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Customer care in France

Hello everyone,

The way customer services are handled can greatly affect your views on certain brands, products, companies or stores. As a consumer, it is important to get familiar with local practices regarding client assistance in France and try to understand how things work in the country.

How would you describe your customer service experiences in France?

Do you feel welcome when you enter a store? Do you get useful tips and advice?

Are after-sales services available in France?

Thanks for sharing your experience,

Priscilla

Hi Priscilla,

I'd like to say something about Customer Care in France, having lived in both Paris for a year and in Biarritz for six years, as well as having traveled throughout much of France.

In my humble opinion, France has some of the worst attitudes for customer care that I have ever experienced. I am talking about snobby sales staff, and especially government employees who seem unhelpful, in no hurry to deal with customers and who seem very arrogant. Yes, I am talking about the fonctionnaire attitude in France.

I've waited in queues in the post office where the staff just chat away among themselves when there are long queues and people obviously pressed for time. Trying to ask for assistance can result in a harsh response from the staff. And then there are the Paris taxis which can be a nightmare with many arrogant and rude drivers.

Of course there are also lots of places that are really nice with friendly service too. I used to cross the road to a wonderful bakery in Biarritz at the bottom of rue Gambetta called Dodin. They made amazing and very fresh croissant au beurre and pain au chocolate. And because they knew me they were always friendly and nice.

But really, if you need to deal with any fonctionnaires then you will need to be patient and control your temper and never push them to hurry up.

Regards,
Hansson

We've lived in Bayonne for 9 years and I beg to differ.. My memory of our experience of engaging with the oft-maligned French bureaucracy when we arrived here is that everyone - without exception - was friendly and helpful. I have no axe to grind either way but I can only tell it as I found it.
If you consistently feel that people are snobby, arrogant and rude to you, then perhaps the problem may lie closer to home.     
Me? I just treat people as I would wish to be treated.

Back to Priscilla's original question.. I find sales people in shops are unfailingly polite here in the Pays Basque..
I would say that it's hard to generalise about after sales service here in France. I've not noticed any significant difference to after sales service in the UK. Yes, there are always a few people who do it better or worse than others but to me there's no consistent trend or message that emerges. If we're buying something electrical, we usually prefer to shop at Darty or FNAC for their excellent after sales service. After sales service as a topic isn't something that causes me grief here.   
Roundabouts (rond points) are something else entirely!☺

Pip64 wrote:

We've lived in Bayonne for 9 years and I beg to differ.. My memory of our experience of engaging with the oft-maligned French bureaucracy when we arrived here is that everyone - without exception - was friendly and helpful. I have no axe to grind either way but I can only tell it as I found it.
If you consistently feel that people are snobby, arrogant and rude to you, then perhaps the problem may lie closer to home.     
Me? I just treat people as I would wish to be treated.

I know Bayonne extremely well. Actually I ran a wholesale and retail business with stores in Biarritz, Anglet, , St Jean de Luz, Hendaye and in Cap Breton and a wholesale and import business in Biarritz and Paris. And I know very many people in the BAB area from the Town Hall to Hotels and big camp sites and Schools and Hospitals including in Bayonne, as well as many of the retailers and wholesalers in the business community as I was in that business community myself. So when you say the problems may lie closer to home, that is not accurate. Sure there are many nice people in the area. Most of them are. The Basque are nice people and I have Basque relatives. They can be extremely helpful and nice and friendly. And there are many people who migrate down to Biarritz from places like Paris for retirement who you may not have realized can be quite snobby and then there are the fonctionnaires who often have a bad attitude. In Paris it is even worse.

I have so many good friends in the area that run businesses. And I know many of the Brits and Aussies and other expats that have settled down in the area such as Michael Clamp who owned the Quiksilver Store on the beach in front of the Casino in Biarritz, and Yan who worked at the BMW service Centre at Bayonne, to name just a couple who are also great people and friends.

