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Dialing dilemma: German retailers unreachable by phone

German online retailers are unreachable by phone
German online retailers are unreachable by phone

A large number of German online retailers have put a barrier between them and their customers by being hard to reach by phone. The Versandhandelsstudie 2023 report highlights this issue as it examines the service quality of the top 100 online retailers in Germany. 

The research also pointed towards a decline in free delivery offers among these top sellers, further adding to the customers’ woes. Only six out of the 100 top retailers offer standard free delivery, which is a significant drop from the 14% in 2020.

The extent of the issue

The report shows a simple phone call remains the preferred method for many shoppers. Email, on the other hand, ranks lower with an average response turnaround time of 34 hours. This disparity leaves customers frustrated. 

As per the study, phone services are offered by 93 of the top 100 online retailers. Yet their contact details are often buried so deep within their website, it’s practically impossible for shoppers to find it. Seven retailers out of the hundred don’t even provide a contact number at all. 

The problem extends to business hours since 14 of these retailers keep their phone lines open only during weekday working hours. 

Generational gap

Surprisingly, not all retailers see phone unavailability as an issue. Asos, EMP, and Zara for example say they target a younger demographic. Their preferred methods of communication include WhatsApp messaging or social media. 

However, this doesn’t negate the need for phone availability for a broader audience. And even when shoppers manage to connect via phone, they still wait an average of two minutes and 33 seconds before being attended to. 

Having an old school phone line should still be seen as vital because not everyone prefers online chat methods. In fact, a chat-only approach could alienate a significant portion of customers who prefer verbal communication. 

ALSO READ: Customers want businesses to be ‘in that moment’ with them, says expert

Tips for improvement

Addressing this issue head-on can significantly improve customer satisfaction. Doing so could potentially prevent a loss of sales and a negative perception of the retailer’s customer service

Here are a few practical steps retailers could take:

  1. Ensure a working phone number and other means of communication is clearly visible  – ideally in the header or footer of the company’s website. 
  2. Extend service hours to accommodate customer schedules, possibly offering weekend or evening hours.
  3. Cater to all demographics by offering multiple channels of communication, including phone, email, chat, and social media.
  4. Clearly display shipping costs and any other conditions to prevent unpleasant surprises during checkout.
  5. Minimize wait times across all channels, ensuring customers receive swift responses.

The take-away from this report is clear: while adapting to modern communication channels is vital, the importance of traditional channels such as phone support should not be brushed aside. A balanced approach to customer service will go a long way to keep companies in good stead.

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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