Interview with Bad Service Belgium

In a couple of posts already I have bashed Belgium’s appalling services and the notorious mobility problems that afflict the city by interviewing the famous @STIB_fail Twitter account. In an effort to investigate on people’s reaction about the poor Belgian service culture, I talked to another Twitter account’s manager who collects all these complaints. It’s @BadService_BE. Let’s see how he made it all happen.


When was the account created?

The account was created around March 2011.

What was the initial reason to open this account?

I was literally ripped off by a so-called company and I lost money. I felt so helpless that I wanted other people to know about this situation. Additionally, since I have had heard similar stories from friends complaining about different service providers I decided to create Bad Service Belgium to give the chance to people like me to have a simple and effective way to complain and our voices to be heard. My ultimate goal is to improve the experience of customer service in Belgium.

How many people really know your identity?

Not many. Family and some friends know about who is behind Bad Service Belgium. I have nothing to hide, but I rather remain not directly connected to the account.

Where do you get most of your complaints from? Are they mainly from Brussels?

Yes, mainly from Brussels, however I am receiving more and more complaints from all over the country. And from time to time I even receive complaints from tourists who were confronted with poor customer service and were able to find the Bad Service Belgium on Twitter. Typically people complain about public transportation and GSM/Internet operators. This is probably because of the high number of customers they have and the impact it causes in their lives.

What is your strategy behind retweets and moderation policy?

I only retweet when a complaint makes sense and might be helpful for other people to know about it (especially to put pressure to the concerned service provider to take action accordingly). I do not retweet anything related to topics such as politics, religion, sexuality or any extremist message. I also avoid non-sense complaints such as “I hate the weather” or “The guy sitting next to me stinks”. The only exception I rarely make to non-sense complaints is when they are so funny that, if I think I can make at least one single person smile or laugh, then I say why not 😉

How many notifications do you get per day? What are they mainly about?

It really depends on the day. On a regular day I get between 5-10 tweets. It also depends if people get active on a specific issue, or if there is a big service disruption that affects many people.

Have you ever been actually contacted by any of the institutions you complained about? If so, for what reason?

Mostly when I retweet a complaint, some companies offer immediate assistance to the affected customer and keep me informed of the outcome. They know that an isolated issue can easily become viral if not treated accordingly.

Do you think Belgium offer insufficient services? Can you mention other positive examples from other countries?

I do not believe that Belgium is better or worse than any other country in terms of customer service. People get good and bad customer service all over the world. However, because the important international community living mainly around Brussels, there are different expectations from different people. These expectations are heavily connected to their origins and the way customer service is handled back in their countries. Because of these differences and probably also due to a possible language barrier, some people often tend to generalize that there is a bad customer service culture in Belgium.

What’s the plan for the future? Do you plan on expanding your communication channels?

For the moment – mainly because I am doing this by myself – I will keep trying on retweeting as fast as possible (I manually go through every single tweet I receive for the sake of moderation). I hope to be able to maintain growth in the people that follow Bad Service Belgium (over 1300 followers to date), so a big thanks for all those who follow the account!

I have also created a Facebook page which do not seem to be quite successful as the Twitter account. So I still need to elaborate the strategy on Facebook.

Last but not least, I also created a “Good Service Belgium” Twitter account because I believe that praising for good customer service has even a greater impact than complaining about bad one. I am looking forward to see more people using that account.

A few lessons from #Europcom 2013

I only managed to attend one panel at this year’s Europcom. I really like this event. The topics are always very interesting and the participants’ level of expertise is always quite high. I noticed that comms2point0, a regular invitee to this event, made a very good and comprehensive summary of both day one and day two of the conference which I invite you to read.

The panel I attended was about the reputation of the EU institutions. Public criticism of the European institutions is on the rise. What is the impact of this on support for the European Union? What tools and strategies can be developed to fight the myths and clichés, and to set up a balanced dialogue with the public?

The debate was moderated by Rob Heirbaut and the speakers were Simona Guerra from the University of Leicester; Mélanie McCluskey from the Reputation Institute in Belgium; Sjerp van der Vaart from the European Parliament Information Office in Belgium; Sixtine Bouygues, Director for Strategy and Corporate Communication at the European Commission and Antonia Mochan from the Representation of the European Commission in the UK.

In particular, there were three lessons I took from the event.

Sixtine Bouygues, Director for Strategy and Corporate Communication in DG COMM, pointed out the importance of two main factors when dealing with reputation of institutions: “transparency and accountability.” While elaborating on this issue, she noted the effort made by the European Commission to rationalise its online presence and harmonise its visual identity.

At the same time, another challenge for EU institutions is to guarantee that all information is available, accessible and visible. “Being there and providing efficient information services to the citizens should be a priority for public institutions.” Rationalisation means better spending of public money and easier access for users and these are priorities in DG Communication’s work. Web rationalisation was also the topic of our last blog post written by Robert Andrecs, the head of digital communications in the European Commission.

Antonia Mochan didn’t need PowerPoint. She got right to the point during her talk and she discussed some very important topics related to targeting.