Being in the business community in an area like BAB means you get to know most of the business people and you become friends with them. I also owned a large store at the base of rue Gambetta in Biarritz near Francis Haget's Eden Park and Le Caveau, both of those owners are my friends, and I owned other properties including the stone castle like building directly next door to Galeries Lafayette on the small road down to the casino in Biarritz which was formerly the workshop of Coco Chanel and for a few years my home, as well as another house in Avenue de Verdun in Anglet, a villa in Arbonne and a mansion on 10 acres near the airport. I am someone like Peter Mayle from "A Year in Provence" who decided to spend a couple of years living in a farmhouse in a nice part of France.

So please, you may be some very nice people, and I am glad that you are enjoying your life living in Bayonne, but it isn't good to make that kind of personal attacking comment to other posters in this Forum, especially when you know nothing about them.

Everyone in this Forum is entitled to an opinion and just because someone has a different opinion to your own does not mean that you should take a dig at them. You may not have realized that.

Come on guys, you live in one of the most beautiful parts of France, you have ski slopes close by, Spain just a short drive away and glorious beaches from San Sebastian to Les Landes and you live in a beautiful city surrounded by amazing countryside. Protecting your area is one thing, but cut out the personal attacks against other posters in this Forum.

And if you have never heard of the term "fonctionnaire mentality" then you should do some research or ask some friends or your partner about it. The expressions exists for a reason. All french people know what it is and what it refers too.

I apologise unreservedly if you took my comment as a personal attack.. It's just that our experiences of French customer care/after sales service seem to differ so widely.

As I've said elsewhere, people in the Pays Basque are remarkably friendly and I've not experienced any of the fonctionnaire (civil servant) mentality in any of our dealings with them.

I also operated as an auto entrepreneur for 4 years and again, I can only speak as I find - the Anglet branch of URSSAF couldn't have been more helpful in guiding me through the start-up procedures.

Maybe elsewhere in the rest of France a less happy situation prevails but here it's a different story.

Off topic slightly - but about 5-6 years ago I joined Aviron Bayonnais (rowing club) and they couldn't have been more welcoming.. in fact, I call them my second family. I sing with a choir in Anglet - again, I've made friends with many there and we meet socially. I'm also on the committee of an association concerned with wartime resistance activities here in the Pays Basque and through them, I've met many in local government - from the Prefet, mayors and down to many others at the working level. All - without exception - have gone out of their way to be helpful.

I'm at a loss to square my experience of people here with yours. I think it must be different in the business/work sphere.

Nice to meet you :)

What is important is that you are living in a truly wonderful part of France. If I had to settle down in France again I wouldn't want to live anywhere other than in the Pays Basque, and perhaps Bayonne is the best of the lot. Such a beautiful place. And yes, the Basque people are really wonderful and friendly.

Of course a lot of Parisians do move down to Biarritz, often as property agents or whatever, and they often choose Biarritz rather than Bayonne just for it's name. But in France in general, especially in Paris the "fonctionnaires" are indeed pretty awful, but then who wouldn't be living in Paris?

Sorry, I didn't mean to jump at you. I am happy to revise my comment to referring to fonctionnaires in Paris. And that sort of explains why I only lived in Paris for a year and then moved down to your part of France. Gosh, Bayonne is such a wonderful place, the Bayonne Festival....fantastic!

Shhh! I always say that the Pays Basque is France's best-kept secret..!☺

Compared with England, customer service in France is not good. Boutiques vary widely but it's generally hard to find anyone to help in any large store  After-sales service? Forget it!  I don't believe it has been invented in France yet 🐸

I don,t think there,s worst customer service than some of the customer service in Ireland...
Whatever else is just fine. ;)

Now, being a bit more serious, perhaps the actitude of the customer also plays an important role in the reactions at the desk? Perhaps also there,s a component of generalizing too much about personal experiences? I don,t mean to be harsh or anything, but it would be nice to promote more serious messages that unhelpful messages discouraging people to  go to certain areas due to something that happened to a particular.

And to an extension to my comment above, I have had bad and good in Ireland, and I don,t think I could tell about the absolute goodness or badness of the service. It always depends on the company, place, hour, person who is working in the place etc.

Please, let,s just be constructive

Non-existant customer service concept in France !!!  They hang up on you if you ask anything out of their robot like answers and they dont give a damn since they cannot be fired.... On many occasions many are outsourced anyways to countries like algeria or morocco etc and they don't even know what customers means anyways.   They wont even identify themselves so you cannot point back to who served you and make a complaint.  But the worst is any governmental organizations, you are not considered a customer, you are a bother to their comfortable guaranteed life job.... Come experience the non-existant customer concept in France !!!!

