August 16, 2013

Services: Do we have right attitude?

Fri Aug 16, 2013

The production of goods and services is the basis of any economy and the means of providing for the livelihood of the citizens of any country. Both are critically important and inter-dependent, for goods cannot be produced, distributed and utilized without the provision of certain basic services.{{more}}

As societies become more modern, with changing lifestyles and greater demands for services of all types, not all of them necessarily wholesome, the service sectors have assumed greater proportions in the world economy and in most societies. Over the years, we have witnessed a steady rise in the growth of the service sector accompanied by a diminution of the production of goods in our society.

There are serious implications as a result of these changes. In the first place, agriculture, which was the pillar of our economy, has declined in its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.

The other side of this coin is that there is a growing reliance on the service sector as the engine of growth in our society, both in generating wealth and in creating jobs.

As we become more and more reliant on the service sector, we need to pay closer attention to the quality of the services we provide. The services sector is a highly competitive one, both internally, and externally. In tourism for instance, our hotels, restaurants, taxi-drivers, vendors, are all in competition with each other for business, but collectively, our tourism product must compete with that of neighbouring countries and other destinations outside the region for the tourist dollar.

Being physically separated by water, air transport plays a critical role in the regional tourism industry. In this, we in the eastern Caribbean are highly dependent on the regional airline, LIAT, our virtual lifeline to the outside world. LIAT has its own challenges, as we are all aware, some of which will necessarily take time to surmount. Patience and the understanding of the travelling public are sought by the airline’s management.

That should be all the more reason for the airline to pay close attention to the quality of service it provides to consumers, to ensure that its lines of communication are appropriate, and that its responses to the enormous amount of complaints from travellers, are timely and in order. Sadly, that is not the case, and Caribbean people have every right to express their ire with the poor service. It is one thing to experience unforeseen technical problems, but to duck responsibilities, to misinform or ignore the legitimate grievances of consumers is totally unacceptable.

We cannot be expected to pay high fares, exorbitant taxes to governments and airport authorities in the region, contribute from the public purse to the running of LIAT and then be treated so shabbily. We have a right to demand decent treatment, for after all, he who pays the piper is supposed to call the tune.

It is a lesson which we must also apply in other areas of our service economy, whether in the public or private sectors. Our very future depends on us “getting it right” in our attitude towards work, towards quality service to consumers and the public.