First of all, “if you don’t know who you are talking to then it won’t matter what you say.” Knowing who you target and how your target audience communicates is absolutely crucial in addressing institutional messages.

Secondly, it is important to focus on the “big picture.” The EU has over 500 million citizens and it is indeed challenging to address them all at once in all the domains that they could be interested in. Hence, it is important to be able to think out of the box or in this case, out of the “bubble.”

In all places of institutional importance at both national and international level, it is common to get caught up in professional bubbles, such as the famous “Eurobubble” or, as mentioned by Antonia, the Westminster bubble. No matter in which institutional bubble you find yourself, communicators have to think about the concern and the means of the people they are targeting, not the means and the topics used and discussed only in their bubbles.

I hope next year’s edition will include some brilliant insights again and that I will be able to attend more panels.

Discerning the Belgian social media sphere from the Eurobubble: mission impossible?

When analyzing the social media sphere in Belgium I always find it hard to differentiate the Eurobubble from the “real” Belgian environment.
Belgium has a very active and engaged online population, with users from many segments of society. In addition to politicians and journalists, many entrepreneurs, consultants and professors active on social media.


Continue reading “Discerning the Belgian social media sphere from the Eurobubble: mission impossible?”

Interview with Berlaymonster

Inhabitants of the Eurobubble know this little hairy figure very well. He’s there to drink gin, eat gravy and bash EU affairs. Many know his videos and his Twitter account which was even endorsed by EC spokesperson Olivier Bailly as “really good fun.”

Enough about what we think we know about him. Let the monster talk

Let’s start from the basis. How can we define you? even though you label yourself as a monster you don’t look that scary.

(*strokes chin fluff*) The “Monster” as a construct – for indeed it is a construct – is how we, individually or collectively, embody, explain, or warn of that which we are or should be scared of, or that which we distrust, or should distrust. It is not that which we are scared of or distrust itself. It is born from within the individual or the collective, from a need to anthropomorphise the neuroses, including fears, self-doubt and self-loathing, that grumble in the dark recesses of our lobes. The Monster is therefore a creation of and select partial reflection of the EU self, straddling its id and super-ego in such a stance as to have a vantage point from which to occasionally piss upon the ego.

Hope that clarifies matters.

 6cd37ed723222de645f221053adb6a17 Continue reading “Interview with Berlaymonster”

Some insights from the International Communication Summit in Brussels

How is it possible to distinguish and understand the values of European citizenship? How should civil society and institutions move in order to define new models for dialogue, values and services? How is it possible to make decisions, when faced with an ever wider and undifferentiated dissemination of content that contrast with the demand for correctness and transparency? These are just some of the topics discussed at the International Communication Summit hosted at the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels last 26 September.

The event, moderated by Barbara Roffi, Head of sector Content Production and Audio Visual Unit European Parliament, displayed quite an impressive list of speakers. In addition to famous writer Jung Chang, web strategist and CTO for Obama’s campaign Harper Reed and Chief Executive of Nesta Geoff Mulgan there were also contributions from Stephen Clark, Director of Relations with Citizens at the Directorate-General for Communication of the European parliament, Pierre Zémor Honorary President of EuroPCom, Ronny Patz, EU Communications & Policy Officer for Transparency International and Franco Pomilio ICS Chairman since 2010 and President of Pomilio Blumm.


First panellist, Jung Chang explained how her books are full of “truth, of real life, and that’s why they fascinate so many people around the world” because “transparency is at the core of my writing,”

Geoff Mulgan, stressed how one of Europe’s greatest challenges is to grow public understanding of the need to prioritise in future investment– in R&D, innovation – rather than in current consumption. Continue reading “Some insights from the International Communication Summit in Brussels”

Interview with captain Europe

It’s a bird, no it’s an aeroplane, no it’s a eurocrat, nooooooooo it’s Captain Europe. For the inhabitants of the Eurobubble, Captain Europe is not an outsider.

Captain Europe, mild mannered civil servant by day and superhero… well, mostly at weekends and at other times on request.

This is the description you can find on his Twitter bio, but let’s hear more about his story, his goa_gys1023-extra_largels and his projects for the future.

  • Captain, when and where were you born?

I was born somewhere in northern Europe shortly after my birthplace joined the European Economic Community.

  • How many people know your real identity?

I think there are about 20 people who know my secret identity – and a few more who know both me and my alter ego but haven’t yet made the link.

  • What does Captain Europe fight for?

I fight for the usual superhero causes: truth and justice. In an EU context, that means a number of things. Truth can mean busting the many myths about the EU, or teasing and provoking the powerful to keep them honest. It can mean informing citizens about the rights and benefits they enjoy thanks to the EU. Justice can mean standing up for consumers against powerful corporations (something the EU does rather well), or stimulating police cooperation to fight serious and organised crime, or defending intergenerational justice by protecting the environment. All these things are policies the EU covers; I merely symbolise, and sometimes stimulate, the EU’s action in these areas. Continue reading “Interview with captain Europe”

Interview with #RocktheUnion: raise awareness about the 2014 European Parliament elections

I recently found out about “Rock the Union” ,a project intended to raise awareness about the coming European Parliament elections 2014.