Do they even care about customers? Haha! Customer care? Maybe self care haha! They just mind their own business not the customers hehe!

Politeness and awesome customer care despite the language barrier - try Japan! Superb!

Hi,

When we first started visiting France in 2004 I remarked to friends how nice it was that you were wished a nice day or a nice weekend by the staff at the tills in shops and supermarkets.  This initially gave me the impression that France was more advanced in enhancing the customer experience than in the UK.  Since moving to France in 2011 I have realised that this is not at all the case and, although there have been small improvements in some areas over the past few years, the customer service that you receive face'to-face or by telephone is terrible in most cases.  I've been quite shocked by the attitude of some staff in some of the supermarkets.  There are those that cannot be bothered to look up from the pallet they're unpacking to give you help when you've asked and those, lots of them it would seem, that 'tut' or 'huff' when you ask them for help.  Perhaps worse than that is when you have to call the CPAM or the CAF with your English accent and small 'faux pas' with the language.  I have been made to feel stupid and on a few occasions to cry because I've been treated with such disregard. On the plus side, when you do, on a rare occasion, receive good customer service (by good I mean a basic level that you would expect) it's a pleasant surprise! With S.A.V....well that whole process of taking your 12€ kids toy apart while making you wait 45 minutes so that they can check you're not a lying cheat when you say it doesn't work....that's another entire subject!

How to say that posts like this do not help people?

Don,t wanna be destructive, but...What,s the point of creating a message to critize a country service?

Could we mention those cases in wich we found that french customer service is good and mention them here, so we can know where to redirect our searches instead of a global "AAAh, it,s awful always"

Could we, simply be constructive?

Exactly , go tell that to the leaders and management, they dont care !   It just reflects their mentality of self-centered ego-centric minds and system !   Sorry but nothing to say good about the hypocrit system that the french system represents.

Then...Why do you live in France?

Being constructive with people that are genuine and open minded is good but when you are dealing with people that do not care or dont accept any criticism, it is like talking to idiots and deaf ears that will attack you and tell you if you are not happy go somewhere else.  That's exactly the french attitude and their Do Not Care staffs....

Waiting to sell off everything and then move to an english customer service oriented country like australia !  Lived in the US for almost 20 years so i do know very well what REAL customer service is !!  No overpriced toll numbers, always TOLL FREE and no such thing as being misstreated as customer !  Customers are always KINGS !  They dont understand that concept in France for sure !!!!!  Try to get your money back on any defective products then you will see.... Try to tell them you are not happy with anything then wish to get any credit... Try to tell them you need anything special and out of the ordinary robot like work they are programmed to do then you will experience that customer service is essentially non-existant... Tell them you want to be paid for the train being late and they will tell you file a claim and hope to get answered....

Like in any big city you will be faced with rude and disrespectful people, the few bad experiences you might have  in Paris are Not  representing the French and the  Parisiens are mainly from different origins,  it would be nice to keep that in mind.

Sometimes cultural differences create misunderstandings, you might feel something out of line where in fact they are trying to make you feel at home with a friendly welcome, so its important not to react in a 1st degree when your in that kind of situation.

Paris has changed a lot, people are much more welcoming and bilingual compared to way back when I first got here in the early 90s.

In most businesses now days  you will notice that the  pay extra attention to you as a foreigner and make a lot of effort to adapt and to keep you happy.

Name one city where  you get 10/10 good & satisfying customer service?  you cant expect a 1st class service when your paying economy and this is a worldwide problem today that has  people complaining, for nothing , the French have a saying, the more you pay the more vegetables you get in your soup.

The best way to deal with bad news is to turn your back and walk away, leave it behind and leave plenty of space for good news to come.

