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Being successful in ecommerce is not easy, competition is intense, the cost of acquiring traffic is going through the roof and online shoppers have high expectations. Once shoppers are on your website the experience needs to be smooth and frictionless to get them to make a purchase. Online retailers know this and spend their effort and budgets accordingly. With all these resources being spent on conversion optimisation you don't expect to find any more quick and easy conversion fixes. Yet that is exactly what we found in two extensive ecommerce studies executed in Germany and the Netherlands.

Increase your conversion rate? Extend the availability of customer care teams

In both surveys, we studied the state of ecommerce customer care of online stores in Germany and the Netherlands, both mature ecommerce markets. One crucial finding really got our attention: the customer care departments of a majority of webshops had the same opening hours as regular offline retail. A missed opportunity! A primary advantage of ecommerce is the possibility to shop whenever you want.

According to the 'Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report' by Salecycle, one of the preferred shopping time slots for online shoppers is between 6 and 9 pm. An important moment to have your customer care team available. Who else will help them if they have an urgent question regarding a product?

The absence of customer service representatives during the evening hours could be a reason for the abandoned carts peak between 7 and 11 pm.

In addition to availability during the evenings, both surveys show that customer service availability during the weekends isn't that common either. The same Salecycle report shows that on average 13/14 percent of purchases are made during the weekend. When your customers consider the weekend a moment to shop, you should too.

Let's take a look at how Dutch and German online stores performed at customer service availability.

Ecommerce Customer Service availability in the Netherlands

In a large mystery shopper survey, Salesupply analyzed the customer care offering of the 250 largest Dutch ecommerce stores. Of this group of successful online stores, 44 percent are only available for questions and complaints of customers from Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Evening and weekend customers are expected to pause their shopping action until the next day - or in case of a shopper that has a question on Friday evening - until Monday! That this costs online stores conversions is a given.

When we zoom in on the 10 biggest ecommerce businesses on this list, the relevance of customer service availability becomes clear: 7 of the 10 are available for customers 7 days a week, both during the day and evening.

Ecommerce Customer Service availability in Germany

In collaboration with Cross Border Magazine, we interviewed 118 online stores in one of the largest ecommerce markets in Europe: Germany. The survey showed similar results as the Dutch mystery shopper survey. German customers, according to the survey, prefer to shop between 6 and 10 pm, with over half of the orders placed within this time frame. This insight is not matched with the service availability of the customer service departments. Nearly half (48%) of the interviewed stores do not provide service after 6 pm and only 17% are available for customer questions after 7 pm.

Ecommerce customer service during the weekend isn't that common either. The customer service teams of a big majority (66%) of the interviewed online stores are only reachable during weekdays. Only 10 percent were available every day of the week.

"The importance of customer care in the pre-purchase phase is often underestimated. Online customers are impatient, if they have doubts while shopping and customer service is not available, they will go to a store that does offer support at that moment. For revenue reasons a webstore simply can't ignore customer service during evening hours and weekends", said Henning Heesen - co-founder & Managing Director of Salesupply Germany - when confronted with the service availability gap.

How to extend your customer service availability

Extending the opening hours of your customer service department can be a hassle. Is the team big enough? Are people willing to work evenings and or weekends? Luckily there are other solutions, like outsourcing customer service for the evening - and weekend hours only. Curious? Let's get in touch to discuss the possibilities.