Dutch customer service?

The Dutch customer service philosophy is simple and elegant: “that is not possible”. I take back everything I ever said about Telstra, compared to anything Dutch they are Gods of efficient and friendly service.

This rant was sparked by our need to get ADSL. Currently we are stuck on dialup and both of us need broadband to be able to do our work. We called the phone company (KPN) to connect our phone on the 27th of April. During the same call they advised us that the fastest way to get ADSL connected was to go through them. It would take two weeks instead of the usual three. Time being of the essence, I signed up through them for one of their resellers, planet.nl. The phone line will be connected the next day, our modem and welcome pack will arrive within a week and we will be connected to ADSL in two weeks.

Our phone line was connected 5 days later.

Today is exactly two weeks since that call, and no modem has arrived. We called planet.nl to find out what was going on, they had us in the system (at least) but were waiting on KPN. They connected us to KPN. Yes, we are on the system, they can see that we applied on the 9th of May, and we will be connected on schedule in 3 weeks or so. Aargh! To clarify, the 3 weeks doesn’t start until our phone was connected and the PHONE COMPANY was not notified of that until the 9th of May. We pointed out that we were connected long before then, surely the phone company knew that? Can we talk to a supervisor?

“Dat kan niet” (that is impossible). Apparently they do not have supervisors at KPN, and the person on the phone (Barbara Groen) does not have a boss. I guess she is the CEO of KPN.

She gave us her name and a contact phone number, and suggested we call back in one week if nothing had happened, and then terminated the call. I immediately called the number: it was a fake number.

So I have that familiar feeling, making me a bit homesick. That Telstra feeling. My chest is tight, my hands are shaking, I want to hurt things. When I complain about this to a Dutch person they don’t understand. What had I expected to happen?

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  1. Just got a letter each from both KPN and Planet. They basically say that they will be sending a modem in 4 WEEKS and once I have received it they will activate my account after 1 week. It also says that these times are estimates and they do not guarantee such a speedy service.

  2. That is Utter BS, I cant belive that there is like no customer service. POS… Hope you are well, as usual the standard of your writting is excellent. flows very well and makes you feel like you are there being told a very funny story. Although the Dutch Phone Nazis dont sound fun. I hope they all get some sort of STI and fall over.

  3. I’ve been living in the netherlands for 3 years now, and I agree that the bad service is very popular, here.

    I must say something in favor of KPN, though.

    At least on my experience, they were always quick and reliable on service.

    I had my internet connection fully working in 2 weeks (after getting the ISDN on: 10 days).

    when I moved i brought my isdn+adsl with me in 4 days.

    of course if you choose the cheap provider (Planet) you get what you pay for.

    I choose xs4all, and despite the fact that I pay 90 Euros per month for a 20 Mb connection, I have no regret at all.

    When they switched my connection from 8Mb to 20Mb, I had to wait less than 10 days.

    When the service called me to ask me why I didn’t use my 20Mb connection, I told them I never got a modem, and got one in 48 hours.

    I’ll always think that you get what you pay for.

    Want service? pay.

    Of course u’ll never be able to get a Parma Ham sandwich with no pesto inside, but that’s just because they think “pesto makes it italian”


  4. Aha, the evil that is KPN! We arrived in the Netherlands in November. Were lazy and took our time to scope the best deal for phone and internet.

    Queue trip to KPN shop to enquire, the guy immediately started running up the contract… Whoa, whoa, whoa! We say, we only want information today. His response: “It’s on the website” and off he scarpers to the next unwitting customer!

    We found the best deal was Orange.
    BUT WAIT! You can’t buy an Orange phone line unless you already have a KPN line.

    So we return to KPN. “Oh yes, the phone can be ready in 10 days. I’ll just have a look…” starts looking at dates which are 20+ days on… “There, we’ll send our phone guy out to you in 30 days” We accept – not a lot else you can do, afterall!

    So I wait in all day for this technician. Meanwhile cunning hubby borrows a work phone to get us started as the British phones we brought over don’t work anyway. Yes, all that KPN have done is flip a switch down the line – no technician! A whole day wasted!

