Ron Johnson, MD Blueprint Creative Inc, on Customer Experience in Barbados

Ron Johnson is the Managing Director of Blueprint Creative Inc, a brand development firm based in Barbados. Blueprint Creative Inc and Antilles Economics recently collaborated to survey consumers about Customer Experience in Barbados. The following interview with Ron provides his perspective on the results.

We have just released the results of our Customer Experience Survey for Barbados. Did the results surprise you?

Because there is very little first-hand information on customer experience in the Barbados market, we weren’t sure what to expect. We viewed this survey more as a ‘starting point’ to form hypotheses about the impact of customer service on consumer behaviour. I can say, though, that we are very pleased that the survey uncovered a number of very useful insights about consumer behaviour in Barbados. This is exactly the type of research which Barbadian companies can use to better understand their customers and improve their customer service.


What made you reach out to Antilles Economics to conduct a national survey of customer experience for Barbados?

The study was driven by the need to provide our clients with Barbados-specific data on customer behaviour. Prior to this study, much of the data on customer experience was gleaned from other countries. We recognised that due to cultural differences between consumer markets, extrapolating data from one market to another may have resulted in incorrect assumptions about consumer behaviour on the island. We understood that conducting a national survey would help uncover insights about consumer behaviour that are specific to the Barbadian market. We also knew that these insights could be used to help our clients with their branding initiatives, so we were very excited about the project.

We specifically reached out to Antilles Economics because we recognised that the company has the industry experience and insight to conduct such a survey. In addition, Antilles Economics has an excellent reputation for professionalism and efficiency in all areas of research, market intelligence analysis and forecasting, so that also influenced our decision to partner with Antilles.


In your work on brand development, have you found a strong relationship between brand perceptions and customer service? Expand.

Yes. Generally, we’ve found that consumers that have experienced poor customer service tend to have a poor perception of the company providing that service. We’ve found this to be true even in cases where the service provider exceeded other customer expectations such as providing reasonable pricing for their products and services. In other words, in the eyes of customers, having a competitive pricing policy is no excuse for providing poor customer service.


How can companies improve their customer service perceptions in the eyes of consumers?

There are a number of ways in which companies can improve the levels of customer service across the organisation. An important first step is for companies to proactively launch initiatives that help them to truly understand their customers’ service expectations, preferences and pain points. Many customer service professionals refer to this as understanding the voice of the customer. Depending on the size of the company and the industry in which it operates, companies can use initiatives such as face-to-face interviews, focus groups, surveys, mystery shopper programmes and Information Technology (IT) solutions to better evaluate their levels of customer service. The options for listening to your customers are limitless and can be both qualitative and quantitative.

Another important step is to demonstrate to customers that the organisation is serious about customer service. If your initiatives reveal that customers have a legitimate customer service concern, acknowledge it and fix it. Once you’ve made a commitment to fixing the challenge, be sure to follow through. If you reassure the customer that you will improve the situation, but then do nothing, your brand reputation will take an even worse hit.

I also believe that it is also very important for companies to benchmark and emulate global organisations that are known for consistently delivering amazing customer service. You can simply run a Google search for “best customer service stories” and you’re sure to find some heartwarming and inspiring stories from some of the global leaders in customer service.


One of the findings of the survey was that a large percentage of consumers felt unable to switch from a company that they were not happy with. How do you believe this affects the company’s brand development and customer service activities?

Brands with customers who are unhappy and feel trapped should pay close attention to their customer service activities. Simply because they feel trapped, some consumers may become very critical of the company as they discuss the brand with their friends, family members or colleagues and may be able to influence their purchasing decisions. This can have a severe impact on the reputation of the brand. With companies who have monopoly status, there is also the possibility of a mass exodus of customers if the market eventually opens up.

There may also be another group of “trapped” consumers who simply throw their hands in the air in acceptance of their situation. This group may believe that since they are already locked in a long-term contract, their service provider may not feel the need to improve service to them and that their voices won’t have any impact. In this scenario, it may be more difficult for a business to improve its customer service if they are not receiving any upfront, honest feedback.

Both of the groups mentioned above can impact a brand’s development and the success of its customer service efforts. Organisations with customers who may feel trapped should be sure to embark in a number of proactive activities that will engage their customers and assist the brand in gathering the information relevant to improving its customer service experiences.


