The Power of Good Service Design is in the Details

You, probably, are familiar with the saying “The Devil is in the Details” and in the same place – details – resides the power of customer satisfaction and good experience.

Imagine you are coming from Hong-Kong or Washington DC to The Netherlands on an extended business trip (say two months). You get a short-medium stay apartment in a nice area of The Hague (political capital of The Netherlands). It’s a very nice old apartment newly renovated and has some cool design features that you like them, but wouldn’t do them in your own place. The apartment comes with a large price tag (a bit over 3300 USD/ month), but it’s a nice place, great location and it’s a legitimate business expense.

For foreigners, in The Netherlands everything is nice (except for the weather). The Netherlands is a country where everybody speaks English, you have a lot of nice things to see, it’s not very expensive and the Dutch are quite nice people.

The first week of your extended business trip went well and now it’s the weekend. You want to get to see more of the sights, maybe do some shopping etc.

Oh! You also need to do some laundry. You go to the washing machine and: Bang! You can’t understand a thing.

The washing machine and drier have only Dutch words on them, which is absolutely natural since they were bought in The Netherlands.

This is a story that almost happened to my wife and I. The deviation from reality is that we haven’t done laundry yet and we have the benefit of knowing some Dutch.

Quite interestingly, the poster that is in the hallway with the apartment address, Wi-Fi log-in etc. is written in English, as it should be since the company (Biz Stay) rents out to business travellers who – in The Netherlands – are always foreign. The Netherlands is a very small country and you can easily commute from one city to another.

When apartment owners decide to put their properties on the market for short-medium stay, they focus on features like having cool & modern kitchen appliances, having furniture that is cheap, but seems expensive etc.

Similarly, when clients are shopping around on the internet for a short-medium stay apartment they are looking at location, number of bedrooms, general look of the place etc.

The washing machine instructions in Dutch is something that nobody thinks about until clients experience the frustration of trying to do laundry. Even then, they take it as a given – of course the commands are in Dutch since the appliance was bought in The Netherlands.

However, if you’re renting-out an apartment for short stay, it isn’t rocket science to make some labels with the English translation of the commands and stick them over the washing machine.

As a bonus: The microwave oven and the regular oven have the option to change the language to English, but for that you need to know at least one word in Dutch – “Taal” (which means both language and tongue). Oh, almost forgot. You also need to know that what English speakers refer to Dutch (the language), in the Dutch language is called Nederlands.

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