Published On: Sun, Feb 2nd, 2020

Impress for success

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert on Caribbean female leadership

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

Customers are opinion multipliers, both in a positive and a negative sense. They pass on positive and negative perceptions to others by word of mouth. When negative, it can be destructive. When positive, it is preciously constructive and the lowest-cost manner of promoting a service or business. Customers want to be impressed. After all, that is what they are paying for. Acquiring new customers is more difficult and costly than keeping existing ones. Losing an existing customer is twice as expensive: for one, it is a loss for the business, and secondly, a replacement customer needs to be found which may take a lot of marketing effort.

Customer orientation requires acting the way the customer likes it and wants it! It is not only the offered service that determines success; equally important is the way that customers are treated.

Customer friendliness says, “We are happy that you are a customer!” Keep an ideal customer experience in mind and then try to offer that ideal experience. Exceed your customers’ expectations and make them feel great.

If scientists ever find out where the center of the universe is, some people will be disappointed that they’re not it. You may not want to call your business ‘Center-of-the-Universe’ either. But, how about placing a sign at the entrance to remind your customers:

‘Caution! By entering this facility, you are becoming the center of our attention’.


Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol was a Spanish Surrealist artist. He granted the railway station of the city Perpignan in France an entry in the history of art when he named it the ‘Center of the Universe’ after having experienced there, in his words, “a sort of cosmic ecstasy, stronger than all those I had before. I experienced a precise vision of the construction of the universe.” Quick question: what title are you granting your airport, hotel or restaurant?

There is nothing wrong with giving customers the feeling that they are the center of the universe, without going as far as Dali’s cosmic ecstasy. Anyway, I will just have to give you two quotes of  this world famous eccentric artist who claimed that he is not strange, but that he is just not normal. Quote one: “The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents,” which fits nicely in this article. The second one is something to think about: “Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy —the joy of being Salvador Dalí— and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?”

The personal performance of any individual involved in a business, from the owner or manager  to the person who cleans the toilet, contributes to the combined image of the establishment. Anyone who has the slightest contact with a customer is part of the image, even if the cleaning person only says ‘good morning’ with a smile when the customer walks by.

All providers in a chain of services at a tourism destination from arrival to departure contribute to the total image of the destination: airport, taxi, hotel, restaurant, merchants, yes even the security officer at entrance of the bank. The airport at the beginning or the end of a flight is part of the image of an airline or the tour operator who made the arrangements. You may say: “Why are you telling us that? We know that already”.

Aunt Emma already knew it a century ago. She did not have any education or training for it. Aunt Emma? ‘Tante Emma Laden’ is the German equivalent of the mom-and-pop store. Can you imagine Aunt Emma running the little general store in her village, years ago? Pure nostalgia! She knew all her customers by name. She could carry on pleasant chit-chat. She gave the little kids a piece of candy. She knew exactly about the shopping habits of her customers and tried to offer the right range of products. She could even give a cooking recipe or advice on how to remove fat stains from a shirt. Shopping at Tante Emma’s store always gave shoppers a good feeling, even if the prices were higher than at the supermarket. Tante Emma exercised customer relations management without having software or a computer for it.

Human contact on offer is special; time to listen, the exchange of whole sentences. The persons who represent a business or operation can sell a bit of their own personality along with the product and service. It often helps to make the customer experience unique. It could add a bit of authenticity of the culture of a destination. Isn’t that what is sometimes missing from customer relations that only follow a formal training protocol?


About the author:

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is the Chairman and Coordinator of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup, an annual results and solution oriented conference for stakeholders of ‘airlift’ in the Caribbean which will be June 16-18, 2020, on St. Maarten. Mr. Slabbaert’s  background is accentuated by aviation business development, strategic communication, and journalism.