Enjoy your stay in the city of light and love, you will never forget it, and she is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Sorry to say but i dont live in Paris, i lived in another main city of Paris.. Another wrong assumption is i am not a foreigner, i am french and grew up in Paris and only realized how the french system and people are so non-customer oriented since i lived in the US for 20 years and became so used to REAL Customer service .... Coming back to France from a long stay overseas you then know how backward and closed minded the people the system is... Poor France...Full of real bad experience for real tourists and foreigners used to be served well by their public servants as well as the people supposed to give them real customer service at all levels of businesses....Cannot even imagine to pay a toll fee number to call my own bank or anything...That's just the tip of the iceberg... Can anyone imagine paying 25 cents a minute to call DELL in France to order or to claim a defective product ?  In the US, if it's not TOLL FREE, no one would even think about doing business with that company !  So answer to that !

Hello. It's quite a disadvantage for me not being able to speak and understand French language, other than that, the customer service crew are usually welcoming and generous 👌

I have some relatives living in Paris, they are all students or working in part time jobs as waiters and stuff like that. They are typical young people, not wealthy or anything. A couple of incidents when they entered the HSBC bank on the Champs Elysees. A staff came up to them and asked them what they wanted, but in a very unpleasant manner, as if they had no right to be in the bank. They told him that they had come to open an account. The man continued questioning them and my relatives finally left feeling pretty foolish and very disrespected.

I made a phone call to HSBC in Paris to complain to the Premier Centre and spoke with the Premier Manager for Customer Service at the call centre. He apologized and said that the staff should not have spoken like that, and asked if I had the name of the person, which unfortunately I didn't.

Finally I gave both those relatives subsidiary HSBC Premier Credit Cards and those relatives managed to open HSBC bank accounts. The still sometimes get questioned by arrogant acting staff, but after flashing their Credit Cards the attitude quickly changes.

I think this is more a Parisian attitude as it isn't supposed to be that banks policy.

Somebody said that it's not constructive to share bad experiences. I beg to differ. Everyone needs to be aware that France is not a service-led country; that way, we know that what seems like rudeness is not personally directed - and not even rude!

I actually think, costumer service in france is awful. They are so slow, not helpful, get annoyed very easily, and as soon they hear an accent or something miss pronounced they change to english( even if they dont knonw anyting in english which is even worst cause its just rude to change not because you are being helpful but because you see they are a foreigner...even though i understand everything and can speak french).
Once I was told through the phone if there was anyone else that spoke better french! so she could speak to her. Wow! talk about rude.

Right on the dot of what i have been saying .!

Well, I had my first interview with a bank assistant. It was ok. They provided me the information I needed ( Maybe because I speak french that helps a little, I don,t know?) and they took time to attend me and repeated whatever it was necessary - I said i speak french but I am not superfluent at the moment so sometimes I need to make people repeat what they say.

I do not take this as ALL the cases of France ( My god is so big...you can talk localy, not globaly)  but I can say I was happy with the advice received. This person knew I was foreign (I mentioned it) so the interview adapted to my needs.

When I have been in places asking for information, food, even looking for an apartment, all was good. The person of the location service attended me quite nicely (and my partner) and I can say she gave us a response about the place inmediately the same day.
It was all correctness and information quite detailed about our duty as tenants (renting a place yeah).

I only remembered once in Paris I found a bit of...resistance to my poor french.  I am not moving there, and so far I did not find any rude person. May I be lucky?

May I be just starting to live here...It must be that. Waiting for the negativity that all this opinions reflect...I will inform you if it changes

Hello, I was excited to read this submission on this site .  As an American and business owner, I have noticed the worst customer service in Paris!  At first I thought it was a few small stores.  I have lived here for s year now and have noticed it everywhere. Not only is there a lack of care for the customers, but people are lazy and don't know there jobs well at all .  This is not one isolated case, but I see it everywhere..  Customer service and friendliness in any business is the most important thing.  There should be a National training for this topic! Also, be nice to tourists!!!

You are so right on the spot of how french culture is about customer service.  Lazy uncaring and unprofessionnal and sometimes even arrogant.  Moreover they would not even take any criticism. They need to disappear and be wiped out.

I'd like to share my experience with all you beautiful people out there, France was my 2nd European country after Germany, I moved here with my half German - French girl friend at the time, on our 1st few days here  in Paris she told me something that I cant forget, she told me to stop smiling and saying hi to people coz they think I'm retarded, that was one hell of a shock for me because in California everybody smiles and says hello.

