What would you do?

5 Replies



Last week I posted a message that we were looking for an accountant. Bob replied to my message and gave the an address to contact. I immediately wrote and email to ask for an appointment and when they didn't reply to that I gave them a call and asked the receptionist for an appointment. She told me she would pass on the message and someone would contact me. Up till now no-one has. This has happened to us before (not with the same company) and we waited and waited but no reply. Can I asume they do not want our business and look have to look elswehere? Maybe we're spoiled being used to American customer service and courtesy. My experience up till now has been that companies love to make money and have you as a client. This kind of ignoring the customer is new to me and I wonder what to do. So what would you do? -- Tink (22)

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Seeker-381844 1058648557


...maybe we're spoiled being used to American customer service and courtesy

In a way, yes.  (Very) generally speaking, in France, writing and e-mailing often does not produce any response, even if you're desperately keen to buy the services/goods in question.  Incredible, I know, but in my experience modern customer service training is all but unheard of within many smaller French businesses - some larger companies have invested in it (so there are exceptions, of course, and things are slowly changing), but there is still a long way to go for France to catch up with the UK, let alone with the USA.  The result is that underpaid receptionists and clerks answering the 'phone will regard prospective new customers as just another chore that can wait. The boss isn't going to know, so it doesn't really matter. (They'd be a lot more careful with an important known customer, however).

What I would do is this: go there in person with lots of time to spare, say hello, smile, start off as if you're very sorry to be bothering them with your business.  The magic words "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur. Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais j'aurais besoin d'un petit renseignement, si possible" will help initially disarm the hassled receptionist.  Don't ask for a formal appointment over the 'phone, but rather try to sound very casual about it at first, like this: "J'aurais besoin des services d'un comptable - est-ce-qu'il serait possible de passer vous voir pour en discuter?".  Be flexible about when you might want to come and bother them. Once there, be prepared to wait and use the time to observe what is going on. Sympathising with their impossible workload in extreme condtions, something like "Qu'est qu'il fait chaud! Vous devez avoir du mal à travailler dans de telles conditions..", for example, will earn you loads of extra brownie points. You will be seen as a "personne sympathqiue" and doors will start to magically open. At this point you start to become known as a customer worth serving.  The more sycophantic...err, sorry, respectful you can be, the better the service you will receive. Believe me, it works everywhere, even with administrative bodies such as 'mairies', social security offices, police stations, etc.

Before coming to France I used to conduct most of my daily business by mail and 'phone. I rarely write letters to companies now, except to cancel a contract, in which case one always uses the 'lettre recommandée avec avis de réception' which is the only mail that is not ignored in France.

Now, I drive everywhere, I knock on doors, I apologise for adding to their workload, I smile and I never get angry - and I can tell you honestly that I always get genuinely excellent customer service this way.  Many might not agree that this an acceptable state of affairs and continue to wonder why things are not done the way they're done 'back home'. Futile, I say! Personally, I'm all for a stress-free and happy world. You cannot change cultures overnight, you'd get ill trying to do so and life's too short anyway!And at the end of the day, it all depends on what you want to achieve... 

Hope this helps. 

Seeker [

bob-381779 1058685582


I'm afraid that Seeker is right . . . I can put you in touch with an English speaking Accountant, but for them to actually re-contact you, well that may take a little time.

If you want something quickly in France it takes a lot of smiling and , well, grovelling is probably the best word. . . . . .

The customer is King? Erm, no, they are an inconvenience for some poor soul earning Smic and Parlez Vous Anglais en plus !! Ooh La La !!!

If you do have time to visit then you will get an appointment, the Main Man afterwards will be able to do what you need - if its advice you need, however, be warned that French accountants are very cagey about giving it!

I speak pretty good French (thankfully) and can assure you that an accountant in France is someone that does my little legal bits of paper only - and, unless i'm mistaken, it is still 100% my responsability that it is done correctly (??).

If it is advice you need then I probably know a Man Who Can !

Hope this is helpful . . . .


my best regards,

Glyn-381810 1058694593

Its not wise to generalise but my own experience of a fairly large renovation project over the last 9 months has been similar. I have had appointments for french companies to visit the site to give me quotes and they have not turned up, indeed one company had 2 appointments and never arrived at all. You also get the quotes based upon the fact that you are english and therefor higher quotes are given than if you are french.
Now theres a balance to be struck do you really want to go back to the rat race life as in USA and the UK that is very much based upon consumerism or have we all moved here for a more peaceful existence. Whilst it may be frustrating to start with if you make the effort to understand the way things are done and the reasons why they are done then a little thought on your own part and a new approach works wonders for your own stress levels. For my own part I now approach all of my dealings on the basis that no one sells you anything its up to you to buy.
I do have to add though that I have dealt with a couple of french companies who have been excellent as well as with a number of english artisans now based locally who have helped the project move forward with their advice and knowledge of local services............

graham1-381847 1058698861

I think that Seeker's advice is absolutely spot on for everything to do with public administration, health, mairies etc.  It is also, even if you have prepared yourself well, to appear a little helpless so that the person in front of you can feel a little superior when sorting out your problem.

In the economic sphere, if it is possible, use a personal introduction, saying you come "de la part de Monsieur un tel" who is known to the notary, accountant, banker etc.  This will not only help to open the door but also reduce the chance of being ripped off on prices.

If you, as an American, expect American style service and cannot live without it, then you should start packing your bags because you are going to become very frustrated.

In everything to do with building, the local people have had more than enough work for the last ten years and so it is absolutely par for the course for them simply to not turn up for appointments.  This is not a question of racism, they do it to French people as well.

If you have really no luck with an accountant, I can put you in touch with mine. You could also outline the type of advice required on this forum.  There appear to be some very good quality respondents.

I warn you that it is very difficult to do anything in France between July 15th and September 15th because of the holidays.



Tink-381737 1058708626

Seeker, Bob, Glyn and Graham,

Many thanks for the excellent advice I will sure take it to heart and act accordingly.

No I did not expect American Style Customer service here I already knew it would be different. I did my reading and research before moving over here. But still, I guess the least I expected was indeed a phone call in return to make an appointment. I also guess I must have been to business like, I thought that was appropriate.

We will pay them a visit and I will let my husband do the talking, we already discovered that women react better to him than to me ;-)

Like Seeker we also used to do all our business and administration by either phone or email. Now we also drive everywhere to get things done. It's very time consuming though ;-) But the URSSAF, the CIPAV, the Gestion all have been very helpful and kind. What prevented me from driving down to the accountant office was that I didn't wanted to look too desperate and make a fool of myself.

We both speak French, not fluently yet but enough to get by at the moment. It would be helpful though if on the subject of accounting that the accountant had a little knowledge of English.
The reason we need an accountant is because my husband is registered under Profession Liberale and is also a member of the Gestion which advises you to hire an accountant to do your administration and tax filing. In return you will get a 20% reduction on your taxes.

My husband, as a lot of 'techies', is excellent in the things he doesn, writing software, but not that talented in keeping business records ;-) So we're not looking for an accountant to get some advice but to actually do our business accounting. If any of your accountants would be available to do so please let me know.

Thanks again for all the sound advice, I really appreciate it.

Tink (22)

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