Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dutch Customer Service: An Experience in Itself?

One of the great things about summer is the long sunny evenings sitting on the beach, sipping a wine or a beer and munching on some dinner with a view over the sea.

However, if the weather isn't up to much, then sitting in a beach side restaurant for a bite to eat watching the storm clouds roll over the sea is second best. At least you get to spend the summer on the beach anyway. That is, unless the restaurant staff decides to throw you out because you won't move your pram into the line of hot food and drinks.
One expat who works in The Hague was shocked to the core by a recent 'Dutch customer service' experience he had in Scheveningen:
"In my 3 1/2 years I have lived in The Hague I have previously experienced rudeness, especially in bars at the beach and there are only a handful that are really good. But what happened in PEUKIE beats everything."

On a Sunday evening in July this expat went out with visiting family to PEUKIE for meal. The family were over to celebrate the recent birth of their baby. He asked for a table for six, and some room around the table for the pram. The waitress arranged it for them and they settled down. The restaurant was fairly busy, mainly with groups and only the smaller tables remained empty - including two tables for two next to the expat and his family.

Shortly after ordering drinks, three people came over to sit near the group and one asked the expat's girlfriend to move the pram (with a six week old baby in it) to another position - in a draft, next to loud music and in the line of waiters carrying food and drinks, as well as in the way of other guests.

Whilst two of the three guests looking for a table simply moved to another table (which incidentally was more spacious anyway) the third person continued arguing with his girlfriend about the positioning of her pram. Instead of joining the others, the third person went to talk to the waiting staff. It suddenly became clear to the group that the woman arguing and speaking so rudely to them was actually part of the restaurant staff!!

The expat explains further:
"In the meantime the two guests that took the table, apologised for the inconvenience and looked quite embarrassed about what happened. A minute later the woman came back and said: “Please leave”."

They didn't hesitate and needless to say they won't be returning anytime in this century.

Dutch customer service is at best, lacking in many establishments and it is certainly one of the gripes that expatriates have about living in the Netherlands. Many are shocked at how 'staff' talk to people and there seems to be little interest in keeping customers and avoiding any damage to a company reputation. I could write a weekly series for about a year on my personal experiences with bad customer service: ranging form energy companies to restaurants to telecoms suppliers to supermarkets. But I won't.

What are your experiences with Dutch customer service? Do you find that Dutch restaurants tend to be unfriendly for children? Have you had a run in with a "customer service rep" or staff member about something?

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