Caribbean Customer Service

Many Caribbean islands have different customer service models engrained in the nature of how that society works. Oftentimes the client approach is a consequence of the imprint that colonial history and the culture of the (former) motherland has left upon the island-community. 

In general English and US islands have a more “natural” tendency toward service-drive, due to a polite and bottom-line focused mentality of the Anglo-Saxons. Compare that with a statist and obligatory French culture or somewhat overly self-sufficient and sober Dutch mentality.
These deep cultural traits have even challenged the home-markets with the advent of technology and online selling. It has “forced” a behavioural change towards clients and the fulfilment of their needs. 

A growing group of island citizens has seen their income increase and have travelled a lot more to new markets where they had vastly different, and oftentimes better, client experiences. Over the past decade this has been bringing a slow “backlash” in their local island markets. Island companies that caught-on and improved client service have been growing at a steady pace. Especially in the restaurant and leisure sectors. The pandemic has also given a re-set to island clients and what they will “accept” in terms of client treatment. 

The pandemic forced many Caribbean citizens into online shopping for the first time, and they got their first taste of a completely different service model. On a local level, island customers are increasingly showing their disapproval with inconsistent and unfulfilling in-store, hotel and restaurant, or other leisure experiences. In an attempt to raise the bar, Caribbean companies will and must, change their customer approach and start thinking about how to deliver greater value. This will include improving customer service models, investing in customer service solutions that afford better monitoring and management and, now that many more countrymen have moved into the digital shopping-space, improving online engagement.

If you’re not sold on the need to deliver quality experiences that ensure a positive sentiment and lead to better loyalty, then let’s consider the impact on the business’s bottom line. I won’t bore you with the numbers, but if you think of exceptional growth companies, and then think about what type of service they deliver, which naturally come to mind? Amazon, Disney, Starbuck’s, Apple, DHL, Walmart? They are cliché examples. But isn’t their bottom-line always growing? And how did they come out of the pandemic? Apart from their obvious successes, these companies have two things in common – they deliver exceptional customer experiences and they have loyal, happy customers. It’s no coincidence that they’ve been able to obtain this level of success while consistently delighting their customers at every interaction with their company brand. Each of these companies is focused on putting the customer first and supporting this drive with a strong internal company culture. 

None of these are out of reach for the typical midsized Caribbean enterprise. Because most islands are relatively small societies, there is an informal “know everyone” mentality in our island-DNA. This helps a lot in the client experience. We help the aunt of a friend differently (and oftentimes much better) than an anonymous tourist. So, we ARE in fact able to deliver good client service. But because we cannot relate to the many anonymous individuals, our instant drop in interest moves into noticeable indifference toward the client. Simple islands need simple solutions. Here are three quick fixes that ensure you can deliver a client experience that may exceed your island’s typical service level. 

Define the customer experience you want to deliver

The Caribbean’s best companies identify how customers interact with them, be it physical, by phone or digital. Think about a famous hardware chain like Kooyman. Nothing overly fancy like in Europe or the US. But perfectly in-tune with true Caribbean client behaviour. They also know that engagement has to be made personal, to create that typical culture where company employees can find ways to relate to clients, and provide the service and support expected.

Base the experience on individual customer needs

Customer experience strategy must start with knowing what your island customer needs and wants. This is in some aspects different from the US or European client approach, where work-life, lifestyle and technology use create different customer expectations. So, cut & paste from other companies does not always work. Because Caribbean expectations are still vastly personal, the technology solutions must equate to a very personal (virtualized) proposal. Direct chats or zooms with real humans, the ability to execute callbacks within 5 minutes, are examples of what would work, instead of voice-savvy call-center chatbots or website Q&A’s. Once you know that, you can work backwards to create an experience that exceeds customer expectations.

Leverage technology to enhance the customer experience, not creat it

It is recommended that you define your version of the Caribbean customer experience, and then identify what tools and software you need to assist in making it happen. It sounds expensive for small and mid-size companies, but many solutions are app-driven or simple cloud based and subscriber solutions. Avoid not to mold your customer experience strategy around technology but find technology that you can use within your strategy.

It’s not enough to just have a great product or service at a great price. Every interaction with clients is an opportunity for a customer-centric experience that builds trust and company loyalty. A friendly cashier at the supermarket, a helpful floor assistant in a hardware store, an attentive waitress at a restaurant. Many analyses have shown that about 80% of consumers said that the experience a company provides is 

as important as its products and services. To stay competitive in the Caribbean, smart businesses are taking note and making changes.