Does customer service actually exist in Germany?


It strikes me over and over again that where Germany could really learn a thing or two from Britain is in the service sector.

Don’t get me wrong there are a few places I regularly shop that present a happy, friendly customer experience. Truth be told this is what I want when I eat out in a restaurant, telephone with the doctor’s receptionist, or do my shopping.

I know that everyone has off days. Me very much included. But I think that, if you make the decision to work with people, you should treat those people with decency and respect. At least while they treat you so.

The thought sometimes enters my head, that on hiring staff in the service sector here, one of the necessary requirements is to be as grumpy as possible.

I find myself wondering, if on the application form, there’s a question asking, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how unfriendly are you, with 1 being extremely unfriendly and 10 being extremely friendly?”

The lowest scorer then being awarded the job.

Having lived in Scotland for most of my life I have been truly spoiled in terms of customer care. Shopping in Scotland provides the opportunity for casual banter on every corner. And I love it.

And it’s one of the things I miss most. Which is not what I at all expected.

But there you are.

This morning a parcel that we had unwittingly returned (with the aid of the post office) with the incorrect postage, stood at the door in the hands of an irate post woman. Along with a fine of 15Eur. 15Eur.? Is post not expensive enough? Are we rich? Come on – 15Eur?

I am starting to be convinced that the problems in the service sector really do come from the top. After all, if each customer has to pay such a heavy fine for a postal mistake, then this post-woman is no doubt faced on a regular basis with some pretty angry customers.

And I have another example from just last week to support my theory.

Last week we took a friend furniture shopping to a massive (and I can’t tell you just how enormous, but think of Ikea as small, that should help) furniture store called Inhofer. Our friend doesn’t have a car and we wanted to support him on his refurbishment adventure.

The children checked into the soft play area while the adults bounced around on luscious sofas and imagined glorious banquets at huge dining tables. Well, maybe that latter part was just me.

Anyway, Inhofer is basically split into two parts, one named aptly, Inhofer, and the other Mega In. Inhofer is a showcase for the more expensive furniture and Mega In contains the bargains.

If you’re not just an observer/tester/drooler in Inhofer (that’s us) but a genuine shopper (that’s our friend), then an Inhofer assistant gives you the full on, friendly, have a nice day experience. Actually, I even thought it at times too much. And we worked out what it is. They’re on commission.

But it’s a different story when you hop over the invisible boundary to Mega In. Unfortunately for our friend though, that’s where they take the money.

There you have to queue like all of the other bargain hunters and on finally reaching the till, a supervisor informed our dear friend that no, they don’t take credit cards. Only debit cards. So no matter that you’re there, spending thousands in the sunny side of the store, policy has decided that you’ll pay in the form that management declares possible.

And to add insult to injury, you will not be informed in the dulcet tones you once heard from a smiling sales assistant, but instead by a voice that all but says, “I don’t give a shit.”

Of course, this complicated life for our friend because the policy of his bank is not to give out more than xxx amount of euros in one transaction. Meaning he had to stand at the cash desk paying out in several installments, while the tired queue grew and groaned.

We returned to our car across the ice skating rink, which had at one time been known as a car park. Risking our bones because the Inhofer bosses refuse to spend the cash for their many thousand customers to arrive safely at their store, via a little grit.

In case my argument does not convince you that those in charge are to blame: my husband approached a Mega In assistant hoping to be directed to our crockery set for which we again require replacements. Only to be informed that Inhofer no longer sell our crockery, even though it is their best-selling product. Why? Because the boss doesn’t want to sell it anymore.

From me to you: I personally benefit from Inhofer’s disregard for their consumers (this time). Feeling pretty bored with our plates, I’d been trying to coax hubby into trying something new…. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Does customer service actually exist in Germany?”

    1. Shame so many people in positions of power have no real idea of how to use that power for ‘the good’ or have no real interest in doing so.

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