How does your organisation use this type of research?

As a branding company, we understand that consumers’ views on a company’s level of customer service can have a significant impact on its overall brand. The national survey uncovered a number of very useful insights into consumer behaviour in Barbados and consumers’ expectations on customer service. We plan to use these insights in at least two ways. Firstly, we will use the information to build a stronger Blueprint Creative brand. We will also use the insights to help our customers build stronger brands.


What are the main takeaways from the results that you would like Barbadian executives to be aware of?

A main takeaway for Barbadian executives is that dissatisfied consumers have a tendency to “leave brands without saying goodbye”. The survey uncovered that while a significant number of consumers are likely to switch to a competing brand due to poor service, they are less likely to register their dissatisfaction with management. This may lead to a scenario where customers have already switched to a competitor before management even realises that it has a customer service issue. This could be potentially devastating for companies as it may eventually lead to an exodus of customers before the company has had a chance to address the deficiencies in service. Management teams who are more proactive in monitoring their company’s levels of customer satisfaction may find themselves in a better position to use customer experience as a competitive advantage.

A second takeaway is that Barbadian consumers are highly likely to tell their friends, family members and colleagues about their customer experiences. Businesses who maintain high levels of customer satisfaction can benefit tremendously from (free) word-of-mouth marketing. At the other end of the spectrum, businesses with low levels of customer satisfaction will likely have to contend with having a brand that is tarnished in the marketplace.

To really benefit from these results, executives will need to remember that customer experience goes much deeper than activities such as employees being pleasant during interactions with clients. For instance, customers also want to interact with employees who have a deep understanding of the products and services being sold by the brand and who are empowered to solve customer problems without excessive red tape. Many other factors such as product pricing, after-sale follow-up and return policies can all influence customers’ opinion of the brand.


How would you advise executives to incorporate these findings into their customer service strategy?

These findings provide clear insight on how Barbadian consumers respond to high levels of customer service and also how they respond to low levels of customer service. The level of an organisation’s customer service can have a tangible impact on the organisation’s brand, and by extension, on its profit potential. For companies that value customer service and provide customer service training for employees, the findings can provide clarity on exactly why customer service is important to the organisation and why employees need to provide high levels of service.

Additionally, rather than seeing customer experience as a ‘bolt on’ module, leaders should incorporate their customer experience strategy into their overall business strategy. Every employee has a role to play in helping an organisation to constantly improve its levels of customer service. The company’s management should provide clarity on exactly how each customer can provide exceptional customer service. For this reason, customer experience needs to be championed at the organisation’s highest levels of leadership and should be cascaded and reinforced throughout the organisation.


It’s Confirmed! Customer Service Vital For Business Survival in Barbados

AE Report Cover 85Customer service is very important to Barbadian consumers – so much so, that they would consider paying more to benefit from an enhanced customer service experience. At the same time, however, many consumers feel trapped and unable to switch companies if they receive poor service. Despite these feelings, consumers are not always voicing their complaints to their service providers. Additionally, these consumers are not very vocal online. They are not keeping silent though. They are telling friends, family members and colleagues about their service experiences, and making decisions about which companies to do business with based on the experiences of others.

These are some of the main findings of our recent survey on customer experience, which asked more than 400 consumers in Barbados about their responses to good and bad customer service experiences, how they determine which companies to do business with, and the main reasons why they continued to do business with a company that they weren’t satisfied with.

To access the results of the survey, click here to read the Customer Experience Survey Summary Report.

Blueprint Creative and Antilles Economics surveyed consumers in Barbados to help corporate Barbados gain a better understanding of the impact that customer experience has on businesses. They study was motivated by the need to provide companies operating in Barbados with data to inform their customer service strategic decisions. With no publicly available data, CEOs, Marketing Managers and other executives were forced to rely on data from other countries, which may not always provide the appropriate insight into the Barbados market. This survey is the first step to closing this gap. We have made the data collected during the survey accessible to companies that wish to delve deeper into the data that what is provided in the summary report.

To find out how to access more detailed information, visit

AE Impact Story: Forecasting the future of the Barbadian Insurance Industry

Aim of the Project

The great recession that began in 2007 was a period of significant uncertainty. Economic activity in most Caribbean countries contracted, resulting in rising rates of unemployment and reduced sales for most companies.

