Service culture in Switzerland

 
Lately I have become frustrated as a consumer and decided to write about it. In my busy life I depend on other businesses to do their jobs just like I do mine. 
Let's take "die Post", the Swiss post office. Up until 1997 it was a public law institution with a monopoly position, and although they try to come across as young and dynamic, they still seem inflexible and slow to me. I remember as a child the postman would ring distribute mail twice a day, and a regular domestic letter needed to be stamped with 40 Cents. These days it's one mail run Mondays through Fridays and they offer
  • an overnight Service "A-Post" for CHF 1, (if you drop the letter by 4pm, otherwise it may not make it to the desired address till the next morning. And this in Switzerland, one of the smallest countries with a wonderful public traffic system) and
  • a slower (2-3 working days) "B-Post", 85 cents per letter.
In smaller villages like mine, the local post office has been integrated into Volg, a rural Supermarket chain. This actually improved the opening hours as opposed to our larger neighbor city where the post office is closed between noon and 2pm. 
The other day I couldn’t believe my eyes when shortly after 6:30pm I specifically drove to the train station where the last emptying of the mailbox (to my knowledge) is supposed to happen at 8pm. Let’s just say I learned that I was too late! What is going on? Every company tries to accommodate its customers better, but “die Post” is cutting their services while having high prices.

Another day I had to ship off 600 letters for the office. When I wanted to download the form you need to fill out in order for the letters to get accepted at the counter, this is what I was told:

I needed a "My Post Business" account? All-righty. Let's fill in the online form. Done. What? Wait a minute!! They were going to mail the initial password by B-Post??? Remember, 2-3 business days! They've got to be kidding.
I copied one of the "old" forms and headed to the post office with my 3 cardboard boxes full of envelopes. The lady behind the counter didn't even know that there existed a form that was now discontinued but offered to get her supervisor. Took her about 15 minutes. When he arrived, he took the papers out of her hands and started mumbling something. After another five minutes he looked up and said "oh, HELLO by the way!" Yeah. That's how important a customer is to him. Interrupting him from doing something important, I guess.




As much as I like the „Bill and Dave started out in a Palo Alto garage and worked their butts off to build up their Company" story, I feel they have lost touch with Earth a long time ago. 

Too busy acquiring and integrating other large companies, forming virtual inter-disciplinary teams all over the time zones, cutting some bucks here and there, where does that leave the customer? Now I am not even just talking about little unimportant me with my one notebook that I don't even have anymore. I work for hubby’s IT company where we sell servers, storage and large quantities of PCs or notebooks. 
 
Becoming a „HP preferred partner“ alone requires going through a lenghty application and certification process. If you get lost on your way to becoming a partner and you try to call (for German, press 1, for questions concerning an order, press 2, etc.) you are supposed to enter your 8-digit partner number. Ahem, I don’t have one. That’s why I am calling. If you are lucky to get a real person on the phone they ask „so who is your account manager?“ I WISH I HAD ONE!!!
 
Currently I work on a bid for a customer, who, so far, was entirly HP equipped. We got them a counter-offer that is considerably better priced, where our account manager’s name is Marc, and he’s overworked. We may not be the only ones who prefer working with them.
As I am typing this, I am sitting at the entrance / exit of IKEA Småland where Colin is having a good (and free of charge) time playing. Just as I used to have when I was a kid. 

„Ours“ was the first IKEA in Switzerland, and I have been happy to come back ever since, even if I only ended up with some scented candles or an elk cookie cutter.
You can notice the open mindedness of the management in many aspects. The broad selection offers products for any customer group, not just singles moving out of their parents' house or young families on a budget.

 
They hire good people. Friendly, engaged, multi-lingual. I was especially pleased to see a muslim lady working at the register of the restaurant (hello, meatballs!) who is allowed to wear her headscarf. Now this has been a discussion within many retail companies in Switzerland, and if others are that tolerant, then I was always there when those people had their days off. And I shop regularly ;-)
It is no wonder that I gladly applied for a job with IKEA San Diego, back in 2001. But that’s a whole other story. Anyway – IKEA gets it right!
 
 

 

One of two main Swiss owned and „co-operated“ supermarket chains where we get our everyday groceries shopping done. 
So the other day I found a recipe on the internet that required „mirin“ – a Japanese rice wine that obviously was necessary to make your own Teriyaky chicken. My coworker had found out that mirin was sold at Coop Superstores. The closest is a 20 minutes drive away, so a gave them a call, spelling the name of that exotic product to a person who was standing in front of the „international food aisle“. She told me there was sushi mix and soy sauce. Yeah, I can get that at my local market, thank you.
 
Now the people who know me guess right: I wanted the mirin, and I wanted it now!! I even called the high-end Globus foods section – no success.




With UENO Gourmet, I found an online store that carries small bottles of mirin for a steep price of CHF 15, plus shipping, another CHF 8. And then the waiting. So I called. A real person answered! And he totally got that I was willing to drive to their distribution partner who, as it luckily turned out, was within 15 minutes from our place. He sent me an invoice via e-mail and arranged that a guy (wearing short pants in February, but hey, that was up to him, right) met me at the reception and handed over the tiny bottle. 
 

So the Teriyaky chicken was OK. Not great. Certainly not better than using store bought Teriyaky sauce. But it was worth a try.

By the way a couple of days later I ended up finding some mirin at the Coop Superstore...