Wednesday 14 January 2009

Differences between Australia and Italy

I have not yet been back in Australia for one week, but already I can see so many differences between here and Italy. It is not like I am only realising the differences now...but when you have been gone from a country - your home country - for 2 years, the differences are really so much more obvious.

Take customer service for example. Customer service in Italy (and the UK for that matter) is relatively non-existent. You can walk into a shop pretty much any where in Italy and be ignored. The sales people, if you can see anyone, will not even make eye contact with you. The sales assistants will most likely be enthralled in a dramatic conversation and give you the death stare when you dare ask to try on a pair of shoes...or they will be smoking in the shop doorway ignoring your 'scusi' as you try to get their attention.

And don't get me started on the supermarkets! I know no one packs the bags for you, but if I have some eggs or fresh fruit why do they have to throw them with such force at me? I know they hate their jobs, but come on...just handle them a little more delicately. And if I don't have any spare change at the cash register it's not my problem so don't go all crazy on me. (Note to people thinking of coming to Italy: carry some small change if you don't want to be given rude glances and have to put up with inaudible curses from the sales staff.)

Australia is the exact opposite and when I say exact opposite I mean that I got scared at how friendly the shop assistant was when I was looking for a dress the other day. And the thing is that she was honestly nice - none of this fake smile stuff. This used to always happen after trips back to Melbourne when I had been living in London. I was shocked, taken back and not prepared for the oh so friendly Australian staff. I had been living in the land of grey skies and matching personalities for so long that I had forgotten that customer service is meant to be just that - serving a customer.

I went to look at a simple dress here in Melbourne and got trapped by the friendly shop assistant asking me what I was looking for, could she suggest a colour, could she tell me that she could order something in if I could not find my size.

Supermarkets here are a joy, a pleasure. I used to work in a supermarket when I was in high school. In Australia...well in Melbourne anyway we pack the bags for the customers. We are taught to put the heavy things at the bottom, to be nice and friendly and above all to smile. I went to the supermarket and was asked how I was, and told to have a great day...Oh...yes - I hope you have a nice day too I stuttered back.

And I will not even tell you about my trip to the post office. If anyone has been traumatised by a post office visit in Italy (I was in tears once) then it would be cruel to gloat about my excellent customer service here in Melbourne, Australia.


Bitter Chocolate said...

Actually, I'm not very found of overly active customer service people, it somewhat bothers me when I have to "share" what I'm looking for with them (I know, I'm weird). If they're too attentive it makes me feel obliged to buy something, which I don't like. And I remember how utterly shocked I was when I was asked if I had a "pleasant and undisturbed shopping experience" in a supermarket, I thought the shopping lady must have had something hit her in the head LOL But I guess it's a mather of what you're used to.

Rosa said...

Continue, continue...I might just move back to Melbourne.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi BC,
You know I was worried that I would feel guilty when I did not buy a dress from this super friendly girl, but she actually seemed to feel bad that I did not think the dress was for me. But I must admit sometimes I prefer to be left alone!

hi Scintilla,
i am sure you understand me. And there will be more of these installments to come...believe me!

Romerican said...

I'd prefer fake niceness in customer service to authentic rudeness ANY day!

Anonymous said...

The question is why? Why is customer service non-existent in Italy?
I'm from Canada and for the most part we are a nation of customer service orientated people. We also say "please" "thank you" and "I'm sorry" a lot!
For me, its treating others as I'd like to be treated.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Romerican,
I am with you. Fake nice is better then plain rude!

Hi Ms Violetta,
I really have no idea why customer service is so bad in Europe...I have to ask an Italian and see what they have to say. My old team leader in the UK used to love Australians as she said we are like flowers, always lovely since we have so much sun. The lack of sun could be the reason why customer service is not so crash hot in the UK...but there is plenty of sun in italy!

Jewel said...

Just try not to go to a post office in the city during the week before Christmas. Three women just about had me in tears when I tried to change my mail redirection, normally they are so nice.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Jewel,
I'll be sure to stay away from that post office then!

Canedolia said...

I've been bitching on my blog (http://milanoforbeginners) about poor customer service too but my bad experiences have only been with the faceless employees of major corporations (TIM, I mean you!). On a 1 to 1 level, I've found that Italians, or at least the Milanese, are lovely.

Take this story for example. One day, I went to the market. I only needed some milk but I went to the cheese stall and waited for quite a long time as the old man who ran the stall discussed the finer details of mozzarella with another customer. When it was my turn and I asked for milk, he said, "You should have said sooner if it was just milk you needed." Then, when I told him I didn't need a plastic bag, he said, "Let me serve you properly, signora." Bad for the environment maybe, but perfect customer service!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Canedolia,

TIM - don't get me started on them! I was trying to connect my phone and they kept hanging up time and again. I then went to the phone shop and asked the assistant there to call them since he was all high and mightly...and they hung up on him too!

It does also depend on where you are, but you are right - often the 1 to 1 service is great...they often give you cooking tips too at the markets!

Anonymous said...

i'm from australia, now living in italy since dec 2009. i agree staff from australia are soooo frendly compare to italy, its so true they stand near the door way smoking, unfriendly and not even an eye contact.
i can't understand that to find work in italy its really hard and u think that they will do anything to keep a customer happy so they can be praised. maybe no one here gets the sack. i don't know the system as yet, but i do know they get under paid. i have been in retail all my life and when i like a store will go and talk to the staff first with a smile and start talking about the weather ecc, after 10 mins they are your best friend. i think once they know that your from another country they get excited and will help you, but if they think ur one of them go in without a smile u will have no service.

pedestrain crossing?? hmmm they won't even stop even if theres a police car watching.

queing? hmmm whats that here?
making an appointment for medical?? u gotta be joking!

why am i here, dunno!!

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