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Marketing, customer satisfaction and loyalty
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France and Belgium : two countries lacking a culture for customer orientation

In a very inspiring article (in French) Frederic Klotz, former community manager of Rue du Commerce, describes all the problems an e-customer can face in France (don’t hesitate to read the interview Frederic gave us last year).

He describes the lack of customer orientation in French firms and suggests that French customers are the most badly treated. Frederic, believe it or not, France is not a unique example of a country lacking service culture and drive for customer satisfaction. There are many others. Belgium is one of them and the latest large-scale survey we did with a representative sample of Belgian B2C firms just confirmed it. Our two countries are very much alike.

Factors of dissatisfaction in e-commerce

Frederic goes on and describes various antecedents of customer dissatisfaction : late response, unsatisfactory answer, the famous “excuse strategy” (it’s not my fault, it’s the courier company) … Those are of course only a handful examples of answers that seem to have been designed to foster dissatisfaction. A while ago we published also an article to mock one firm representative that had reached the pinnacle of customer disorientation (pun intended).

Some recommendations are not easy to implement

Frederic Klotz concludes his post with a series of recommendations. These are sound recommendations but we doubt of the applicability / efficiency of some of them.

For instance, Frederic Klotz suggests “to teach active listening and […] empathy”. In our opinion empathy and active listening cannot be taught. Either you are empathetic, social and people-oriented, or you aren’t. If you aren’t, all the training will not change you. You will remain like you are and one day you won’t be able to control, and will end up adopting a so-called dysfunctional behavior.

Another recommendation is to challenge employees on satisfaction results. Although this may seem obvious, this recommendation is actually difficult to implement because of the very definition of satisfaction. Most companies (not to say all) have only an incomplete understanding of what matters for their customers. In some cases it’s very simple (see the example we gave of transportation) and even in such cases there is controversy. Satisfaction can be easily manipulated during surveys and we find it difficult to challenge employees on the long run on changes in satisfaction that will, by definition, be smaller and smaller.

This being said, we agree with all other recommendations.

More transparency in the supply-chain, better links with the field

You need to give employees 100% transparency on the logistic process : an employee in contact with a customer must be able, at any moment, to give accurate information on where the order is. This is the source of stress number 1 for customers. They need to be reassured. This implies multiplying the “events” (an event in supply-chain management is a control point generating a tracking information). But don’t forget that the name of these events must by crystal-clear : otherwise you’ll get even more questions and create even more stress for your customers.

Top-managers should listen to employee-customer conversations : this is so true and yet so rare. There is a tendency of top managers to become less and less aware of what’s going on in the field.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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