Outfoxing them with the Basics


I have a new theory when it comes to Caribbean companies that are fighting hard against local or regional competition.

The winners will be the ones who are able to answer their phones.

What I mean is simply the following: Caribbean companies that get the basics right have an advantage over all the others.

Let’s pick an example that we can all perhaps relate to — the banking sector. From my observation, there is not a single regional bank that currently stands out from the others in terms of properly executing what I consider to be basic banking functions.

The advertisements and promotions claim otherwise, of course.

However, the reality is that doing simple deposits, withdrawals, payments of credit cards, customer service agents that offer basic courtesies, wiring, computing interest and fees, … these are what I consider to be some of the essentials of basic banking. Our banks have a hard time executing them consistently.

Get someone good, or someone that you know, to help you on the inside and you might “get through” quickly.
Get someone who is untrained and unprofessional, and you are in for a difficult time.

But this is not a situation that only our banks find themselves in.

Industries all across the region have the same problem of being unable to execute the basic functions of business.

What are some of the things that our companies are struggling to do?

– update their website. 16 year old bloggers are able to do this, so why can’t a 2000 person company?
– answer the phones. All the time. Offer voicemail outside of business hours
– return calls and emails
– show up at meetings
– take action on promises
– when plans change, communicate with those involved
– train everyone who might answer the phone on behalf of the company to pretend that they care, even a little bit
– keep their places of business clean. Soap, water and paint are not that hard to get
– ask “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
– let me know about new products and services when they become available
– act as if they are interested in doing business when a willing customer calls

I believe that a company that does ALL of these basics has a good chance of dominating their industry. In Jamaica, I am convinced that Digicel has come to dominate the mobile phone industry simply because their competition failed to do the basics for many years. It leads me to think that many companies in the region are
vulnerable, but just don’t realize it.

I think that what amazes me most is that there are regional CEO’s and other executives who are just as inept at the basics of business as entry-level employees.

What they do in common (and what saves them in a jam) is their ability to talk themselves out of a jam when they need to. They over-use their ability to think quickly on their feet, to make jokes and to sound intelligent to cover up their miscues. Too often, we give the a bligh, and accept the “sweet talk” as an acceptable
substitute for results.

Sadly, it results in a mediocrity that only persists.