The Localization of eCommerce Customer Service: Tips for the European Market

Mar 2, 2023



Ecommerce customer service is crucial to the success of a brand. In traditional retail, it’s much easier to interact with a flesh-and-blood salesperson who’ll help you make purchase decisions. If you have complaints, head on over to the concierge or call a manager. In ecommerce, it’s not that easy. You’re letting your listing do the talking, and disgruntled customers leave negative reviews that can badly impact your performance. Communicative, helpful, and professional ecommerce customer service can definitely help your brand improve.

According to Webdevs, 83% of online shoppers need assistance to complete an order. Either that means your listing isn’t providing the pertinent information that customers need to Add to Cart, or your ecommerce customer service needs to be exceptional. If your ecommerce customer service doesn’t answer the shoppers’ questions? It can lead to a staggering 89% of online shoppers ceasing to purchase online.

Furthermore, you want to retain your customer base through exceptional ecommerce customer service. The success rate of selling to existing customers is 60-70%, whereas it’s only 5-20% for new customers. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, as the adage goes.

Now, let’s assume 1 in 10 happy customers leaves a positive 5-star review. A brand needs 40 of those positive customer experiences to make up for a single negative review. Additionally, bad reviews on products are shared twice as much as positive ones, making it crucial for businesses to prioritize customer satisfaction to prevent negative reviews from spreading. That’s a lot of work that could be avoided through effective and professional ecommerce customer service.

eCommerce customer service is different in Europe!

Selling in Spain as well as the USA? Or perhaps you’re selling in Germany? The ecommerce customer service approach needs to be different. This fascinating post on Quora is telling:

On aggregate, the USA has friendlier customer service than Europe.

Service is on top of you the moment you enter any establishment that wants your business. It is friendly and open, often to the point of being overwhelming.

I don’t blame service people for this. Feeling overwhelmed is my problem not theirs. I did this job for a while and I know how little they earn, what is expected of them and how poorly customers sometimes treat them. Their livelihood depends on being helpful even when mistreated.

That does not stop me from feeling uneasy about being “treated like a king”.

It might seem crazy, but I really get the feeling I need to buy something. Service is so nice and accommodating that I start to feel like I need to reward it with my business, even if I don’t find what I want or need.

Europe has a much more hands off approach to potential customers.

Walking through the door, I get a guarded hello or smile most of the time, but I am left on my own unless I ask for help.

When I ask for help, it is every bit as friendly and helpful as in the US.

To be honest, I prefer being a regular customer in Europe instead of a king in America.

Americans expect different things from customer service. This LinkedIn post posits that American retail thrives on tips and sales, so the approach is quite friendly, since salespersons are incentivized by the bottom line. That philosophy carries forth to eCommerce. You’ll notice a friendlier approach to customer queries on amazon.com as opposed to marketplaces in Europe. Furthermore, many European marketplaces don’t have round-the-clock customer service. There’s less emphasis on pleasing the customer, and more emphasis on communicating the value of a product. European marketplaces trust that customers will make the correct decision, which can get frustrating for the seller who’s entering European marketplaces for the first time. But we’ll save selling tactics in other countries for another day.

Read on to find out more about the nuances between European marketplaces. Bottom line, your ecommerce customer service absolutely needs to be localized if you’re diversifying to Europe. The customer service needs and communications styles of Europeans are vastly different from those of the Americans, so it’s imperative that a seller adjusts accordingly if they are to retain their European customer base.

How valuable is ecommerce customer service in Spain and Germany?

Our translators weigh in. After the key areas of an Amazon listing like copywriting, SEO, and infographics, customer service is a crucial part. If they were to rank customer service in importance, 1 being the highest and most important part of a listing, they rank it 2/5 – it’s that crucial to a listing’s success. Effective customer service minimizes the perceived risk that new buyers take when they choose to buy your product; answer the questions in a timely and professional way, and you’re more assured of a successful sale.

It’s also crucial to answer ecommerce customer service queries in the customers’ native language. Don’t answer questions in English unless you’re selling in a country where English is the first language. Many Europeans are insecure about their English comprehension skills, and it’s best to interact with them in such a way that makes them feel comfortable. It’ll leave a better impression of your brand if you make it easy for the customer.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to reply to ecommerce customer service inquiries in less than 24 hours. As our translators attest, “Nobody has time to lose, and nobody likes the suspense of what will happen.” Think about it. In the time that a customer waits to get a response to their inquiry, they might have hopped on over to the competition and chosen that product over yours.

How to avoid returns?

Returns are inevitable. It’s part and parcel of the ecommerce game. However, there’s a way to minimize them by leveraging efficient ecommerce customer support. These rules hold fast in any culture, but should be observed keenly in Germany, which has a very high rate of return.

  1. Amazon doesn’t allow you to give customers external links, not even on your product inserts, but you can refer them to your social media accounts. If customers have more than one way to interact with a brand, it’ll be easier for you to provide excellent ecommerce customer service.
  2. When customers ask questions on a listing, reply as soon as possible. Now, there’s the matter of customer testimonials – these testimonials, and a brand’s communications, carry equal weight. To quote our translators: “User testimonials provide social proof and can help to establish the brand’s reputation, while the brand’s reply demonstrates their commitment to providing excellent customer service.” Aim to have a balance of both. Customers are more likely to trust the opinions of other customers who have already purchased and used the product, but they also want to see a brand’s commitment to their customers.
  3. Make sure your product listing is accurate and comprehensive. Use communications strategy in your image gallery. Get a professional to create your A+. Ensure your keywords and copywriting are localized per marketplace so you communicate with your customers in the language they speak, using vocabulary, colloquialisms, and idioms where appropriate to encourage authenticity.

What’s an effective communications style for ecommerce customer service in Europe?

In America, the communications style is quite friendly. It’s not uncommon for brands to use casual language – and emojis! – in their communications. This is best avoided in European markets. In Germany, the communication style for customer service is generally formal and professional, without the use of emojis or smileys. Spain is similar; if there is a problem, communicate in a straightforward and professional way, adhering to the facts, as opposed to the friendly, funny style. However, the brand voice trumps all these rules. If the product is youthful, fun, and lighthearted, then align the communications accordingly.

Some tips for effective customer service in Germany include responding promptly to inquiries, being professional and courteous in all communication, and providing accurate and helpful information. It’s also important to be transparent and clear about return policies, shipping information, and other important details. Spain, France, Italy, Belgium – all the other European marketplaces – they all follow these same rules as well.

Last but not least – how to encourage loyalty in European customers?

“E-commerce businesses should focus on building a strong brand reputation through excellent customer service, high-quality products, and transparent business practices. Offering rewards programs, exclusive discounts, and personalized recommendations can also help to foster customer loyalty.”

Bottom line? Your customers want to know that their satisfaction is your priority. Granted, that’s communicated in different ways across the globe, but it’s the number 1 takeaway no matter what nationality your customers might be. Respond to customer queries in a professional and honest way, and offer detailed product information to manage customer expectations from the very start.

And always remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! Nurture each customer, so they become repeat customers. There’s no better brand ambassador than a customer themselves.

Happy selling!