Dutch Customer Service: Managing Expectations


When we move to a new country we have an expectation of how things will be. Each culture has its own set of values and norms, which affect everything from the relationship we have with our boss to how we bring up children to the way we perceive customer service.

Photo by: Hobvias Sudoneighm

Photo by: Hobvias Sudoneighm

When it comes to internationals, customer service can be a ‘maker’ or ‘breaker’ for both the provider and the receiver. As an international, the level of customer service plays a considerable role in how quickly we settle in and our overall satisfactory levels with the host country. From a provider’s point of view, understanding international customers and being able to adapt and provide the expected level of service is your ticket to market growth.

The ideal of everyone being equal, of no one being any ‘better’ than anyone else is huge in the Netherlands. As an example; I’ve heard many complaints about the healthcare system here. On an international scale the system, whilst maybe not perfect (what system ever is?), is excellent. But healthcare professionals are often criticised for not having very good ‘bedside manners’. The Dutch do not believe in giving anyone special treatment, no matter who you are. They also don’t believe in beating around the bush. The Dutch value openness and honesty and say things as they are. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their patients.

Tips for Internationals
Living abroad is fun but it can also be challenging. If the customer service in the Netherlands doesn’t live up to your expectations these tips might help lessen the frustration!

• Remember it was your choice to move here
• Each culture has its own set of norms and values, which may differ from what you are used to.
• Mirror the Dutch: be clear and direct in your communication.
• If your problem is not being solved ask to speak to a manager. If none is available ask when they will be available. Take note of the manager’s name and the name of the person you spoke to.
• If you want something, ask for it.
• If you find the service unacceptable, go elsewhere.
• Be open minded and keep your sense of humour!

Tips for Service Providers
The International Community Platform (ICP) estimates that the number of internationals in the Netherlands is approximately 500,000. In general they are used to (and expect) a higher lever of customer service than the Dutch. This is your country so no; you don’t have to change how you do things. BUT if you want to successfully tap into this market remember the following:

• The customer comes first.
• Know what your customers expect.
• Provide proper training for your staff.
• Put yourself in the customer’s position.
• Show the customer that you are doing your best to help them.
• Be attentive….. all the time.

There are a great many high quality services on offer in the Netherlands. Taking account of the above tips is likely to improve the (perceived) quality for both customers and providers. Let us know what you think and share your customer service experiences!

Photo by: Hugo Thomassen

Photo by: Hugo Thomassen

About the author:

Caitríona Rush is founder of At Home Abroad, a training & consultancy company offering cross-cultural solutions to both companies and individuals. Her aim: to enable companies become more effective when doing business with other cultures, and to help internationals settle quickly and be happier living in the Netherlands. Caitríona is Irish and loves to travel! She’s been to over 40 countries and has worked in 9 countries across 5 continents. She has lived in the Netherlands for 12 years.