Archive for January, 2007|Monthly archive page

Online customer support

With the growth of online shopping, which is even in Germany turning into a normal way of doing business, it’s becoming important for businesses to satisfy customer needs as they do (or at least should do) in the offline world. This applies of course to customer support.

Some companies in Germany, however, seem to think that doing business online is a blessing to its customers in itself and ignore online customer service. This is an opportunity for foreign companies that have been doing business online for much longer to provide better service to German consumers.

This also an opportunity for smart German companies that realize the importance of customer satisfaction, whether online or offline. The following two examples show opposite responses from online customer support by German companies. 

The first one is the English Book Service, which sells English language books. One time I was searching for a book on their Website, which was identified as “in stock”. Hence, I placed the order assuming that I will get it in the next few days, so I can take it with me on a weekend trip the following week.

Few days later, however, I got an email from the company that the book is on order and it will take few days before it’s shipped. This was an unpleasant surprise since I could have ordered the book somewhere else where it really was in stock. I still hoped though to receive it on time for my trip.

My hope didn’t materialize. Few more days later I emailed the customer service asking where my book is and got a response that it could be up to two weeks until the book can be shipped. There was no apology in the email for this screw-up and no options given to cancel the order or an offer of a voucher for future purchases as a sign of “we are sorry”.

I had to email the customer service again to demand cancellation of the order and a confirmation of that cancellation. I never received a confirmation that the order was cancelled. That was now almost half a year ago. The only way I know that the order must have been cancelled is that I was never charged for this book. 

Unfortunately, it’s still common in Germany that one has to demand better service, both online and offline, instead of good customer service being standard. That it is possible for German companies to provide great online service shows the following example.

My wife was shopping for cosmetics at the PARFUMCHANNEL and ordered several items online. Few days later they arrived but it turned out that company shipped one wrong item. My wife sent an email explaining the problem and requesting a replacement. 

Believe it or not, ten minutes after my wife sent that email the phone rang and a customer service representative from PARFUMCHANNEL was apologizing on the phone for the mistake and gave my wife options to solve this problem. They shipped the correct item the same day and included several samples as a token of apology. They also provided clear instructions on how to return the wrong item free of charge.

We were both amazed about this exceptional customer service that apparently is possible in Germany. How great would it be if other companies took an example from PARFUMCHANNEL?