Getting the Feedback You Deserve

Invest in customer satisfaction to improve your DSR returns.

by Dennis L. Prince
- May 01, 2009

Without a doubt, eBay's Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) system is still a hotbed of discussion and even controversy. Whether you think the approach is fair, the bottom line is that, as a seller, you still have customers to satisfy and a reputation to build or bolster.

Forget the fracas and any contentious dialog you might hear about the DSR policies, and focus on the value that positive customer testimony bears for your business and how you can better assure you get the high marks you deserve.

Feedback fundamentals

Although DSR makes feedback on eBay sound like a new tool, it's not and the protocol for collecting feedback hasn't changed much, either. Essentially, users who complete eBay transactions are enabled to post feedback for one another as it relates to the sale. Usually, a seller will initiate the feedback exchange by requesting positive feedback from the buyer after an item has been received. The satisfied buyer, also desiring an increase in their eBay feedback standing, would post the feedback in expectation for a reciprocal public approval from the seller. When both are pleased with a successful transaction, their exchange of feedback upholds founder Pierre Omidyar's vision of a positive trading community within the eBay space.

What if there are problems?

Sometimes, transactions go awry, either due to an inaccurate item description, an overlong wait time for an item's arrival, an unexpected disappointment with an item received or a payment that never arrives. The eBay Feedback Forum was designed to allow for users—buyers and sellers—to bring light to such transactional problems, especially if these result from a lack of commitment from either party.

This has changed, of course, in that the new DSR system doesn't allow sellers to publicly report negligent buyers (to the sellers' understandable consternation). And even though eBay has wholly protected buyers from negative feedback while allowing sellers to remain subject to bad notices, it's important to take the higher road here to ensure problems don't occur—and if they do, that they can be resolved to a buyer's ultimate satisfaction. This can be achieved regardless of any seller ratings system and is still worthy of pursuit since any business trading on eBay should also be trading outside of eBay.

Open the door to communication and proactive problem resolution with each and every item delivered

Five-star service is the goal

Turning attention to the task at hand, be certain you have your process perfected and customer service policy well grounded as you manage your transactions (refer to our tips in "Maintaining Your DSR Health: Best Practices to Ensure High DSR Marks"). While there is uncertainty about how the eBay DSR system might best serve the seller, your solid customer focus with commitment to good transactions and great offerings should keep your customers happy and ready to reward you with high praise. Keep a close eye on your customer base and be especially attentive to what your competitors might be doing as they strive to outdo you in the customer satisfaction arena.

Preventive maintenance

Even if you're convinced every transaction of yours is irreproachable, you're still well served to offer a bit of a safety net just in case. Rather than wait it out to see if the buyer will consider theirs a positive experience, open the door to communication and proactive problem resolution with each and every item delivered.

A simple note that explains how to contact you in case of a problem should be included with each item you ship. Let buyers know you're committed to their satisfaction and that you'd like the opportunity to resolve any troubles on the spot if a transaction is less than stellar in their eyes. Speak specifically to those DSR matters of item description, communication, shipping time and shipping charges, prompting the customer to alert you if anything seems out of step with your service policy. Let them know you want to make things right if there is a perceived problem, allowing you to better understand what might need improvement in the way you're managing your sales and deliveries.

In this way, you are further establishing a bond with your customers and offering them a direct-contact method for problem resolution without their resorting to posting negative feedback at eBay. When you offer your post-sale service in this way, you also demonstrate a high regard for customer satisfaction and this, often, is the boost that ensures you'll receive five-star ratings.

These days, consumers have so many choices, yet all are seeking the best of the best in transaction experiences

Go ahead, get suggestive

What happens if the buyer doesn't have feedback on his or her mind, even though the transaction is a smashing success? Well, it never hurts to ask for positive feedback.

Since you've already included the extra communication that explains your desire to help if there are problems, add the extra sentence requesting a positive posting and five-star rating at eBay. Indicate, as well, that you'll be posting positive feedback to the buyer for his or her role in facilitating a good transaction. Again, this leads back to the original concept of the Feedback Forum and the belief in community values at eBay.

Much ado about feedback

But, since it was put forth that the DSR system is not the same as doing good business with customers, especially outside of eBay, why so much concern over gaining five-star ratings? Simply enough, the eBay DSR approach has raised the bar high for the community of sellers, and is challenging them to exceed standards, to every extent possible, in ensuring total customer satisfaction.

Many sellers are reconsidering their business activity within the eBay site, determining if other venues and even self-operated Web destinations are a better option. While this is certainly an astute path of action for any serious business owner to contemplate and pursue, they'll be even better positioned to succeed elsewhere if they've sharpened their customer service skills spurred by DSRs.

These days, consumers have so many choices, yet all are seeking the best of the best in transaction experiences. When you determine to sweat the details and strive for five-star ratings within eBay's DSR process, you set the standard higher for yourself and ultimately institute improved methods and policies that will become your hallmark wherever you do business.

Perhaps DSRs should be regarded as "boot camp," or a refresher course in customer service, helping sellers become better businesspeople in their interactions. However you choose to look at it, there's rarely any loss of return when you continually invest in satisfying your customers.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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