Customer service

The Jante Law’s effect on Customer Service in Sweden

- Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.

That is, according to Wikipedia.org, the essence of the Jante Law – a set of rules or a sentiment that every Scandinavian is familiar with. Most of the time it gets referenced in a humorous way, sort of in the same way we love the caricatures of our beloved neighbors within Scandinavia. But in the same way that it’s funny, it also hits a nerve because we recognize ourselves in it.

The Swedish middle way has in my opinion furthered the presence of the Jante Law. I don’t have the energy to go into that particular debate, let’s take it in a separate post someday, because now I just want to throw up on how this sense of conformity has severely crippled Swedes sense of good service. You see I have a theory that this ‘law’ affects Swedish organizations’ quality of customer service.

I’m pretty fucking tired of having to do business with people who don’t seem to want my business. I’m sick and tired of having a sales person/client service rep/waiter/what-have-you sigh themselves through my humble wish of spending my overly taxed income at their venue. It’s like I’m bothering them at work. Their job is to effing facilitate our effing little transaction.

And don’t get me wrong people. I don’t look down on any job demanding to be pampered as if I was royalty. Somehow it feels like the average Swede worries that others will do so thus having the attitude of “don’t think your better than me just because we’re on different sides of the counter”. Every job I’ve had that included elements of customer service gets so much better when you take pride in what you do, like any old job. And there you have it – pride is at odds with the Jante Law.

So called real jobs of manufacturing stuff and making stuff grown out of the ground have been spared of this anti-pride campaign thanks to Luther and his goodie-two-shoes doctrine of get yourself up in the morning and pull your bit. Now it’s time to incorporate good service into this part of the Swedish mentality.

Because customer service is not only important in a more service intense economy, good or rather great customer service is key to all businesses. Several well-known bloggers and pundits have underlined the importance of customer service as a cornerstone for good PR, marketing and business excellence. Zappos is a good example of this.

So, aren’t you sick of bad service too? Any suggestions on how to fix it or do we need to await the invisible hand or new generations?

Image by Here’s Kate.

7 thoughts on “The Jante Law’s effect on Customer Service in Sweden

  1. Miguelsweden

    I was looking on internet about a customer service and sweden and i am still looking for it..  is there any one? difficult to find?
    I just passed by the most ridiculous situation yesterday in the Coop supermarket, beside the fact to feel offended by those swedes cashier, in a really, but really subtle way. Like all the things in Sweden. I supposed to show my computer bag to them because I didn´t buy anything in the supermarket and of course, when i opposed myself to do it I pointed that they were not police officers or neither security. Beside I said you have security system so if someone need to ask me something is not you. So I ended up waiting for their solution which was call the police, I waited the police which in the beginning asked me if I did steal something? What I thought once again to be ridiculous.. well the police checked my stuff and ask me questions that if I do not stopped I was going to feel guilty for something I never did.. so my point was were I my rights as a customer, I am forced in sweden to show the bag any time to them because they think i am suspicious for not to buy anything? well I said to the woman that probably she stopped me because I am foreigner.. she laugh at me and said that all of us have the same reaction. “This all of you” got stucked in my head and made me feel that the whole situation can be repeatitive but just for foreigners.

    Miguel
    miguelsweden@gmail.com

    Reply
  2. Miguelsweden

    I was looking on internet about a customer service and sweden and i am still looking for it..  is there any one? difficult to find?
    I just passed by the most ridiculous situation yesterday in the Coop supermarket, beside the fact to feel offended by those swedes cashier, in a really, but really subtle way. Like all the things in Sweden. I supposed to show my computer bag to them because I didn´t buy anything in the supermarket and of course, when i opposed myself to do it I pointed that they were not police officers or neither security. Beside I said you have security system so if someone need to ask me something is not you. So I ended up waiting for their solution which was call the police, I waited the police which in the beginning asked me if I did steal something? What I thought once again to be ridiculous.. well the police checked my stuff and ask me questions that if I do not stopped I was going to feel guilty for something I never did.. so my point was were I my rights as a customer, I am forced in sweden to show the bag any time to them because they think i am suspicious for not to buy anything? well I said to the woman that probably she stopped me because I am foreigner.. she laugh at me and said that all of us have the same reaction. “This all of you” got stucked in my head and made me feel that the whole situation can be repeatitive but just for foreigners.

    Miguel
    miguelsweden@gmail.com

    Reply
  3. Miguelsweden

    I was looking on internet about a customer service and sweden and i am still looking for it..  is there any one? difficult to find?
    I just passed by the most ridiculous situation yesterday in the Coop supermarket, beside the fact to feel offended by those swedes cashier, in a really, but really subtle way. Like all the things in Sweden. I supposed to show my computer bag to them because I didn´t buy anything in the supermarket and of course, when i opposed myself to do it I pointed that they were not police officers or neither security. Beside I said you have security system so if someone need to ask me something is not you. So I ended up waiting for their solution which was call the police, I waited the police which in the beginning asked me if I did steal something? What I thought once again to be ridiculous.. well the police checked my stuff and ask me questions that if I do not stopped I was going to feel guilty for something I never did.. so my point was were I my rights as a customer, I am forced in sweden to show the bag any time to them because they think i am suspicious for not to buy anything? well I said to the woman that probably she stopped me because I am foreigner.. she laugh at me and said that all of us have the same reaction. “This all of you” got stucked in my head and made me feel that the whole situation can be repeatitive but just for foreigners.

    Miguel
    miguelsweden@gmail.com

    Reply
  4. Carl Wallgren

    Thanks for sharing that with us Miguel. Seems, however, that the ‘normal’ half-crappy customer service in your case was spiced with some bigotry. I hope you’re not greeted like that every day.

    Cheerio

    Reply
  5. Su

    I am equally appalled by the lack of service in Sweden. I grew up in Switzerland, lived in London, then Berlin . And to be honest, nothing compares to this. Its a total shock. It is a shame that it must be like this. I make an effort every time to be positive and to have yet another bright outlook on an evening at an (expensive) restaurant in Stockholm, only to be disappointed and on the verge of angry, thinking I should have went to Bolaget instead and cooked at home. My experience has been so bad so often, that I even thought of starting a website, where people can post their complaints. Like you, I am a polite and friendly, not-at-all-condescending client, always appreciative of the service (if there is any) and the efforts people do to provide it for me. Certain restaurants (but as you mentioned also many other service sectors including health care) are constantly overfilled, and yet the service is abominable. Which brought me to the conclusion, that this is the national standard, and it seems to be the case. So your explanation of Jante, was enlightening to me.

    I don’t understand how one can be so miserable in a service job and not even try to hide it! Where I come from people who are not in the right job, don’t stay in it. Either out of free will or they are fired. Why work in service if you can’t do a simple smile? (Leave your divorce problems at home.) I think Sweden should pick up the positive aspects of socialism and ditch the negative ones, such as bad service to avoid loosing the competitive edge with global business. In addition, it really puts well heeled tourists off, even coming to Sweden to start with or doing any other business since their fear of bad service is a significant one. It is no surprise that Sweden does not attract international travellers as much as it could potentially do. What a shame for a country that would have so much to offer. Sweden can simply not afford to go down this road any longer, if they want to become the nation they strive to be. I have been thinking about this for some years, my friends all complain, yet it seems to be accepted. That, I think is the problem, that its considered the norm.

    Reply
    1. Keke Post author

      Spot on Su. I say go ahead with the website plan. Why not make the mission of that site bigger than so – make it the mission to change these bad habits of service quality in Sweden (and Scandinavia?).

      Reply

Agree or disagree?