Chantal  Panozzo
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Customer Service in Switzerland

May 14, 2009 @ 2:18 AM | Permalink

Customer service in Switzerland is much different than customer service in the United States. In Switzerland, the customer is not always right. Here, customers are expected to be more responsible. For example, if you buy a shirt in the wrong size, the store isn't obligated to take it back even though you have the receipt and haven't worn it. It's considered your fault, and therefore, your loss.

Lesson: before you buy something in Switzerland, make sure it's exactly what you want.

This concept of responsibility isn't all bad. It reflects on the greater culture as well. People don't sue, for example, should their coffee be hot because they realize it is their responsibility to drink it carefully.

Another concept that can be frustrating to Americans used to toll-free numbers like 1-800-WAIT-FOREVER, is the concept of Swiss toll numbers that are required to order almost anything or for questions concerning your orders. The only bright side to paying for service via the phone is that you never have to wait for hours on end listening to unfortunate music choices.

Because service is generally included in prices at restaurants and hotels, Americans also find they will not get the attention they are used to and things almost always move at a slower pace. Once you get used to it, it's fine and actually kind of nice not to be rushed and not to be bothered every minute with a "how y'all doing?". There are no free refills, after all, so there's no reason for the waiter to keep coming back.

I won't say I'm always happy about the level of customer service though. Sometimes I get downright annoyed by the attitude of shopkeepers and waiters, which generally give me the feeling that I should be honored to shop/eat at their establishment. They're not waiting on me; I'm waiting on them. They'll help me when they feel like it.

Last week, for example, there was a market with locals selling crafts, among other things. I got there late, but my husband was interested in some lawn art a woman had created, so I asked her for a business card, even though she was shutting down her booth. She acted like I had asked her for the impossible. Sighing heavily, she rummaged through one of her boxes like I had completely disrupted her day instead of giving her potential business. Her attitude didn't exactly make me excited about possibly purchasing something later. But then again, it's nothing out of the ordinary for Switzerland and as far as I can tell, it hasn't stopped any Swiss person from parting with their Francs.

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Saleem Reshamwala on Swiss Party Pooper 2009-02-16

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