Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A German Customer Service Story

I have a thing about German customer service.  Oh, I admit that I am cynical and a bit harsh about customer doesn't matter if we are talking about a German bureaucratic thing, a private company, or some tire shop.

Around fifteen years ago, I had to go and deal with Telekom.  It was a simple issue and should have taken four minutes.  The clerk gave me a bogus story, which I stood there and tried in a nice way to correct her and let her know that yes.....she could perform the action I required.  I was quietly entertained by someone who absolutely knew nothing about their services or how to handle a customer.  I finally said fine.....walked out of the shop....drove over to the next town which had a Telekom shop and that clerk took ninety seconds to fix my problem.

I also had the episode where some German county clerks determined that not only did I need to pay a garbage tax....but the seven-year-old kid also needed to pay for a can as well.  That phone conversation didn't go well, and I ended up taking the yearly garbage bill, the kid, and myself down to the county office.....where "Huns" the clerk came to finally agree that the kid was accidentally added into the system as an adult.  That was a waste of an hour of my time to get them to reach that conclusion.

Today, I was sitting and reading over German news and they related this Bahn (the German railway folks) episode with a customer.

An older guy.....sixty-two.....was on the ICE (the speedier of trains) going toward Munich.  He was riding second-class.

At some point, he needed to use the toilet....only to discover that in his was broke.  So he walked into the next car.....which happened to be the first class section.  There as he entered....are these free copies of a couple of regional newspapers....ONLY for first class customers.

He apparently does his business in the toilet, and takes the paper back to read.

Well....the conductor comes around.....kinda peeved and accusing him stealing the papers.  The guy was surprised but went ahead and said 'sure'.....he was sorry and everything.

The conductor leaves.....then returns a few minutes later with a cop.  They want him off the the very next stop (Augsburg).  The deal is either he gets off nicely or the cop gets involved and there's a citation or summons to be drawn up (for stealing a newspaper).  It's hard to imagine a Bahn lawyer standing there in a court, and a judge not laughing over the accusation.

He gets off.....mostly because he probably didn't want a court appearance and legal crap over the accusation of stealing a newspaper.  Oddly, his ticket is still valid (they didn't confiscate it).  He could have stood there for a while (probably six hours) and another ICE would have come by.  But there was a regional train leaving within the hour and continued the 68-kilometer trip.

He calls up the Bahn folks, and lays into them (probably in a nice way)....which they come to find out that his story is completely valid.  Eventually.....the Bahn folks get to feeling pretty stupid and realize the story will get they offer up 'compensation'.  No one says the amount of the compensation....I'd take a guess that it's a minimum of 500 Euro for Bahn tickets.

You can look over the story.....standing on a train....reading a newspaper that you pick up....some conductor coming up.....threatening legal action and dragging a cop along.....and you just shaking your head that it's a pretty screwed up customer service routine.

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