Tuesday, 26 June 2012 02:30
By Colin James
Antigua St. John’s - Tourism accounts for 75 per cent of all jobs in Antigua & Barbuda, so providing excellent service is important, not only to visitors, but to residents as well.
Therefore the Ministry of Tourism has taken the proactive stance to launch the service excellence initiative under the mantra: “Live it! Give it! Celebrate!
A student, a service station attendant and a hotel employee have been engaged to sell the message as part of the public service announcements which will be aired.
“It is a call for all residents of Antigua & Barbuda to strive for excellence, not just in service but in all spheres of life…academic excellence, broadcast excellence, hospitality excellence, excellence in whatever field of endeavour, or in whatever sphere of business,” proclaimed Minister of Tourism John Maginley.
He said the World Tourism & Travel Council estimated that hospitality sector represents 70 per cent “of all jobs” in the country, and is it incumbent on the 80,000 inhabitants to be excellent ambassadors.
“The growth of our tourism industry and the level of our competitiveness as a nation, will depend on all the other service sectors: professional and business services, finance and insurance, health care and social services, broadcasting, communication arts, entertainment, recreation – all such businesses are collectively responsible for current employment, creation of new jobs – whether skilled or unskilled.
“As a service-dominated economy therefore, we recognise that the most important element of customer satisfaction and loyalty is the people delivering the service. Our service excellence initiative is therefore an invitation – an open invitation for all to embark on a service-improvement journey…that we create a positive first impression, provide stellar customer service every day and to do so consistently.
“The ministry’s plan is to get all of us, all residents of Antigua & Barbuda to commit to service excellence…so together we can create a service excellence brand for a distinctive competitive advantage,” the minister added. “The task of fostering a national culture of service excellence is for all of us…whether public sector, private sector, non-profit organisations, social organisations and clubs etc.
“We need to inspire and motivate all to aspire to excellence in all areas of life and to fully participate and contribute to nation building.
“Service excellence is about taking the customer experience to an unparalleled level. Our customers, your customers (anyone to whom you provide a service) can tell the quality of your service from the time they walk into your establishment, come in contact with you and even sense its presence,” Minister Maginley said.
The programme is administered by Tourism Education Coordinator Cynthia Simon and was conceived after a year-long consultation with public and private bodies as well as non-governmental organisations.
It has been endorsed by the Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association (AHTA) whose representative at last Thursday’s launch, General Manager of Jolly Beach Resort Vernon Jeffers, underscored its significance.
“The giving of excellent service begins with the Air Traffic Controller who gives the all-clear for the planes to land at the V.C. Bird Airport, it continues with the Immigration Officer who makes you feel welcome as he or she processes your documents. The Customs Officer who gives you that assurance of continued welcome which is further echoed by the Taxi Driver as he points out areas of interest while taking you to your destination and into the care of our hotel staff,” Jeffers said.
“Service excellence is remembering Mr. and Mrs. Jones by name as they enter the lobby and Mrs. Jones being pleasantly surprised that they were assigned the same room they honeymooned in several years ago. It is seen in celebrating and remembering your valued returning guests by ensuring that any previous requirements such as gluten concerns, nuts and other allergies are noted and the guest returns knowing that the hotel cares enough to remember such intimate details.
“Service excellence is experiencing when the souvenir items you bought for family members are left in a taxicab or local bus and the guest is awed when the items are returned to their room later that afternoon by a porter after it was dropped off at Reception by the Taxi Driver. Service excellence is knowing that not only are the staff at the resort there to share in your joy when you get married on a beautiful sunny beach in Antigua & Barbuda and the guest returning home full of hope for the future and a month later finding out that his wife has less than six months to live and she then dies soon after.
“It is this excellence in service which sees the guest back at that same resort, back at that same wedding gazebo some five years later celebrating what would have been his wedding anniversary, but now he is with friends he has made among the staff who witnessed his wedding ceremony, and now share this moment with him. In memory of his wife the Wedding Coordinator and her colleagues had arranged for a tree planting ceremony beside the very gazebo where he got married. That is service excellence,” Jeffers said.
Julianne Jarvis, the coordinator at the Antigua & Barbuda Coalition of Service Industries (ABSCI), also gave her relatively new organisation’s blessings.
“We look to promote the higher value to our people,” she said of the CSI which was launched about 16 months ago and encompasses tour operators, accountants, architects, engineers, refrigeration and air condition technicians, beauticians and spa experts, among others.
So next time who listen to your radio or watch your TV or read a newspaper there may be someone urging you to give excellent service.