Social media and the Dutch Spring

After the Middle East, and to some extend India and some other countries, now even the Netherlands seem to be in a little “spring-revolution” thanks to the new possibilities of social media. Should the Binnenhof fear for its survival? Probably not. Can Rutte and Asscher pack their bags and get lost? That neither. Social media and the Dutch Spring: where everybody can say anything and everybody can see it, in order to fulfill one the favorite pastimes of the Dutch people: complaining!

Chances are that if you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you had to take the train from Schiphol. That’s the National Railroad company transporting you (NS). Take a second to look the NS up on twitter (or just take my word for it if you have a life), chances are that there aren’t that many tweets like this one:

This translates to: Today, I spend a lovely hour in the train again. Always an awesome time with the NS!  (Follow this guy on twitter by the way, he’s awesome, jokes  aplenty)

If you really looked NS up on twitter, trains don’t run on schedules and people aren’t pleased with them. And worse for the NS, everyone will know! So nowadays, instead of just mumbling complaints to your fellow passengers whenever there is a delay, people now grab their smartphone’s and alert the world.

It all started so promising with Facebook and Twitter, large companies didn’t want to be left out and made sure that their webcare-teams started Twitter-accounts and erected Facebookpages. Posting funny corporate pictures, jokes or nice polling updates. All while slowly gathering likes and followers. What could possibly go wrong?

Dutch customer input, that’s what went wrong. A fat 2 years after famous Dutch standup comedian Youp van ‘t Hek embarked upon a crusade against bad help-desks and customer services by large companies (mainly telephone giants like Vodafone), these very same companies show online that they haven’t learned or improved anything. Just look at the Dutch Facebook pages of T-Mobile, KPN and Vodafone, these pages are full of complaints (can’t imagine them to be different in the UK or US). What possesses these companies to maintain their social media presence and get abused by the clientele so hard, while just sharing some childish pictures and useless tweets?

Tucked in the right column of their pages are the endless posts of their customers, ranging from just written complaint letters about promised phone-packages which never arrived, to extensive death wishes after a months-long rant against the Facebook wall. Some companies let their poor web-care team still respond with a obligatory “I’m sorry, could you give us a private message?” Some companies just let their customers/haters go all out without proper correcting or reply.

Is this the Dutch Spring? People now see that complaining directly on Facebook or twitter is actually much more effective. People see that they really are not the only ones with a complaint and bond together with their common dislike. Consumer interest related television shows were only shown once a week, social media channels are online 24/7. And the best of it all: all the ranting is hilarious from time to time.

Poor businesses, what can they do? Censor their Facebook pages? Lobbying for stricter laws on this kind of behavior? Sue complaining Customers for loss of reputation? All possible, and probably all that sounds that much more attractive to those companies than the real solution: invest heavily in customer service and an overall decent treatment. If the companies would invest in such matters there could yet be a new spring for all the complaining Dutchies!

PS. Hated this article? Go on and complain on our Facebook or Twitter platforms.

Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Founded DutchReview. Rotterdammer living in Leiden. Politics, innovation and epic food-reviews are his thing. Interested in doing anything with DutchReview? Contact him at abuzer[at]


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