Shaping E-commerce customer service in Germany: what will change in 2015 - TELUS International Europe

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  • Shaping E-commerce customer service in Germany: what will change in 2015

    February 26, 2015

    By Stefan Abadzhiev


    According to the Verband der Deutschen Internetwirtschaft (“Association of the German Internet Industry”), more than half (53 percent) of German GDP generated in 2017 will be e-commerce related (compared to 37 percent in 2012). These numbers highlight the significant potential within the e-commerce market in Germany in both B2C and B2B environments.

    With 54 million people online on a regular basis, Germany boasts the most internet users in Europe. More than 42 million Germans purchased goods online in 2013 (as per Germany Trade & Invest, May 2014).

    In order to be successful in the retail industry, it becomes increasingly important to combine different sales and customer service channels. Here are five of the key trends which will be shaping customer service in the e-commerce sector throughout 2015. Each offers a fresh opportunity for companies to reinvent the service they offer customers and in so doing gain significant competitive advantage.

    1. The arrival of Generation Y

    Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – will in 2015 account for almost US$200 billion in spending per year worldwide. In the workplace, Gen Y already accounts for 80% of the total number of employees in some contact centers. This is a significant generational shift which will gather momentum in 2015.

    Excellent multi-taskers, Generation Y has grown up surrounded by computers, mobile devices and video games consoles. This generation is confident with technology but it also has a shorter attention span. The Internet puts everything at Gen Y’s fingertips, and this affects not only how they expect customer service to be delivered but the level of service they expect.

    Retailers and e-merchants that recognize this shift, and re-engineer their customer service provision accordingly – even going as far as seeking out contact center partners with a high proportion of Gen Y employees – will find themselves more in tune with the customer service demands of 2015.

    2. Focus on multilingual campaigns

    The world is globalizing at a remarkable rate. Germany enjoys the greatest e-commerce customer potential within Europe, making it the clear continental leader. Beyond Europe, only China, Japan and the USA record higher digital consumer numbers. The A.T. Kearney Global Retail E-Commerce Index 2013 identified Germany as the Western European market with the highest growth potential (Germany Trade & Invest, May 2014).

    For e-merchants selling goods and services overseas this without doubt a positive, it also presents a significant challenge: how to communicate with consumers who speak different languages, who operate in different time zones, and who have radically different cultures?

    Anyone who doubts the importance of this issue for 21st Century business should consider this fact:

    a 2011 study from the European Commission found that 42% of consumers never purchase products and services in other languages. Multilingual customer service is fast becoming a major issue for businesses, and we can expect to see this reflected in the customer service offering from e-tailors.

    3. The rise of omni-channel support

    Where will retailers be investing for improved customer service? Primarily to gear up for the shift to omni-channel support. The customer of 2015will demand 24/7/365 support and will expect it anytime, anywhere and from any device.

    This generation of shopperssimply want service their way. They expect companies to solve problems quickly and they expect to enjoy themselves while they are doing it. The days of waiting patiently in line are long gone. Specifically, we can expect to see a quickening of the shift towards customer service via social media and online chat.

    4. Increased focus on culture in customer service 

    Culture matters both in terms of local culture of the people as well as the corporate culture of your customer service team. Crucially there needs to be a strong cultural fit between the two. To truly act as an extension of your business and brand, it’s key that customer service agents understand and embrace the culture and values of your organization as well as the people they are serving.

    In most cases it will be impractical to site your customer service function in your home territory; you will need to look overseas to find sufficient language skills. Think carefully about the region and country you choose. Is it politically stable? What is the education system like? Is there a historical affinity between your country and the one in question? Do its people move freely overseas and so gain the sort of experiences which will help them to adapt to the culture of your customers?

    5. New near-shore locations

    For many years now, corporates have been torn between the high costs of outsourcing customer service to European countries, and the low service levels often prevalent in offshore locations. Yet this is changing rapidly, with many e-merchants recognizing South Eastern Europe as a viable location for multilingual customer service. A prerequisite many companies are now factoring with a high weight in their choice of an outsourcer and a factor which makes the outsourcing destinations in Eastern Europe ever more attractive.

    Indeed, the 2014 AT Kearney Global Services Location Index ranked Bulgaria 1st in Europe as the most attractive outsourcing destination. With its combination of multilingual skills, a highly educated and motivated workforce, and competitive pricing, we can expect to see Bulgaria and other South Eastern European countries like Romania, Top 5 in Europe as per AT Kearney ranking, to become an increasingly attractive choice for retailers looking to turn their customer service into a competitive advantage over competitors and enjoy higher satisfaction and loyalty rates.


    Stefan Abadzhiev is a Senior Sales Manager EMEA at TELUS International Europe



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