Capitalizing on Customer E-mails

How you respond can make all the difference in how buyers grade you.

by Miriam Otto
- Nov 09, 2010

Call me crazy, but I actually like answering e-mails from customers. I guess it's because I'm a people person. I realize that many eBayers are not of the same opinion—but they should be. Responding to e-mails the right way can increase your profits and raise your DSRs.

First of all, answering e-mails from buyers gives you the opportunity to up-sell. If a buyer shows interest in a particular product I'm selling, or complains about shipping costs (I am on the West Coast), I remind them of my awesome shipping policy: I only charge shipping on the first item if I'm shipping within the U.S. When people learn that they can save money by buying in bulk, they often go back to my store and continue shopping. I once had a woman buy five pairs of shoes—although, when she first contacted me, she was only planning on ordering one.

Educational opportunity

Responding to questions also gives you the chance to educate potential customers. Sometimes people ask me to give them free shipping on low-cost items like coffee mugs. If I were to offer free shipping on these items, I would be paying them to shop in my store.

When this happens, I always let buyers know how much it costs to ship a package, tell them about eBay fees and refer them to the USPS Web site. Once they understand the cost of doing business, they are often more willing to negotiate.

When I returned from my trip, I mailed off her package and sent her a few front row shots from the concert

The personal touch

Finally, answering e-mails is an easy way to bond with buyers. This can lead to improved DSRs and incredible feedback comments. eBay offers a unique buying experience, and people love knowing they are talking to a real person. eBay sellers have an advantage over large corporations when it comes to customer service because they can interact with customers in a way that large corporations can't.

Once, a woman purchased a pair of shoes from me just as I was getting ready to board a plane for Portland, OR. Before I boarded, I e-mailed to tell her that I would be out of town for a few days because I was on my way to a Michael Buble concert. She wrote me back immediately to let me know that she, too, was a Buble fan.

When I returned from my trip, I mailed off her package and sent her a few front row shots from the concert. She left me the following feedback: "If eBay had a prize for the best seller, Blue Frog Shoes would win!"

Kindness counts

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, "I don't have time for that." No worries. The most important thing to remember is to be friendly. Many of the feedback comments left for me mention that I am a friendly seller. That tells me that a lot of eBayers are not friendly.

Here's my suggestion: Don't write e-mails in a way that makes you seem rude or condescending. If you're not sure, have someone else read the message before you send it. The following sentences are examples I use on a regular basis when corresponding with customers via e-mail:

  • "Thanks for contacting me!" — Starting off an e-mail with a positive statement like this can set the tone for the entire interaction.
  • "Thanks for Looking!" — Using this statement at the end of e-mails makes buyers feel like they aren't being pressured to purchase anything—and you don't end up sounding desperate.

So the next time you've got mail, don't cringe. Instead, take advantage of this amazing opportunity to increase your bottom line!

About the Author

Miriam Otto is an eBay educator, based in Northern California. Miriam sells more than 500 items per month on eBay, and finds most of what she sells at yard sales and thrift shops. When not teaching eBay classes or running her business, she enjoys writing about her latest "scores" on The eBay Life blog. In addition to living "The eBay Life," Miriam works as an independent study teacher helping adults earn high school diplomas.

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

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