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Poor customer relations at ‘Legal Affairs’

On Monday January 7 I heard Darian Marcelle on I95.5 FM describe a situation that arose at the South Quay Office of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. It was such a badly handled interchange between a cashier and- firstly one customer- then all the customers, that it sounded almost unbelievable.

I therefore telephoned Mr. Marcelle on January 9 to reconfirm the facts. Not only did Mr. Marcelle kindly return my call , he also gave me the telephone number of the person who saw the incident unfold before her

On January there was a long line on the second floor of this Ministry. There were about fifteen to twenty people in the line. The witness with her two children were in this line.

At precisely 12 noon the cashier closed the window. There is a sign (or more than one sign perhaps) that states Closed for Lunch 12.00 to 1.00 pm. From what I gather- with heavy tinted glass and just a small opening to hand in cash etc.- communication would seem to be limited as the cashier seemed almost isolated from the customers. The witness confirmed this fact because people were not sure if this faceless, nameless cashier was a man or a woman.

More people joined the line between 12.00 and 1.00 p.m. The wicket remained closed as people kept looking at their watches/cell phones and I presume some clock.

The window opened at 1.20.p.m. The people in the line were now restless. The first person in the line, a lady in a joking manner said ( and I quote) “You eat until you belly full and now you come back”. Now everyone knows what a quick wit and wonderful sense of humour Trinis have. Not this cashier. He/she took great offence, and ordered the lady to leave the line because she was NOT going to be served.

The customer, shocked at this response, replied she had been waiting for an hour and twenty minutes and she was not leaving the line. The others behind urged her to stay where she was.. Then what appeared to supervisors or managers came out and informed the customer that she, the customer, must apologise to the cashier or she would not be attended to.

The line of customers had now swelled because people lining up on the staircase from downstairs were now crowding into the area. The customer stood her ground and refused to apologise. The crowd was not unruly, just agreeing with the customer -- no obscene language, no loud noise, just correctly saying that the cashier came back late from lunch! So what do management do? They call security. The customer refuses to move. So what does the management do? They call the police and three heavily armed officers (in I presume their bulletproof vests) equipped with their automatic weapons arrive! At this point, because she had her two children with her , the witness left the area and exited the building.

What poor management skills were exhibited here! What lack of training of themselves and their staff! Giving professional customer service is not rocket science. It is having empathy for people, understanding that the customer –who is paying the salaries for all in the public and private sector- -- needs efficiency, needs respect.

This cashier appears to be untrained, as all he/she had to do is apologize FIRST. If you are dealing with the public and you must know you have returned late, come out from behind your tinted glass and barred cage, face your customers and make a general apology “Sorry about this, I do apologise I am a little late.” The customer would probably never had made any remark if this had happened.

The supervisors or managers should never have demanded that the customer apologise to the cashier. What could they have done? Quickly replaced that cashier and let that lady be served OR quietly assure the lady that they were going to personally look after her themselves.

You do NOT in this type of situation, unless faced with physical harm or drunken behaviour, call for security. And call heavily armed police officers? Surely they are urgently needed elsewhere to stop the crime rather than showing their armed support for incompetent staff.

Marguerite Gordon
Via E Mail
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