Our client was a company within the Barbadian insurance industry, which is particularly sensitive to changes in the labour market. The Managing Director believed that the uncertainty within the local and international economy warranted a more rigorous approach to their annual strategy development sessions.

Antilles Economics was tasked with helping the MD understand the economic developments currently affecting his company, as well as anticipating how these developments could impact the insurance company’s revenue stream.

What we did

Antilles Economics has a proprietary macroeconomic forecasting model for Barbados. We used this model to provide macroeconomic forecasts for the next six years. In addition, a new module was constructed to forecast premium income and other company-specific information.

This forecasting exercise correctly predicted the reduction in real GDP in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Using this information and other predictions from the model, we provided additional information on the likely path for both insurance claims and premiums. The model also accurately forecasted the falloff in revenue premiums as well as the reduction in new policyholders.

Impact of the Project

The results of this forecasting exercise formed the foundation of the company’s strategic plan for the next few years, and our client was able to plan for the downturn before it arrived.

The MD presented the projections to the Board of Directors and successfully argued the need to implement revenue-enhancing and cost-control measures as a matter of urgency. Being able to anticipate what has turned out to be one of the longest economic slumps in Barbados in decades allowed our client to develop strategies to minimise its negative impact on the company’s bottom line.

Our Work in the Consumer Finance Industry

AE Consumer FinanceConsumer finance is one of the biggest industries in the Caribbean, encompassing commercial banks, credit unions, finance houses, insurance companies, auto dealerships, store cards, hire purchase agreements and building societies. It is also one of the most competitive. Across the globe information is the linchpin of winning the competitive race, and here in the Caribbean is no different.

At Antilles Economics, we aim to be the intelligence partners for consumer finance companies, providing economic forecasts through our dashboards, market insights through our market research solutions, and timely advice through our ongoing strategic support.

Our team has relevant, practical experience. We have been trained by national regulators, have worked in economic and strategy advisory for commercial entities, and have been researching on consumer finance for more than a dozen years.

To learn more about our Consumer Finance practice and how we can help your organisation, click here to view our brochure.

Data Limitations – What to Do When the Data You Need Isn’t There


At Antilles Economics we often encounter data limitations both when doing work for clients as well as when conducting our own independent analysis. Not all of these limitations are within our power to fix. But some are. Here’s a selection of common limitations and how we’ve fixed them.


There are times when a particular variable is not explicitly available

Either it is available but not published or it has never been estimated. In some of these cases, there is sufficient data available to estimate it ourselves. This solution may not result in the exact same numbers that would have been published by the authorities, but it usually gives us a good idea of trends. We check for reasonableness to make sure it is in line with our expectations, and focus our use of the information on the direction and magnitude of the changes we observe in the trend, rather than on the exact number.

Another work around we have used for non-existent data is to collect it ourselves. For example, we conducted our Use of Data survey to understand how data was used in corporations because there was no dataset or insights available on this topic for Barbados. In another example, we conducted a survey for a client because there was no data available on the topic they were interested. Companies use surveys all the time to collect their own data on topics such as customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and consumer preferences.

There are times when the data exists but is inaccessible for some reason

For example, many companies have multiple data collection systems depending on the data. There may be one system for financial accounting, another for tracking sales, another for inventory management, another for customer management, another for social media statistics and yet another for production. Many of these systems do not ‘talk’ to each other. So if you want to know the percentage that one particular sales assistant contributed to overall revenue in any given time period, or whether a particular marketing campaign was more effective in one region/branch or another, it is almost impossible though theoretically the data exists. Some companies employ a useful workaround: an overarching business intelligence solution that captures all of the data from all of the various sources into one ‘super database.’ This is the ideal solution. But most companies are ignoring these types of questions because it is too complicated to attempt to answer them and too expensive to purchase a business intelligence solution. We have encountered this problem and solved it in two ways. The first was to use a business intelligence solution that captures data from innumerable sources into one easy to use system. The other was to request the necessary data from all the different sources as we needed it, and combine them manually in a simple software such as Excel. We obviously prefer the first option.

