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Word of mouth and a business’s reputation are the single most important long-term assets a company has, and one of the unique features that have contributed to eBay’s success in the marketplace is that they provided a means for this recognition to be tracked in their online auction format. Unlike many other sites where it was difficult if not impossible to see how long a seller had been in business and how many transactions they had made, to whom and with what degree of satisfaction all of this is as simple as looking at the seller’s User ID and rating at the top right of any given listing on eBay.
Communications is the key to sellers trusting and returning to a specific seller, and there are a few best practices that we will discuss regarding that in a moment, but the method used to track and display a successful seller and rate them is what the feedback system eBay has in place is all about, so let’s discuss that first.
The system on eBay took a while to work out, but has proven to be very effective – especially in conjunction with the features and verification methods used on PayPal account members. In effect what you have on eBay is a history-driven user rating for how well that person has done on their transactions in the past and how long they’ve been a member. If they try to escape their previous poor ratings by starting a new account under a different User ID then the ‘member since’ date shows them to be a new member, and any claims by them of problems or other reasons for not using their previous account can be viewed with the skepticism such claims would deserve.
The only real problem with the system is that long-term members in good standing are often targeted by scammers who attempt to take over their accounts with “Phishing” emails and other methods and impersonate them. This normally is pretty obvious if you check the sellers or buyers previous history or if they try to talk you into going outside channels for any reason though, and is not very common with the security measures that eBay has in place to prevent this sort of behavior.
With eBay every seller and buyer has a unique User ID that is chosen by them whenever they create their seller and buyer accounts. With each successful auction points are awarded and the sellers User ID will show the number of points following their name on each listing, such as badboyru(100) which would indicate a feedback score of 100. Having the number and associated star system allows you to quickly identify the number of comments and how many of them were positive – you can also click on the feedback score number next to their ID and go immediately to that user’s Seller’s Member Profile where you can see actual feedback comments from users for that seller.
The eBay feedback system basically awards one point either for or against a buyer based on positive or negative comments, and a neutral (0 points) entry for neutral comments. If for instance badboy4u has sold 100 items and has a feedback score of 10 it could mean that he had ninety neutral comments and 10 positive or more likely that he has as many negative as positive comments. For every 10 positive comments BTW a star icon is generated to allow for quick summaries of points.
The color of a star next to a User ID indicates the number of points in a graduated pattern, as follows:
Yellow = 10 to 49 points
Blue = 50 to 99 points
Turquoise = 100 to 499 points
Purple = 500 to 999 points
Red = 1,000 to 4,999 points
Green = 5,000 to 9,999 points
Yellow = 10,000 to 24,999 points
Turquoise = 25,000 to 49,999 points
Purple = 50,000 to 99,999 points
Feedback given is permanent so be certain to leave only accurate and truthful comments, and only after you are certain the seller or buyer has done all they are going to do to assist you.
Whether you are a seller looking over a potential buyer to decide whether to reject their bid (or maybe make an exception at their request to your bid requirements) or a buyer worried that your online funds are at risk if you cannot trust this vendor the heart of eBay’s security system is a community-driven feedback profile that lists how well that user has played with others in the past. Identifying how long they’ve been a member is the first most important thing to look for, and then the percentage of positive points as well as the number of transactions is the next most important point.
Every transaction that occurs has the opportunity for two feedbacks to be left: one for the seller and one for the buyer. Each has one of three ratings (positive, neutral, and negative) and allows for a short comment to be given. The ratings that are left are used are calculated and listing in their member profile as follows:
Badboy4u has a feedback score of 10. All this tells you is that he has ten ‘positive’ feedback points, but if you go into his member profile you may see that his score of 10 represents 1.1% Positive feedback from 100 sales, which would not be good, or it could represent a higher percentage of positive feedback but a correspondingly high number of negative feedbacks and such would be shown in the Positive Feedback percentage. As a seller you want to strive to have a many positives and as few a negatives as possible, and to encourage all your buyers to provide you feedback once the transaction is completed.
Sometimes you will get neutral or negative feedback when it was not deserved or out of spite, or perhaps the buyer confused you with another seller – at any rate these cases do happen from time to time and under normal conditions these comments do become a permanent part of your member profile. However you are allowed to add a comment of your own explaining the situation, at in cases where you feel strongly eBay does have policies in place that may allow you in conjunction with the person posting the comment to retract it or take additional actions … for example:
You can always ‘reply’ to feedback received to put a
permanent comment beside the buyers comment. Remember that this will be
viewed by potential other customers and needs to be kind and open, not
an indictment of the buyer in question or hateful as that will backfire!
