What would Sverker say?

I was just watching an old show on Swedish television, SVT, called Plus. It has been like an ombudsman for consumers since the mid 80’s. It used to be hosted by Sverker Olofsson that became the average consumers’ hero when he battled companies for doing their customers wrong.

Only, now Sverker wasn’t there anymore. I was a bit sad but that’s not what I’ll rant about now. I was more upset with a segment they seemed to have in every episode nowadays. A segment where the hosts tried if and how much they could haggle down the price for different goods and services. I would even call it dickering. This time it was gas stations and home electronics stores that were being targeted. Of course it came down to what margins the goods had – petrol not so much while some gadget a bit more – no major revelations there.

So why am I upset at this? Isn’t it nice to get a little guidance on how to save a few bucks… or crowns. Well yes and no. I believe that in a transparent market, like the one we are close to today, consumers will in many cases have enough information to make good decisions. Prices are usually quite easy to benchmark and there are a bunch of services that even help us out with it. Our coice to then spend our money where we find it fit teaches the market what will work and what won’t. Watching the host beg for free coffee at the gas station or lie about how much money she brought with her to the store was just embarrassing. What did this tell us really?

The point I think they wanted to make didn’t at all come through though. I think, or at least I want to think, that they we’re trying to show that if a business just showed that they were willing to do a little extra for the customers, the customers would become more loyal. The begging didn’t quite make a good enough case.

I for one prefer to focus on the quality of the product or service I’m acquiring and the value I get for my money. Sure, I’d like the best available price but I won’t go so far as to drive the providers to focus solely on how they could deliver a lower price. My challenge is always how to find the best value for my money and in my world – that’s rarely achieved through dickering. But then again, I’m spoiled.

Don’t get me wrong, bargaining is a crucial part of business but that’s not what I saw today. So, do you haggle?

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.

I’m spoiled

Once you try something that is of a better quality than what you’re used to you widen your perspective of that certain thing. You realize what the experience acually could or should be like. When you after that strive for the better stuff the usual stuff you once was used to doesn’t quite cut it anymore. It could be a pair of shoes, a hotel room, wine or like tonight a steak.

I used to think the normal steak wasn’t that exciting really, more often than not a bit tough and in need of a sauce to lift the taste from ok to good. For a while now, every time the meat has been the centerpiece of the meal, I’ve been buying some really nice pieces and it’s been fantastic, totally worth every penny.

Tonight I decided to cook some nice beef but just ran down to my closest grocery store and bought what was left – a ‘normal’ steak. A quick turn in a hot pan and then slowly cooking it in the oven usually results in a great experience with a nice piece of steak. But not tonight, it was that old type of experience. It looked perfect but it just wasn’t good enough. I’m spoiled.