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How to lower your eBay defect rate

By Chris Dawson June 20, 2014 - 8:47 am

eTRS-BadgeWithout a doubt the new eBay satisfaction measure, the defect rate, is going to be a pain for sellers in the coming months.

However there’s one simple tip that can without a doubt lower your defect rate and that’s simply to encourage customers to take any problems off eBay and there’s a very simple way to do this – get them to telephone you instead!

I know a lot of eBay sellers hate the telephone and much prefer to deal with emails. There are some who simply hate talking to people and getting a random phone call at different times of the day or night. There are others who are simply too busy and when you’re trying to place an order with a supplier, while packing orders for the courier and a delivery arrives at the same time as your Postie to pick up the Royal Mail shipments the last thing you want is the phone ringing with a customer on the line.

The reality is though, each time a customer rings you that’s one less defect on your eBay blotter. So how do you get them to phone you rather than open an eBay dispute?

The solution is simple, include a business card with your phone number prominently displayed in each and every shipment. If a customer opens an order the chances are that their mobile will be in their pocket or close to hand and it’s a lot easier for them to phone you than it is to email or log on to eBay to lodge a dispute. If they phone, you can resolve any issue, eBay will be none the wiser, your defect rate has a chance to stay intact and you can keep your Top Rated Seller status.

I might add that getting customer to telephone you may also save you some cash on eBay’s mandatory Managed Returns process – you’ll be able to offer a partial refund, return by your choice of carrier or take the decision to ask the buyer to simply bin the item and either replace or refund according to their wishes before they simply return the item and you incur a postage invoice from eBay.

Seven golden ‘Rules of Engagement’

Once you have the customer on the phone, Joanna Swash, Commercial Director of virtual phone system Penelope and its sister company, telephone answering service Moneypenny, has seven golden ‘Rules of Engagement’ to ensure you are always delivering the very best in customer service:

1) Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

This is the basis of every good customer service strategy, enabling you to not only match a customer’s expectations, but exceed them. Online customers don’t want to be treated like a number. Deliver the same levels of high service, care and courtesy as you would selling face to face.

2) Listen, listen, listen – never guess, never assume

So many businesses, online or otherwise base the majority of decisions on assumptions which all too often turn out to be inaccurate. Keep an open dialogue with your customers. Ask them what they think and what works for them – encourage feedback and take heed to make any improvements.

3) Communicate in your customers’ language

Be your own customer and look objectively at how you are presenting your online information. Be sure to give details of your product/service clearly and in a non-ambiguous way for your customers to understand.

4) A happy business makes for happy customers

Give your online business a personality. Create a feel for the way you do business, demonstrating that you are real, happy, helpful people who are good to do business with. Communicate well; rolling out the red carpet to make each and every customer feel like a VIP.

5) The little things are the big things

It’s all about the detail. Think about any small touches you can deliver that will help you stand out from other online sellers? Look at the quality of your imagery, pull out the stops to meet a tight deadline, send a personal message to welcome a new customer. A thank you note or email after a purchase along with any useful information and a means of contacting you should customers have any issue will go a long way, keeping them engaged and loyal.

6) It’s not making the mistake that’s the issue, it’s what you do afterwards

Mistakes and errors with orders are inevitable but more importantly the way you deal with them says a great deal about the way you do business. Always be honest and apologise then be clear about what will happen next as you correct the problem. Show you care and give your customers confidence. Explain your timescales, your refund policy, throw in a freebie if appropriate or a discount on your customer’s next order. Deal with any online feedback about your mistake in the same way, explaining clearly and quickly how sorry you are and what you are doing about it.

7) Evolve and Adapt

What worked a year ago might not now. Complacency just won’t do. Treat every transaction in the same ‘gold service’ way. Constantly innovating, learning and improving. Your reputation is everything so look after it.

  • Dann
    3 years ago

    Great tip, I set up my phoneline and broadband connections a few month ago and have since not had to answer my phone once : P . I guess its time for a change :D

  • Weeze
    3 years ago

    I’ve been doing this ever since I started trading. I enclose a polite note thanking them for the order and the means by which I can be contacted. Not one person has ever contacted me via these methods. Despite this they still contact me via eBay, sometimes just by user to user email, sometimes by opening a case. I’ve simply given up on eBay, they are far too punitive and biased. I’ve moved my stock elsewhere and I’m much happier!

    • 3 years ago

      Hey there- Where did you move on to? I’ve been trying to expand my presence with online selling. I just wish I could find a website where I could download my current eBay listings instead of having to post them from scratch. :-/ Can do copy/paste but pain in the butt. :-o

  • 3 years ago

    Solid advice, but unfortunately with eBay’s new defect policy, making the mistake IS the issue. As soon as a case is opened (usually without the customer even knowing they’re opening a case) the defect is given.

