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs
She has become an inspiration for women who now embark on their own journeys as entrepreneurs. Tucker says women must be willing to stay the course though there will be difficult periods to overcome. “I would advise that the path to entrepreneurship first requires perseverance, resilience and an authentic passion for your brand and your work. To develop and scale globally, you must operate with integrity and should never take anything personally as the journey presents its own set of challenges to overcome,” she added.
She’s begun scaling her brand hiring her first employee based here in T&T - a major move for a woman who has largely depended on her own customer service to build her company. Yet, Tucker is adamant that customer service is not only between an employee and client, but can only exist internally as well.
“While leaders invest in their team by providing customer service training and development, it is important for them to also invest in themselves with leadership training. Everything rises and falls with leadership and there is a connection we have to explore between leadership and customer service,” she concluded.
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