eBay: past and future feedback changes

Following Lorrie Norrington’s announcement that buyers will be able to withdraw feedback in the future, Brian Burke hosted a session on “evolving the eBay feedback system to enhance the marketplace”.

Unsurprisingly the room was too small for everyone to get in and before the doors were closed, at least a dozen attendees were turned away from what was one of the most eBay controversial sessions I’ve attended.

Brian recapped the changes that are already in place, with some statics thrown in:

  • 10% of sellers were negatively impacted by the feedback recalculation, or as Brian chose to express it 90% saw no change in their feedback percentage.
  • Of PowerSellers 10% saw their feedback percentage drop and 11% dropped below 98%
  • The average drop in feedback percentage was 0.5%
  • The rate of low DSR ratings left by buyers (1 or 2 stars) has increased very slightly but not significantly
  • 85% of positive feedback gets 5 star DSR ratings
  • The overall percentage of non-positive feedback left by buyers hasn’t changed, but more negatives and fewer neutrals are being left by buyers.

Brian expained that on the whole the changes have had the intended effect, that buyers are less scared to leave a negative as there is no danger of retaliatory feedback, and that those sellers who with 100% rating weren’t being advantaged compared to those who previously received a larger proportion of neutrals but had also had a 100% rating. The changes are highlighting those sellers who truly give stellar service.

The Q&A produced lively questions, and at one point the audience were politely asked not to heckle to allow responses to be heard.

An interesting future possibilty thrown out by eBay was to ask how sellers would view eBay automatically debiting a buyers PayPal account then an auction closes. That would at a stroke wipe out non-paying bidders if PayPal was offered as the only payment option and would be welcomed by the sellers present.

When asked why not scrap neutral feedback, it was explained that although a neutral impacts your feedback percentage, it doesn’t affect your total score in the way a negative does. The audience voted unanimously when polled that they’d still prefer neutrals to be discontinued.

Several questions related to buyer communications, with the general consensus that eBay My Messages and the Dispute Console need a revamp. Feedback extortion is taken seriously, but if via email rather than My Messages is difficult to prove. Also it was agreed that a process to force communication prior to leaving non-positive feedback makes sense giving the seller an opportunity to assist the buyer.

The most telling comment came from the IMA, which was that a buyer who thought your description was accurate, was satisfied with your communications, thought you shipped quickly and that your post and packaging charges were reasonable would be leaving you 4 stars for all DSRs. This would disqualify you from PowerSeller status and you wouldn’t qualify for volume discounts on final value fees.

eBay said that for years feedback was considered to be untouchable, but now that changes have been made it’s not the end. They are still looking at it closely and will be fine tuning it and evolving the feedback system in the months and years to come.