When I talk to American or British expats about how they like life in Germany, the feedback is pleasantly positive. But then, many people sigh, their expressions become glum and they add “Except for the lack of customer service.”
I always find it interesting that this is mentioned so frequently because I personally don’t think the customer service in Germany is all that bad. (Not anymore. There were times when one felt guilty for even entering a shop and bothering a salesperson with the impertinent wish to make purchases.). Still, generally my experiences with German customer service are positive. So when people mention a lack of customer service, I now ask them what exactly they are missing. The replies showed me that, like almost always in cross-cultural encounters, it’s a matter of different expectations. A British lady said that she regularly (about twice a week) shopped at a bakery and that the saleswoman was bound to recognize her. Still, the British lady never received a personal word or any other sign of recognition. An American lady missed the cheerful “How are you?” she was used to hearing when entering shops in the US. She was greeted in (smaller) German shops as well, but less cordially.
I have a good American friend with German parents, Alyssa. She is not only an excellent cross-cultural trainer, but has lived abroad for many years and so has a lot of cross-cultural first-hand experience. We often chat about customer service. Like all other Americans I talked to, she finds it severely lacking in Germany. She has a keen eye for cultural peculiarities and an entertaining way of telling about her experiences. So I enjoy listening to her and often have to chuckle. But usually the conversations end with me asking “So, why was that bad customer service? It sounds normal to me.” Continue reading “Customer Service”