The will to overcome
The publication comprises speeches that the author has delivered to various audiences over the last 50 years, but in particular over the most recent 30-year period since Audrey Hinchcliffe established Manpower & Maintenance Services Ltd.
The themes that emerge in her book reflect the philosophy that has guided (and continues to guide) in her functions as entrepreneur and role model. The most striking themes in the book are that of confidence, resilience and courage, her belief in laying the foundation for continuous learning and growth, and not least the model she represents of distinction in female leadership.
The six-part series, drawn from various sections and chapters of the book, is intended to provide these insights and to be a source of inspiration to young leaders and entrepreneurs, policymakers, public- and private-sector workers, as well as to the avid reader with a thirst for new ideas and perspectives.
Chapter 2: Rethinking the business of ‘clean’: the role of commercial cleaning contractors
Chapter 3: Perspectives on customer service
SUCCEEDING IN TURBULENT TIMES
Businesses, whether family-owned or otherwise, will face turbulent times. In my experience, there are some basic strategies which businesses must adopt in order to succeed when turbulence confronts them. In the face of turbulence, businesses must rally employees, customers and partners to work together on decisions and strategies. Such times require that businesses think strategically. This means examining the business to identify the element or elements causing the turbulence and redefining those elements or the entire business to align with what the market of the future looks like. In other words, constant efforts must be made to stabilise companies, identify and exploit opportunities such as finding new market niches, creating new products and services, restructuring and repositioning businesses to maintain relevance and strengthen the ability of the enterprise to withstand external shocks. At all times, businesses must bear in mind that the risks related to new opportunities must be managed effectively – this is what innovation is about.
Businesses which thrive in turbulent times innovate and take risks. In turbulent times, it becomes mandatory for businesses to become courageous. This means transcending problems by sometimes swift but always deliberate actions to deal with issues and not just react to them. Turbulent times also call for innovation and creativity and a focus guided by positive attitudes.
Small companies are better able to react to change more quickly because such entities are the first to feel the squeeze, hence they are able to respond earlier. On the other hand, large companies may have to react differently because of sheer size, product variety and the industry sector in which they operate. It will take longer to combine cost-cutting, repositioning and steps for remedial work. Also, the risks will be greater for larger companies, and regulatory requirements may preclude swift action.
PERSPECTIVES ON CUSTOMER SERVICE
... While some of us have had our own positive customer service experiences, most, if not all, can also report on negative customer service and are all too familiar with the complaints about the lack of good customer service in Jamaica. Several persons have found themselves on the receiving end of poor service from surly shop assistants, and other individuals who serve on the front line in a variety of offices and industries across the island. How many times have we wished that things were different? How many times have you had to hold back words behind your teeth and walk away respectfully or in fury from a service that did not meet your expectations? We would appreciate it if the persons and organisations to whom we take our business treated us with respect, showing understanding and empathy and valuing the fact that we are taking our business to them.
The fact is that good customer service begins with good old-fashioned ‘manners’ – that quality that old-time Jamaicans used to say would take us everywhere. It also resides in ‘people skills’ – those competencies that are critical factors for organisations seeking to achieve their growth and development goals. Additionally, at the heart of good customer service lies the ability to think and conscientiously attempt to solve problems amicably and respectfully. In other words, good customer service begins with people – you and me. How do you think about and see yourself? Your answer will always be reflected in how you treat others.
For example, there are instances in which I could have easily been a ‘no show’ at events for which I previously committed, as other unforeseen events overtook my time. Having given my commitment, however, I show up because I have to live by what I preach. I have shown up for commitments despite odds such as grieving the death of my sister and planning her funeral to be held a few days after I gave a speech. Of course, I contemplated not going and just emailing the speech, since there would be no doubt that organisers would understand, though disappointed. However, I opted to speak instead, as I was reminded of the American customer service expert, author and speaker Shep Hyken who once said, “The greatest technology in the world has not replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a business and a customer: the human touch.” That element of the human touch is what is most missing in Jamaican businesses.