Together with a team of 5 people plus bus driver, Hans Mund the project’s manager wants to go through all 28 EU Member States in an old English Routemaster between October 14th and May 16th 2014:

Why does he do that?

  • to discuss Europe with the citizens on the local level,
  • to discuss why the European Parliament elections are important for the future of Europe,
  • to promote the idea of taking part in the elections,
  • to give the citizens a chance to send out their message to the candidates running for office in 2014.

Let’s read what Hans has to say about the project and its targets.


Tell us, how and where did it all start? 

The idea for the Rock the Union tour came up on June 9th this year. I was quite frustrated after long talks about what some of the EU institutions are going to do in order to raise awareness about the upcoming European Parliament elections. Continue reading “Interview with #RocktheUnion: raise awareness about the 2014 European Parliament elections”

@STIB_Fail: born to be bashing

“Brussels is the most congested city in the world” says a recent report from Forbes. Even though Forbes’ analysis only actually considers Europe and North America, thinking that the capital of the European Union doesn’t offer adequate solutions for the life of drivers is pretty disappointing. Cities that have to deal with congestion problems often tend to offer alternative solutions in terms of public transport such as better bike lanes, more frequent buses and metros or allowing access to congested areas only to eco-friendly vehicles. Although these strategies are common in Denmark, England and even Italy, they are certainly not implemented in Brussels. As a result of that, people have been more and more sharing their complaints on their social media.

STIB MIVB FAIL is a Twitter account that gathers all comments on what is wrong with Brussels’ public transports. I had an interview with their (anonymous) manager who told us something more about how this idea came to life.

When did you start this account?
STIB MIVB FAIL was born on 19 January 2012.

How did the idea come into your head to create a Twitter account to bash public transports in Brussels?
Brussels is a great city but once you go underground it gets messy, dirty and above all difficult to reach a place in time. The reputation of our public transport is really bad and every time the STIB tries to improve something it becomes a ‘Belgian Solution’. Look at the security gates for example, even a toddler can jump over them, it paves the way for criminals and other people who don’t belong in a metro or tram station. It creates a feeling of insecurity but also unfairness, because you are paying while others don’t. Frustration was the main driver behind the initiative, and hopefully, pressure pays off. The second reason to start this account was to push for an online presence of the public transport service, just like airlines or other institutional bodies.

index Continue reading “@STIB_Fail: born to be bashing”

Social media will destroy Belgium appalling service culture

Belgium’s service culture is disgraceful. This is not an assumption, it’s a fact. Especially in the horeca business, staff is almost always rude, sloppy or unwilling to help. As a friend of mine well says :

When you ask for food in a Belgian restaurant, waiters and cooks act like they are doing you a favour by bringing you food

The examples I could mention are 1000000000000s but this is not the scope of this post. If you you want to know about dreadful experiences just tweet me at @marcoRecorder. You’ll be amazed.

Nonetheless, there is a quite successful Twitter account called Bad Service Belgium listing all bad experiences people are having with services in Belgium and, more specifically, you can follow STIB MIVB FAIL for all problems related to public transports in Brussels. They are some pretty funny accounts.

This low level of performance also includes services, not only bars and restaurant. In the famous Facebook group BXL A LOUER – bouche à oreilles, which counts over 44.000 members, I came across the case of Joanne who flagged something really terrible that a real estate and housing agency did to her.

As we can see from the Facebook post below, the agency IMMO Minc literally wrote her an e-mail in which they say

“We don’t have time to waste with people like you and we are sure you will not find an apartment. Get lost!”

What did she do in return? The right thing. She flagged this throughout her social media so that people would be aware they shouldn’t go to that agency. Do you think any of the 44.000 group members would ever contact the agency?Bad_customer_service_in_Belgium Continue reading “Social media will destroy Belgium appalling service culture”

Too much for too little… the death of a Bank of America intern must herald reform of the internship industry

This letter from the European Youth Forum has been widely circulated around various business in Brussels. The tragic death of Moritz Erhardt, a German student who was working at Bank of America as part of a summer internship programme, has sparked huge debate over the exploitation of young graduates in Europe especially as a consequence of the economic crisis.

I republish this letter as a symbol of sympathy and understanding towards those who are discussing the issue on a multinational level and investing their efforts in raising awareness about the hard life of young job seekers in time of crisis.

Dear Editor,

Many young people across Europe are undertaking internships in order to acquire new skills. Internships provide young people with a great opportunity to get first hand experience of the world of work. For students in particular, internships can provide the crucial stepping stone between education and employment.

However, there is evidence that the quality of internships varies across the EU in terms of learning outcomes, involvement of the intern, access to social benefits and remuneration. It is deeply concerning to see extreme cases as the one reported in the article mentioned above. The death of this young person after having been exploited and abused while completing his internship in a big company is totally unacceptable.

Continue reading “Too much for too little… the death of a Bank of America intern must herald reform of the internship industry”