You can ‘follow up’ with one additional comment to
feedback that you have already left to add clarification if needed.
If both parties agree you can mutually withdraw the
feedback and it will no longer count in your score (either good or bad)
this process is called the mutual feedback withdrawal process.
You can dispute the statements by using the SquareTrade
process, a paid dispute resolution provider that works via the web and
provides professional mediators to resolve disputes and problems
In very specific cases where spite, improper language or
obvious slander is involved eBay can be petitioned to remove the
feedback. Cases where a court order exists demanding removal are the
only cases where eBay will definitely do so, but there are options
available to file for removal of comments if you consider it warranted.
If a buyer fails to respond to an ‘Unpaid Item” notification and you (the seller) file an Unpaid Item strike the feedback rating will be withdrawn, even though the comment will remain.
As far as buyers know you are your rating – the length of time you have been an eBay member and the percentage rating you have is the only initial judge of how safe you are to deal with that a buyer has. As such protecting your rating and encouraging buyers to provide you with positive feedback is vital. Unlike normal businesses which rely on advertising and location to draw in business on eBay your listings catch the buyers eyes, but your feedback rating and how long you’ve been a member is what assures them you are worthy of their trust. If you fail to maintain a high percentage of positive scoring from your customers you will begin to notice a slackening of sales!
One way to help encourage feedback is to offer a bonus such as a discount on future purchases, an emailed PDF of eBay buying tips, useful computer suggestions etc. or some other ‘low cost’ but useful information that you can share with your customers upon receiving positive feedback. Of course the easiest way to get positive feedback is to ask for it! It is surprising how many people fail to let a buyer know when they leave good feedback, or of those who do how few think to ask for the buyer to do the same once they receive the goods and confirm they are as expected.
Regardless of how you accomplish it you need a system in place to remind your buyers that you are relying on them for your eBay reputation, and to remember to click and add that comment if you have met their expectations.
Everyone likes to feel special, and if you want to encourage positive feedback and to ensure loyal customers one sure way to influence your customers is to spend a little extra time staying in contact with them after they receive the product. To start with enclose a simple handwritten ‘thank you’ card with the package slip, and encourage them to view your other auctions and to provide positive feedback or to contact you (provide contact details on the card) if there is any problem that you can help them with.
The art of managing customers has a name: CRM or “Customer Relations Management” and many companies have dedicated systems and software to enable them to track loyal customers and stay in touch with them after the sales. The truth is that most customers do want to feel like they are important to your business and that you care about them – but if you don’t tell them or stay in contact in some form or another they will of course believe that you feel this is not true.
The key to knowing how much attention to provide a specific customer and how much you can afford to spend on them to retain their goodwill and hopefully future business is not always straightforward though – after all not every customer is worth investing multiple contacts in. Not to say the person is not worthy of your time and energy, but multiple mailings to a one-time customer can cut into profits quickly, with no future revenue potential.
If your product and business tends to have high repeat customers (such as vitamin and health product sales) then generating ongoing communication systems either by mail, email or online is a value that should be maintained. If however you specialize in one-shot sales and novelty items then just including notes with your contact information and a thank you with the product should be enough. It is a good idea to try and keep track of repeat sales even in these cases however, and to have a series of “repeat buyer” cards that recognize that they have purchased from you before to include for those special buyers. In many cases creating an online newsletter and subscribing those who are interested is a great idea too. The sorts of incentives to get buyers to sign up for such newsletters that can be beneficial to you include:
Offering special features to them
One-time or ongoing Discounts
Informing them first about new products
Sending them promotional offers
If you have any kind of incentive or bonus / discount plan in place you need to keep track of the return you get from each customer vs. the cost of the plan and adjust your system accordingly.
Since obtaining successful (positive) feedback is so vital, especially during your early months in business you need to make certain you do all you can to encourage it. Even if you have to set up a live chat, a special customer-service email address, provide your phone number with every order etc. taking the extra time to provide this type of service and level of quality will assure you that your customers are happy. Happy customer equal positive feedback, which equals a successful eBay business model – it really is too important to leave to chance and it all starts with a little communication, both before and after the sale!
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