Whether you are trying to make a living or just earn some extra cash on the side as a student, working in customer service in the Netherlands can be quite different. As someone who has spent a bit too many years working in that sphere, customer service in the land of tulips can be quite baffling. Is it that different that you would need to be eased into it via this article? Ugh, yeah!
So as someone who has spent three years helping Dutch customers in cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht I’ve definitely seen the good, the bad, and the weird. So settle down and prepare for some (somewhat) expert advice on what to expect from Dutch customers.
Authentic Dutch customer service: attitude
When I first started working in customer service in the Netherlands it came as a great shock that employees are allowed to give attitude to rude customers. As someone who for many years was taught to give ‘American style’ customer service and always be bubbly and cheerful, it was a big surprise to see how this is not at all necessary among the Dutch.
How working in customer service in the Netherlands could look like:
While of course, my Dutch colleagues would always treat the customer very kindly, they would not get in trouble if they talked back to certain clients that were especially rude. Even though at first it was very hard to let go of the idea that “the customer is always right”, once I embraced the Dutch ways of working I felt quite liberated. Long gone are the days of internal mental breakdowns and PTSD! So if you tend to be a mean customer (please don’t) be prepared for some sassy Dutch attitude. *snaps fingers in windmill formation*
Biggest customer service trend in the Netherlands: promotions
If there is one Dutch word you need to remember while working in customer service, it is korting. Dutch customers happen to be big fans of discounts and special offers. Therefore that would be the first thing they ask for as soon as they walk in.
But it doesn’t stop there! Once you appoint them to the Promised Land, Dutchies will not start shoving products into their basket like children at a candy shop. Oh no! The Dutch are very intelligent and practical buyers (and rightfully so). They will ask you about certain products, their benefits compared to the other items, and start calculating which option is more favourable.
I have to admit, Dutch people are the niftiest and most sensible customers I have ever worked with. And while it is quite refreshing to see a customer who knows how to get a good deal, it is also a pain in the derrière when your boss requires you to upsell the newest and most expensive products to them. The struggle is real!
A must in Dutch customer service: change
I cannot emphasize this enough! Make sure you always have change to give back. Dutch people are quite eagle-eyed when it comes to the change they receive once they have paid. If you do not have even five cents to give back, chances are most customers will be grumpy.
Story time! I once had a man make a comment that if I don’t give five cents change all day to every single customer, then I’ll end up with quite a generous tip. And while at that moment I wished I had thought of this genius plan by myself, Uncle Scrooge wasn’t having any of it! The man stayed until I found some way to give him back his five cents, even though the process took half an hour and involved five different people. So the bottom line is, always have change otherwise you will get a lot of unhappy customers.
The sad Dutch customer service reality: no tips
This kind of connects with my previous point on change, but unfortunately, Dutch customers do not typically leave tips. If you really want to make a good tip, then I recommend working in Amsterdam since it’s full of tourists who are not aware of the non-existent tipping culture in The Netherlands (please don’t tell them about it). And while the lack of tipping might be frustrating, you will occasionally get a few regular Dutch customers that would give you a tip just because they like you.
So the moral of the story is: create genuine connections with loyal customers and they might give you tips, especially during holidays! However, be aware that your manager will probably use the tip money for your team night out. Bummer!
The dilemma of working in customer service: English or Dutch?
Spreek je Nederlands? If not, no need to worry! At least most of the time. While working in Amsterdam with only English can be no problem at all, unfortunately, this is not the case in all of the Netherlands.
As a person who has worked with customers in The Hague and Utrecht, I can say that my job has been quite challenging on some days. Whereas most of the time I would do my best to help customers in Dutch, sometimes the conversation would get so complicated for me that I would start staring at them like a stoner after his second joint. And while most Dutch people have been nice enough to switch to English and even have a laugh about how butchered my Dutch sounds, unfortunately, that has not always been the case.
I’ve had customers walk out on me, ask to speak to the manager, and a colleague of mine was once told to go back where she came from (Trump much?). Although situations like these are always hard to handle, it is important to remember that this doesn’t happen so often. So if you’re working in customer service somewhere other than Amsterdam, here are the steps you need to follow if your Dutch is not so Dutchy yet.
Survival tips for English speakers in customer service in the Netherlands:
First, write down and remember all the questions and vocabulary that are predominantly used at your job. Even though it may seem embarrassing it really helps with remembering complicated phrases, and Dutch people tend to have a laugh about it. As long as they see you’re trying, it’s all good!
Second, kindly explain to your customers that you are working on your Dutch and that you might not understand everything they are saying. At this point, they will most probably just switch over to English or say that you are really sweet for trying (it’s a win-win situation).
Third, if the customer is still being mean to you just shake it off! Understand that this is their country, therefore it is normal for them to want you to speak their language. Plus, most Dutch people are very nice to foreigners! So just let it go and onto the next customer to practice your Dutch!
How are your experiences when it comes to customer service in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!