And its true in a way, now days I use it as a protection shield as I hate when people think they could treat you as they please, so when I go to a place and I feel its one of those careless businesses I put on a pissed off unfriendly face but always polite, it kind of fits my looks with a shaved head and 511 tall. trust me, I get what I need, but its not my nature at all, the fact is so many people are so dehumanized that only intimidation works.
Any where in the world take your kindness for weakness, but like Elvis said life is a show and you gotta fit the right character to fit  the picture.

 
Cheers and blessings.

Wow...the way this post is developing is just so unfair on the french people...

Look, it,s just a cultural shock. That girl was not an example of what france is (she was one among a good number of french people that lives in Paris...!)  France as a lot of departments full of people. I do not go around there saying that the hole U.S is full of crazy people, despite the fact that certain candidate is becoming popular (not mentioning who, because its out of topic...)

This forum here is the case of a cultural shock: we go to a place, we see someone does not smile to us, and bing! its unfair, they should be all smiley for you because in your culture, that is the way to do customer service. Put a smile in your face and that,s good treatment...

I found in my first experience that they, perhaps were not like in Ireland, all courtesy but when you want to talk about the real stuff...here comes trouble, we will let you know soon (deviating the answers) trying not tot be clear about things, ok no problem (instead of saying directly: no we can,t sorry, to find out afterwards that it was not possible!). That all smiley, is bad customer service.

However in France, I asked questions, they were answered very precisely and in my two experiences, they were helpful, informative and they were looking at all the details. That is important in customer service. It,s a question of priorities. This people who attended me were not that worried in looking nice and attentive, but they helped me through my questions. They were welcoming in their own way.

If I go to a place and I do not speak the language, wherever it is, people will sound a bit different to me, even rude if they do not smile, because I don,t get what they say. Please be aware of the cultural differences when you speak with french people. The case of your girlfriend is another thing, it,s just caracter, and can,t be generalized with the topic of this conversation.
I am spanish, my boyfriend is french and I smile and he smiles back to me. I think he is a bit more reserved, but that doesn,t mean that he is all uptight and unable to have feelings like french have been depicted in the cinema sometimes, proud and dry people.

It,s a question of cultural filters to feel offended if someone is not friendly at the beginning. Even sometimes, being too friendly may be a sign of trying to sell you something that you do not need. In my years in Ireland (sorry, apologies to this lovely country were I stayed so long) people would not say a single No you can,t to you. Wich means, in other worlds, that you do not know if someone can do something or not, unless your learn the code of excuses to say No indirectly.
Are they worst than spanish or french?

No. They have a different frame of mind.

No, they may be not english, american and follow another codes of behaviour that you need to decodify when you move country.
I did it when I went to Ireland. I learned, even when I am used to say No when I have to.

I know the critics to France customer service will be continuing, always based on "once that one person did this to me" instead of being useful tips for new people who comes to France.

That, actually would be amazing, because it is what I am searching in this forum. Useful information, not people complaining about how bad is their life in France.

You must have missed my other comments on this matter where I brought up the same exact subjects on cultural differences that your stressing, please take the time to go through them.
My last point here was after reading the frustration of other people, I hate to see good, polite people getting pushed around just because they have the right manners or maybe cant speak the language properly, in fact one of the guys complaining  happens to be French,  sometimes were left with no choice than having to deal with it and I shared out of my own experiences one very officiant way of getting things done which is also used in the animal world, called body language that every culture and race of people and animals even totally understand, its for targeting just a few rude people in town that enjoy making life miserable for the  rest of us, by sharing  one good way to deal with them just by  letting them know first hand that I know how to go ugly too, its not like putting my self on their level or going there but more like letting them know I'm not the  kind of person they could play with and bully.

I have not changed my manners or habits but just learned how things are conditional and need a certain level of adaptation to get buy, and that is the laws of nature and physics that goes everywhere and in every country.
So when people say customer service sucks in France I know exactly where they coming from.

good luck and give us back your opinion after 2 years of experiencing the arrogance and non-existent sense of customer service...it is not about french bashing, it is a pure objective observation of the facts of french culture.

Thanks, I don,t think I will need such an amount of good luck. France is not as arrogant/proud/impossible as we are talking about here...

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