Customer Service: The Next Big Hurdle for Chinese E-commerce?


Gome's customer service call center. (Not really).

China’s e-commerce scene is rapidly developing into a robust, mature market. In the past few years, online shopping has taken off, and high profile e-tailers like Amazon, Taobao, and 360Buy have been there to reap the rewards. So too have thousands of smaller specialty sites taking advantage of Chinese shoppers’ increasing comfort with the online marketplace.

But as China’s consumer market develops, customer service seems increasingly behind the times. Complaints about group buying sites increased in record numbers last year (many are still unresolved) but e-commerce complaints in general were up to such an extent that numerous major companies like Vancl and 360Buy made public promises to do better.

Increasingly, though, it appears Chinese consumers are willing to hold e-tailers accountable for customer service failings, and punish them accordingly. The latest evidence of this comes from a report by the Modern International Research Company, which did a nationwide China survey and found that 93 percent of Chinese consumers would stop or decrease their use of a given site if they encountered problems with returning or exchanging items purchased on that site. Specifically, 30 percent of survey respondents said a return or exchange problem would stop them from ever using the site again, and 63 percent said that it would cause them to reduce the amount they shopped on that site.

So who is the best at returns and exchanges? At the moment, 360Buy holds that crown, with 83 percent satisfaction. But the overall customer service winner in terms of total satisfaction — according to the survey — was Amazon. The big loser? Gome.

As Chinese consumers become more demanding in the customer service department, the companies that do customer service well should enjoy a boost in sales. And those that don’t, well…let’s just say Gome and other e-tailers who are still thinking they can get away with treating customers badly should be in for a rude awakening (we hope).

[Information Times via Sina Tech, image via Shutterstock]

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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