Somehow, we knew the first article we wrote about eBay's new Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) feedback system wouldn't be enough to adequately address all the issues to be considered. That's not because we didn't do our best to provide you with everything you need to know about the new system, but rather because the system itself is so central to your success as an eBay seller. Add to that the nuances that have always gone along with feedback and the new challenges you face in getting your customers to understand the vast difference between a 4-star score and a 5-star score, and we could probably write dozens of articles on the subject.
Now that the dust has settled from the DSR rollout, successful sellers are integrating new policies and techniques to educate customers about rating their transactions. They're also ramping up their customer service operations. As challenging as this has been, not everyone thinks the new system is all bad. Some industry insiders believe it actually makes sellers improve their operations and offer the type of customer service they should have been all along. These are the folks who believe that improved seller performance will ultimately make the whole eBay marketplace safer and more satisfying for customers, which will, in turn be good for everyone, including the sellers.
You may disagree, but whether we like it or not, we're all going to have to find a way to make this work. To help you do that, let's look at some specific ways sellers are doing their best to succeed within the new world of DSRs. You'll be left with some proven strategies that just might work for you too.
With the new DSRs you're going to have the added task of educating your customers about why you deserve a 5-star rating
Think education first
It's true, eBay sellers are working harder than ever to make their margins, but with the new DSRs you're going to have the added task of educating your customers about why you deserve a 5-star rating. Fortunately, you can incorporate language into your listings, your e-mails and your packing slips that will go a long way to help. If you buy a pair of sunglasses from Gary Richardson of harleyglasses, you'll be treated to a funny and clever little story about how carefully his staff of 50 prepared your package. There are satin pillows, candlelight and even a parade to the post office involved! By the time you get to the business part of the e-mail, you're bound to be smiling. Next comes the serious paragraph. This is how Richardson explains the new system:
"eBay is powered by positive feedback, and we are very proud of ours. Please see www.leavingfeedback.com before leaving less than a 5-star rating. In the event you are not 100 percent satisfied with our merchandise, PLEASE contact us, and we will do our best to make you happy."
It would take a seriously disgruntled customer to pass by the chuckle and the sincere promise of satisfaction to go straight to posting a disappointing DSR. Although adding this extra wording did require some thought, actually including it in all your correspondence isn't going to seriously alter how much time you take to serve your customers.
Give your customers something to believe in
Richardson's language promises satisfaction, but there are other ways you can connect with your customers on a personal level. One of the most effective ways is to participate in eBay's Giving Works charitable campaign. David Yaskulka, vice president of Product Marketing at Kompolt notes, "An ongoing eBay Giving Works charitable campaign tends to put sellers in a positive light with buyers, and therefore gives the sellers the benefit of the doubt when buyers decide between a 4- and a 5-star rating."
We agree. If you're operating your business in support of the recognized charities within the Giving Works program, your buyers are bound to feel better about themselves as they purchase and contribute. That goodwill is likely to spill over into positive feelings for the seller who makes such a shopping opportunity possible.
Take a good hard, honest look at your listings
Debbie Levitt of As Was, a design and strategy consulting firm for eBay sellers, has long been a provider of great advice and services to eBay sellers. She recommends that you take this new challenge as an opportunity to look more closely at your listings, the language you use, and even your template design. "DSRs measure how well you meet buyer expectation," she explains. "You don't want buyers who are frustrated, confused or disappointed."
Levitt recommends that you read your e-mails carefully and look honestly at your feedback to see where you may be falling short. "Once people have a question, you may have already lost them," she warns, noting that questions often suggest the buyer is suspicious. "Cater to your buyers' behavior," she advises, "because they will not cater to yours. If you are getting stupid questions about shipping, re-evaluate the language you're using."
Be sure customers have no hint at all about your frustration with the DSR changes. Those changes are your challenge, not theirs
Levitt also recommends that you consider where you place your shipping information. "Don't put your shipping policies at or near the bottom," she recommends. "Your payment policies can move down, because they're not as important to making or breaking a sale." The placement of your shipping information may be a function of the template you're currently using, Levitt tells us. But, now is a good time to evaluate those templates for how effectively they are helping you achieve your goal of a stellar DSR.
Strive for service with a smile
As you go about educating and serving your customers, be sure they have no hint at all about your frustration with the DSR changes. Those changes are your challenge, not theirs. Be vigilant and not let any resentment show through in your language or policies.
Stephanie Inge of stephintexas admits her approach may not be for everyone, but she notes that it has served her well for years, and given her a competitive advantage as she goes about keeping a 5-star DSR. "I'm a firm believer in giving customers more than they expect," she notes. "Some may call it overkill, but my customers notice it, appreciate it, and hopefully think long and hard before they give me a bad shipping DSR."
Inge addresses all of her customers by name. Her goal is to make sure they feel that they are not simply another transaction, but actually an individual customer whom she is eager to serve. At the bottom of every invoice she adds a handwritten note that includes her trademark "big smiley face" and her personal signature.
Her shipping practices aim to please in every sense. In the cool-weather months, she includes a fun-size Snickers bar with each packing slip. When the Texas weather is too hot to safely ship chocolate, she will include a colorful note card with a favorite Texas recipe printed on it. She wraps her bundles in generic vanilla-scented trash bags, tied with a colorful curled ribbon, and a colorful smiley sticker. She refers to this as her "service with a smile."
Adopt an attitude that's bound to keep DSRs high and increase buyer satisfaction overall
She also has a sticker that reads: "5-star Service is our Goal! We strive to earn 100 percent '5 Star' scores from you. The star-scores are very important to us, because eBay uses them to determine our fees and our visibility in the eBay search results. Our future success depends on it!Thank you! StephanieSee you again soon!"
From the moment her customers open their packages, Inge adds, they're experiencing her business with all their senses. First they smell the light vanilla scent. Next they see the bright curly ribbon and colorful stickers. Then they "taste" the candy or recipe, and finally, of course, they receive the item they bought. By the time they hold that in their hands, they've already had several pleasant surprises.
"I know this probably sounds like it would be very time consuming," she continues, "but it really isn't. My shipping station is set up and equipped with everything I need, and the extra five minutes I spend on each package saves me money on my monthly eBay invoice, which I feel is well worth the trouble."
That customer-centric positive attitude has helped Inge work to maintain her stellar DSR. Although your particular business plan may not lend itself to do everything she does, all eBay sellers would benefit from adopting her attitude. It's an attitude that's bound to keep DSRs high and increase buyer satisfaction overall. Isn't that what motivated eBay to institute the new rating system in the first place?