Thursday, August 12, 2010

Will Spanish business ever get the internet?

Anyone who has ever lived in Spain (or owned property there, or done business there, or even been on holiday there) will know that generally levels of customer service leave much to be desired. During my family's 8 years in Spain we have had all sorts of problems with all kinds of private sector organisation from the local shops to nation-wide corporations. Not only can service be slow and erratic but outright deception seems to be a common and accepted tactic among those employed to deal with the public.

This is hardly news but I would just like to comment another twist to this sorry record of bad service - the 'net hasn't changed much. On the surface of things Spanish business seems to have embraced the internet, not to the extent of the US or Northern Europe, but at least most reasonable sized businesses have a web presence and offer some options for online service. However dig below the surface, i.e. start making orders, enquiries, complaints etc online, and you will find that the same poor service culture exists online just the same as offline. Many times I have used an email for enquiries, quotes etc and not received a reply. The attitude seems to be 'out of sight, out of mind' and the online message is often. You need to get on the phone (if you can get a response there) or go down to see someone face to face.

As an example I needed 4 new tires for our car and decided to save money by getting a deal online (my local tire changing garage charges at least twice as much as they should). There are a lot of options once you do a search and I got what looked like a good deal from and all seemed well on the surface with automated payment, email confirmation etc I then arranged a garage to do the fitting again finding one with a website and all the trappings of modern service and communications. Without boring you with the details needless to say I soon got bogged down in a host of problems and it has taken me 2 weeks of chasing, unreturned phone calls and broken promises to get the job done.

Advoco has written before about how Spain can lift its economy out of recession and focused on a better deal for autonomos and employers. Maybe businesses need to start getting serious about service culture. It can be changed. Pre-Thatcher Britain used to be equally rubbish but now I would say most businesses are good on service because they have to be. Even in Spain I have noticed that Telefonica (or is it Movistar) seemed to have improved their previously appalling customer service record of late.

Related article at - 30 ways to market your business in Spain

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