I went to Best Buy to buy a laptop. This has happened to me twice in one month. I walk around the store, wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on a laptop and I can’t find anyone to assist me. After several laps around the store to find a customer service person and not being able to get help, I leave. Empty handed. With loads of cash in my pocket and no laptop.
I am pretty sure that the CEO of Best Buy probably wanted my money.
And I am 100% sure that I wanted a laptop.
But the lack of customer care created impossibility. Both parties wanted to meet in the middle and make an exchange, but couldn’t get to each other. An economic opportunity was lost.
I wonder why, in a country like America, with plenty of qualified people, that they wouldn’t hire more people to help. How much more could a company make in a day if there was no limit on customer service? If there were no lines in the world? No waiting for someone to help you.
Companies and people could easily find each other for those fast and easy exchanges and economic growth would happen. Beautiful.
Impose this situation on Haiti and the situation with the artisans here and this is where I am having trouble.
I have buyers coming. I have orders coming. I have enquiries coming. But I don’t have the customer service help to fill the orders, create the samples, send the pictures, cost out the items, answer the emails, do the marketing, or drive people to the websites. I am like an airport with no air traffic controllers. I am standing here with hundreds of moms wanting work and buyers asking to buy, and I don’t have enough help to make those transactions successful. It’s a huge traffic jam. And people don’t have patience for that. They are conflicted and confused wondering why, if we want to provide more jobs, that we can’t give them the courtesy of a follow up email, a status update, a sample they are requesting, or any other basic business courtesy. The tragedy is, we are missing so many opportunities for economic prosperity for the poor because of it.
Why not just hire more people to help?
If I am going to get good qualified help with customer service and business needs for our US clients, I have to be able to pay a customer service person US wages while producing in a country that is at the bottom economically and unfortunately, the formula just doesn’t add up.
How have we done it so far?
We underpay our top staff.
Thankfully, because people feel a passion and a calling to Haiti, I have a handful of American, Expat, and qualified Haitian staff who help me with customer service accounts in the US at about ¼ the pay that they would get for the same job in the states or elsewhere. I feel guilty about this every day. But there is no way around it that I can see. If our prices go up, we simply won’t sell. We are understaffed and my staff is underpaid. So many heroes around me really.
You can imagine how hard it is to incentivize qualified business people to come live and work in Haiti for less than $1000 per month. So what happens is this: Because of our shortage at the top, customers get tired of waiting, jobs are lost, and it feels like we can never really do a great job at anything we do. At our current staff bandwidth, we could all work 100 hours per week and still would not have enough time to do great customer service for the businesses who are wanting to buy from us.
It is heartbreaking to watch opportunity slip away. And it is very hard to find people who are the right fit. It has to be something inside them to motivate them to do this and they have to be compatible with Haiti. It’s a tall order to say the least.
The point of this little story is to help explain to our clients why we are so lacking at customer care, to thank my staff that I do have for sacrificing so much for the sake of the poor, and to ask for more help.
We need expert marketing and business people, accountants and finance people. We need web people and designers who can sacrifice a little to be committed to orphan prevention and opportunities for the poor. We can’t pay well, but we are desperate for good and qualified help. There are mothers at the gate today holding their malnourished babies who would have work if we had help at the top. We have so much untapped potential and unrealized economic blessing that is yet to be awakened.
If you have skills, a heart for Haitian families, and your heart is moved, please send your resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Chelsea. She is a young Haitian professional who could be doing very well in the United States, but has chosen to come back to Haiti to be a part of the change. She runs our boutique in Haiti and if you ever have time to visit us in Haiti, you will be sure to find her a welcoming presence in the store.