    As to ADSL, we returned to Orange, got the basic deal with half price for the first year (E8.95), the modem arrived when the shop assistant said it would (within two weeks, I had heard rumours of Orange struggling to keep up with demand and therefore taking longer, so was prepared to be patient).
    Our only problem was that we were told all would spark up on the Friday. It didn’t. So we phoned customer service (gah! 20cent/minute!) on the Monday lunchtime, and they immediately spotted it had only been sparked that morning… queue immediately checking and finding them correct.

    We love Orange!

  5. The Dutch have perfected the art of Customer Service Outsourcing. That way, nothing is ever their problem. I pay my landlord for heat, the landlord pays the heating service. The heating service lets me sleep in the cold all weekend and wait all day on the next workday for them NOT to show up. Who is accountable? Not the landlord, it’s the heating company’s problem. Not the heating company, after all, I don’t pay them so what obligation do they have to me?
    Dutch people don’t seem to think it’s a big deal. They call it “van het kastje naar de muur” and it’s a cute national tradition. Sad.
    Lived here one and a half years.

  6. My top 3 from Dutch customer service moments…

    In third place:- Went to ING, have 2 flatmates paying rent to me and then myself in charge of paying the total amount for the 3 of us in the flat to the landlord, got a job and student money coming in, tuition fees at the university coming off… i.e. lots of transactions occurring, went into ING to find out if the transactions had all gone through successfully and the guy told me, in a rude abrupt Dutch manner- without eye contact-” We cannot tell you this information, you can check your balance on the machine outside.” I asked why, he said his job is to sell you something, not to give information and that his boss would no be happy if he did this! So I decided to set up internet banking, which I was required to do by phone despite being in an ING bank, I called, they asked for a my IBAN and BIC number, still standing by the desk where the rude man was now on the phone waiting in a phone queue staring into space, I asked him to show me where this was written on my bank statement, he told me he was busy, I asked him are you not just in a phone queue? He sighed looked at the form and pointed to it which took him all of 3 seconds! Yay to me keeping 1000’s of euros in an ING account.

    in second place, any time I have had to rent a bike when friends come and visit I have experienced rudeness, not “Dutch directness”, plane rudeness! Yellow bike, Macbike, Blackbike, all rude! and of course bad service, one time on returning bikes at 1 minute to 8 the guy was like “you are too late, you are supposed to return the bikes 10 minutes before closing” in an aggressive and pissed off manner- to my parents a couple in their 50’s, even though nothing was stated regarding this on the ticket which said open 10am – 8pm! My dad pointed this out and the guy sighed and said “your lucky its not a football night or I would be going home.” No eye contact and took the bikes back, thankyou for your custom i think not, hmm.

    And the winner as it was fresh in my mind from 2 days ago was buying paint, I went into Gammer at 6pm, asked about the paint I would need, which of course the guy knew nothing about because staff don’t get trained here, eventually I decided I would need to find out the exact colour from the landlord, I said I will come back later, what time you open until? He said 9pm, (wow 9pm in holland, that is rare!) I came back at 8.30 (20 minute cycle), another guy who knew nothing about paint talked to me for 3 minutes about paint (wow 3 minutes of sustained customer service, Gammer are doing well by Dutch standards so far in this story! He hadn’t even shrugged his shoulders thus far) but then he said “oh yesh but the paint desk is shut, it is shutting at 8.30) Useful!! After I made the 40 minute round trip and with nowhere else for 100km open I would have to come back a third time, I saw the manager and I explained the situation, hoping he would resolve it in someway, maybe open up the paint desk in light of the false info I was given or perhaps make sure it was mixed first thing the next day for me or something like that but I just got the shrug,” deshk is closing at 8.30, its closed”, I explained that I had been in asking about paint and had been told 9pm, he didn’t care, no question of which member of staff gave me this info and wasted an hour of my time, just a shrug of the shoulders, job done!

    5 words I would never use to describe Dutch customer service- friendly, enthusiastic, polite, expert or energetic!!

