Friday, June 16, 2006

we've won the battle, but not the war

Happily, we've had something of a reprieve the last couple of days, with cooler temps and, for the moment, not sweating all over the computer. Looks like the temps will be climbing again over the weekend, but for the moment we are enjoying a little break from the heat.

The war I'm refering to in the title is what I consider to big the biggest cultural difference between France and the States: customer service. Believe it or not, it wasn't me who faught the battle today, but Steph!

Wednesday marked two weeks after my visit to Bank Dude to sign a contract for a new carte bancaire, or check card. When Steph called the bank to see what the problem is, he learned that for the second time, our request for a new card was denied, again with no phone call or even an automated letter. With no one able to tell us what the problem is, Steph asked to get a call from Bank Dude as soon as possible. He was so upset about the situation that he threatened to change banks if we didn't hear an answer by Friday. The secretary assured him that Bank Dude would call by the end of the day.

Which he didn't.

Yesterday, when Steph got home from work, he called again, only to have the secretary apologize profusely and say that Bank Dude would call by the end of the day.

Which he didn't.

Watch out kids, a top is about to blow!

This afternoon, with still no word from Bank Dude, Steph called a third time. This time, the apologetic secretary was replaced with a flat out lying secretary, claiming that Bank Dude had called several times and left messages!! Steph promptly informed her that if we didn't hear from Bank Dude by the end of the day, the next time he'd see us would be to close our accounts.

Well, what do you know, Bank Dude called back!

What followed was such an empassioned heated conversation that I could barely follow it. When the conversation ended peacefully, Steph told me what happened. Basically, Bank Dude finally admitted that the error was his mistake - when Steph lost his card three years ago, the automatic renewal was stopped, and Bank Dude finally just realized that this was what was holding up the process. But instead of apologizing for the error, he blamed everyone on Earth except himself. It's the system, it's his boss's fault for giving him double to clients he should have, and he actually said that the bank has other priorities than fixing our problems so it's not his fault he wasn't able to call sooner.

Steph said that if he was Bank Dude's boss, he would have fired him for this last comment alone. So I asked him why he thought the French seem to be so complacent with this behavior. In his opinion, it's because it's the easy way out - if you can blame the system for not being able to do your job, why change anything?

In any case, we'll have our card in the next couple of days. Time will tell when we'll have to fight against another complacent customer service representative.

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