15 August 2008

Dutch Customer Service

I've been attempting the utterly futile for the last hour or so - taking care of business by phone in the Netherlands on a Friday afternoon. Here's the scoop. Your average business has a phone number, so that's a good thing. However, they are often only available by phone between 9am and 1pm. Or they might be available from 9am until noon and then from 1pm until 4pm. That's rather generous, though. So what happens? At 9am, the phones are jammed and often it is difficult to get through anyway.

Now, four hours a day of answering the phone is a good way to save money and cause ample customer frustration. But there seems to be no reason for stopping there when you can also eliminate one day of availability per week. One organization I need to contact today has the normal 9am - 1pm hours, but of course, not on Wednesdays. It would be far too easy to have a universal day off, so each little office (doctors, dentists, services) gets to choose a different day of the week to not answer the phones. According to the logic, that gives them time to do their administrative work. So, what are they doing with that half day every other day that they are not answering the phones, I'd like to know!

In case you aren't discouraged enough yet about trying to call, many businesses also use 0900 phone numbers. That means you pay 10 eurocents per minute to call them. Be not fooled, my friends, this charge has no relationship at all with how quickly anyone is going to help you. In fact, I've typed this entire post while sitting on hold at just that rate. We're up to 8 minutes now, so this is getting expensive. In our first year of living in the Netherlands, I had the experience of spending over an hour and a half on hold in order to cancel a cable TV service. Amazing stuff, I tell you.

Well - they picked up and were helpful in the end. Now, as for the other three places I tried to call this afternoon, I'll be the lady on the phone on the train on Monday morning. My apologies in advance!


  1. Now I know why I get a busy signal every time I call you! Go figure.

  2. I'm sympathetic: I'm resigned to multiple calls or long hold times to get simple things resolved. The worst is the bank or UPC, who charge 0.10 euro per minute to have you wait on hold. Where's the incentive for them to resolve the question quickly?

    The worst is still trying to deal with a service problem with the computer vendor Dell. I've spent many happy hours working through their call centers without any success.

  3. Hmm, isn't 'Dutch Customer Service' an oxymoron anyway?

  4. I know the feeling...NEVER avaiable on fridays, although they tell you that you can call from 9am to 5pm...once I got through...by pure chance! and the nasty piece of work who picked up the phone said he could not be bothered to speak english with me because it was friday and he was alone in the office. Funny enough: he said it in english...
    I am tempted to answer "please hold" to the next telesales offer.

  5. I'm surprised by the number of comments here (thanks!) but not by the fact that we've all experienced the same. I have found a subtle form of rewarding revenge, though. When telemarketers call, ask them politely to speak English. I've gotten everything from immediate hang ups to actual attempts to keep selling. Most of them excuse themselves, though. Highly amusing!

  6. I finally have time to go through blogs this evening! Yea!

    I just had a similar experience last week. It was 0900 number, and I was calling to ask a simple question which has no answer on the company's website. An important question which couldn't wait for an email response. I was put on hold several times, in addition. The €0,10 charge is not fair.

    I will try your "Can you speak English" on my next telemarketer. Should be fun! :)


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