  7. Just moved into the NL, after having lived in Australia and Indonesia. Trust me, even customer service in Indonesia is way better than it is in the Netherlands. One day, we had a technician coming from KPN to set up a telephone line to our apartment. He came and checked the cable in the building and found that the building did not have a connection to the main cable under the pedestrian path walk. Without consulting this to me, he dug the path walk to pull the cable out of there and he ‘successfully’ made a connection from our apartment to the main cable. After that, we got charged for quite huge amount of Euros. In Australia and Indonesia, we play the game by price quotation, if both parties agree with it then we will proceed with the game. But that does not happen in the Netherlands. Customer service here, SUCKS!

  8. Ah, I forgot one thing…I went to ABN amro just to open an account with them on the 28th December 2010. I went to the customer service and told her that I want have an account with them. The answer I got was ‘No one can help you at the moment, because it’s end of year and everyone’s busy. I will make you an afspraak (appointment) so that you can open an account’.

    In Australia and Indonesia, Customers dont want to know if you are busy, or if it’s end of year or mid of year, or whatever. As a matter of fact, in both two countries CUSTOMERS ARE KINGS You should always have customer service people during business hours who are helpful especially for those who are keen to use your service. However, back to my story, I managed to set up an account the next week, I asked them if I can exchange my OZ dollars into EUROs but they referred me to GWK travelex with their huge amount of commission (7.5 Euros for every equivalent 1000 USD).. then I decided to deposit 300 Euros that I had in my pocket, and you know what? I was not able to make a deposit into my own account not after I received my ATM card!! Because they try to cut some costs by eliminating over the counter services like tellers and everything and replace them with ATMs that can do both withdrawals and deposits. Fyuh…

    More stories continue…

  9. Sorry, the telephone line cable pulling only costs us 25 Euros, but still…without prior notification that it’s gonna cost us money.

  10. It is so sad and so true Costumer service in the netherlands is unexistent. The train company NS call me to renew my discount card, they never send it, send many mails and they were simply ignored, call several times and for more than 10 minutes on the line and nobody answer. They offer me the renew in December and I pay and have confirmation on my bank account, but now is almout july and no answer yet. Well I will keep on trying, i will have to take a day off from my work to go to his offices.

  11. Just thought I would share a horrible exercise I have had with television Internet company Scarlet. I’ve been in the Netherlands over 10 years and people always company about the bad service etc but I have always been pretty lucky until recently when I decided to change TV / Internet providers from Ziggo because of losing BBC2, but bad decision!!

    I ordered it through breedbandshop and received confirmation of take over date etc. A couple of days before the date I contacted Scarlet as I received my wireless box but no date mentioned. This is when the problems began.

    Scarlet has the worst CS I ever encountered. You can only ring between 9-5 and they never pick up. I wasted so much time and money to get through and after two days I finally got through to the rudest person ever. I was told I have to wait 2 further weeks and when I mentioned my confirmation email from breedbandshop they told me in no uncertain terms the email meant nothing. I had to accept it, end of story!!

    I contacted breedbandshop who I have to say where helpful but would not give me their contact person at Scarlet who was confirming different information. As helpful as breedbandshop where they still did not get me the service I signed up to.

    I run a web based webshop and could not be without Internet or phone. Again this fell on deaf ears. After numerous calls email etc, most of which unanswered the new date came, guess what someone forgot to change the settings, human error but hay I would have it in a few days so what was my problem!!!

    Three weeks after my old provider finished I had Internet but not all good. Telephone would be another week. Then Scarlet phoned me, wow privileged I thought. They offered me in compensation one months free subscription. Given that I had three weeks without Internet and 4 without phone I told them it was not good enough and requested to be let out of my contract.

    After many many mails and Scarlet refusing to but me through to the person who called me, I had a breakthrough. Scarlet confirmed they would cancel my contract but I had to apply through writing or via website.

    Received my confirmation date, my contract would end in 11 months!!!!

    When I queried this I was told, yes I could cancel my contract but as no date was advised in any correspondence I had to accept the final date.

    I do not want to with them but do not know what to do now. They have treated me really badly and do not want anybody else to go through it.

    Avoid Scarlet at all costs!!!

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