Some databases were not designed to capture information in formats that are useful for analytical purposes.

Another example of inaccessible data can occur depending on database design. For example, a company may have one client that uses three of their services, but the database captures this client as three separate clients because each time the client chooses a new service, a new account must be created. Imagine an analyst wanting to know how many clients are using multiple services or which services tend to be used together, it would almost be impossible with this setup. One solution would be to sample the company’s clients. You could ask a group of relationship managers to analyse their pools of clients and create a simple table with the name of the clients as the rows and the type of service they use as the column headings. Aggregating this table across relationship managers would give you an idea of how many clients use multiple services and which ones. You wouldn’t need to do this for all clients, just a sample, to get a reasonable estimate.


This is just a selection of some of the data challenges we’ve encountered and how we’ve chosen to solve them. We’d love to hear about your experiences, so please leave a comment after this post telling us what challenged you faced, and if you solved it, how.

AE Impact Story: Impact of Legislative Change on Demand for Medicines in Barbados

Aim of the Project

In early 2011, the Government of Barbados introduced a dispensing fee for prescriptions filled at private pharmacies. This fee, the equivalent of 30% of the cost of the medicine, was expected to raise US$6 million for the Government and reduce the budget of the Barbados Drug Service by US$8.7 million.

The goal of this project was to identify the implications of this policy change for the demand for medicines, and identify a strategy that would stimulate continued growth for our client.

What We Did

We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the key policy documents related to Barbados’ policy regarding medicines, and surveyed and interviewed four key stakeholder groups: (1) consumers; (2) doctors; (3) pharmacists; and, (4) government and international health agencies. We needed to understand how their behaviour had evolved since the change in policy, as well as their views on how the market demand for medicines would continue to evolve.

The results of the secondary research and surveys formed the inputs into a forecast model to simulate the likely impact of the policy change on market demand over time. In addition, an assessment of the behavioural changes likely to have been adopted by pharmacists, doctors and consumers was provided.


The results were used by the client to adjust their marketing and distribution policies in the Barbados market.

Their proactive approach allowed them to grow market share and maintain profitability, despite the negative impact of the policy change on overall market demand for medicines.

The ‘New’ British Visitor to Barbados

Since the late 2000s the number of British visitors to Barbados has fallen considerably (click Where did the Brits go to read our article looking at possible explanations.) This decline resulted in a shift in the characteristics of the average British visitor. In our latest article, we take a closer look at The ‘New’ British Visitor to Barbados.

We investigate demographics and travel patterns and find that the ‘new‘ visitor is very different from the pre-2008 visitor, with different spending patterns, demographic characteristics and travel planning behaviour. This shift raises important considerations about the future of the British market in Barbados.   

To read this article, click here .

If you would like to see more of this type of research, join the AE Group of Influencers and let us know.

Where Did the Brits Go?

One of the indirect effects of the global financial crisis on Barbados has been a reduction in visitor arrivals. While arrivals from all of Barbados’ main source markets felt the impact, the British market has been particularly hard hit: not only has the total number of visitors declined, but visitor expenditure has also fallen.

There are a number of potential explanations that have been posited:

  • The UK recession and the rise of the ‘staycation’ have resulted in lower demand for travel outside of the country
  • The increase in the air passenger duty applied to longhaul flights increased the cost of airfare, possible beyond the reach of many of Barbados’ visitors
  • The closure of a large all-inclusive hotel created a gap in the package holiday market

We examine these theories in our article ‘Where did the Brits go?’

If you’d like to see more of this type of research, click here to join our Group of Influencers to tell us your areas of interest.

Our Work in the Tourism Industry in Barbados

AE Tourism Brochure background-01The tourism industry in Barbados faces many challenges: declining visitor expenditure, low tourist arrivals, changing visitor preferences, climate change, tighter financial budgets and increased competition from other destinations. We use our economics and data analytics skills to reduce the threats and maximise the opportunities inherent in each of these challenges.


Sample of the questions we can help answer:

  • Is now the right time to expand?
  • Should we discount our rates?
  • Do tourist preferences vary by country of origin?
  • How should I vary my marketing in the winter season versus the summer season?
  • When will visitor spending return to normal?


Click here to view our tourism brochure and read more about how we support the most dynamic region in the Caribbean.