Facilitating Fabulous Feedback

How to build a solid reputation as an eBay seller

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Mar 07, 2008

On eBay, feedback is considered the "foundation of trust." It's the yardstick members use to gauge another's credibility as a trading partner. This is true whether you're a big-time Power Seller or an occasional, opportunistic user of online auctions.

The higher your feedback score, the more willing people will be to do business with you. As a new seller with a low or nonexistent feedback score, it can be a challenge to build customer trust.

It's a chicken and egg kind of problem. But there are things you can do to help put buyers at ease.

The keys to pleasing customers and building a reputation as a trustworthy seller are:

  • Accurate and engaging auction titles and descriptions
  • Explicit shipping and auction terms
  • Responsiveness and professional courtesy

As a seller, the hope is that as you strive to earn the satisfaction and loyalty of buyers, they will reward your efforts with positive feedback. eBay maintains a feedback profile on every buyer and seller, which comprises a feedback score, feedback percentage and brief comments left by buyers—known as feedback reports.

How feedback works

When a buyer leaves good or bad feedback about you on eBay, it counts toward your feedback score—that's the number you see in parentheses next to your user ID in the seller information section of your auction listings. The score represents the number of positive ratings, minus the number of negatives. However, only one feedback point can be earned per week from the same trading partner.

So if you do three transactions in a week with one member and they leave three positive ratings for you, only one counts toward your score. However, each of the member's comments will show up in your feedback profile. And if that member buys from you again later, they can again leave feedback for you that counts toward your score—up to one point a week.

Once you achieve a score of 10, a yellow star will appear next to your User ID. Different colored stars are awarded as your score climbs higher, the ultimate being a shooting star, indicating 10,000 or more happy customers.

Note: In order for an eBay member to leave feedback on you, you must have done a transaction together. You can't have your mom or your friends stuff the ballot box with positives to pump up your score.

Your feedback percentage represents positive reports as a percentage of all positive and negative feedback you have received. Say you have 47 positives and three negatives, the percentage is calculated by dividing 47 (your positives) by 50 (your total). Thus, your feedback percentage would be 94 percent.

A list of the actual feedback reports and comments left about you by eBay users can be seen by clicking on your score. You can locate the feedback profiles of other members by clicking on the seller's score in an auction or by member name.

Feedback—good, bad or neutral—goes on your permanent eBay record, so you want to give buyers every reason to say nice things about doing business with you. In certain cases—such as feedback abuse or other instances where Feedback Removal is warranted—eBay will remove negative feedback. Otherwise, you're stuck with whatever comments buyers make about you.

It behooves you then, as a seller, to do everything within reason to make sure your customers are satisfied. This is Customer Service 101 folks. That's not to say you should let a bad buyer bully you into providing free shipping or other perks with the threat of a negative review. Users like that should be immediately reported to eBay. Giving in to unreasonable demands only encourages more abusive behavior—and you might wind up getting negative feedback from that clown anyway.

Think positive

So how do you protect yourself, and still stimulate a positive experience all around? Simply put, be a good seller.

Start by making sure your auction titles and descriptions are accurate and professional. Avoid using amateurish gimmicks like "L@@K!!" to attract buyers to your listings. Be as thorough and accurate as possible in describing the items you are selling, including disclosing any known flaws or damage. And please, run your descriptions through spelling and grammar checkers before you post your auction.

Take the time to clearly spell out your terms and conditions so buyers know what to expect. Which forms of payment will you accept? Provide a reasonable estimate of shipping and handling fees. To avoid misunderstandings—or at the very least, to have something to point a disgruntled buyer back to—it's a good idea to mention that items will be shipped only after payment has cleared.

Be promptly communicative. Respond quickly to any e-mails you get from bidders, and provide as much information as possible.

Ship the item promptly after you receive and verify payment. As soon as the item has been shipped, send an e-mail to let the buyer know when they can expect to receive it. Some sellers like to remind buyers to provide feedback—either by e-mail, or with a note in the package itself—but buyers are sometimes put off by this. However, it's always a good bet to send a simple thank you. It can't hurt to add something like, "If you are not happy with the item for any reason, please contact me at SamIAm@WidgetsRUs.com. We strive to ensure complete customer satisfaction." This tells buyers that you're a trustworthy professional without overtly fishing for positive strokes.

Another way to promote trust and build a relationship with your customers is to create an About Me page. This is a free marketing tool eBay offers to all members that can be used to share personal information or background about your business. This can help buyers become more comfortable about buying your stuff—even if you're new to eBay or online selling.

Learn more about getting all you can from your My eBay Page by reading "It's All About You."

This article has been updated to reflect eBay changes to its feedback policy that go into effect on May 19, 2008.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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