    Good customer service is always good practice, but eBay have made it so that you are defective no matter how well you handle mistakes and other issues.

    • 3 years ago

      I think the point here is that they call you outside of eBay so eBay are unaware you made the mistake in the first place. It is actually a solid tip. However as mentioned people will call at bad times. In the past week alone I’ve been contacted by multiple customers between 5 – 6AM multiple times. And if they call you have to answer.

    • Vamp
      3 years ago

      I agree with you. I had a problem with an item that I bought and tried to contact the seller. eBay automatically opened a dispute against them. They never responded so eBay refunded my funds.

  • ZENA
    3 years ago

    I have included our contact details for years, and still customers do not phone us before raising the issue on ebay. I cant see this solving the problem.
    Ebay need to change this on the system and display the business phone number to contact first before allowing the enquiry of “where’s my goods” etc to be a defect on the account just because a customer is querying where their goods are after 2 days and can be resolved quickly over the phone.

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    erm any one thought of making profit !
    as a successful business method

  • e trader
    3 years ago

    I have succesfully brought my rating back in line from below standard on two shops when rating was first announced by adding lots and lots of very cheap items that can be sent instantly thus diluting the feedback,
    I have also changed the despatch dates to 3 5 and 10 days accordingly but try and get stuff out in 1 2 and 3 days , seems to be working so far!

  • Stuart
    3 years ago

    We have also included our contact details. Sadly it’s the customer that prefers to email or send a message as they can be as rude as they like that way.

    We have successfully be a TRS since it started, I like to think we offer amazing customer service, sadly ebay are messing things up with the new defect rates which make me look like a bad seller when I am not.

    I still notice that all the ‘flagship’ ebay outlets stores still don’t have to conform to any of these standards and can treat customers how they like!

  • David
    3 years ago

    Very good article.

    There is a real conflict in the new seller standards program. On one hand Ebay want to have TRS on their platform. Why wouldn’t they? These sellers adhere to Ebay’s trust mantra and offer a great customer experience. Yet on the other hand a run of innocuous complaints could see this ‘badge of trust’ being removed. Not a great outcome for Ebay or the seller.

    I recently submitted a piece to Tamebay ‘Feedback time for a change’ which I think offers an intelligent solution for customers. Sellers and Ebay alike.

  • Sam
    3 years ago

    Good advice and will agree with all but we recently had three defects where buyers unintentionally opened disputes when simply inquiring about delivery. Tracking numbers were already updated in transactions and when we checked, one was left with a neighbour, second, Hubby never told me sorry and left it in the drawer! Third delivered later in the afternoon.

    We include complimentary slips with phone number and also include special offer leaflets with our full contact details. Still most buyers prefers to email and in case of above mentioned issues, phone number in parcel is irrelevant.

    EBay wants to save a huge chunk on money which is being paid to TRS. The defect system is designed to achieve that goal. We have to come to terms with that and stop beating around the bush and think how to make money off ebay via ebay.

    Best includes phone number and contact details and try to attract the buyers to your own site and offer them 10% discount. Explain, you don’t pay eBay so you can afford to discount on your site and provide same level or service. EBay is no longer a safe place for sellers so loyalty cannot be one way.

  • Sarj
    3 years ago

    We display our telephone in all correspondence, dispatch notes, we have dedicated customer services staff yet still we fall short only slightly.

    We bend our backs to keep the buyers happy. We offer discounts on disputes free gifts and all sorts.

    The new system is too strict. We will make every effort to comply and try and get there however the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t look too bright.

    I am wondering if this was put in place so they don’t have a huge discounts bill…. revenue related?

    Just my 2 pence worth

  • northumbrian
    3 years ago

    you could be selling fivers for 4 quid and you would still be an ebay defective, were done jumping thru hoops that get smaller and higher ,every 6 months
    we have now adopted the attitude of
    ebay works for us , we dont work for ebay

  • mrmoo
    3 years ago

    Oh don’t make me laugh…

    Read their eBay powersellerr and business seller forums…

    The defect system is a lottery at its best…and to penalize sellers retroactively for policies wrhich weren,t in effect before STINKS

    EBay is in dire trouble ATM for a ton of reasons….1000s of quality sellers jumping ship will cost them dearly..

    They see deserve everything coming to them.

  • Margaret Craig
    3 years ago

    I am done with Ebay. I too have been including my contact information since day 1. I have closed my store and moved my inventory elsewhere with great success.

  • Alex
    3 years ago

    The “Seven Golden Rules” are basic and obvious. The simple solution to most issues is always communication.

    I frequently call my customers and so often I have been told “no eBay seller has ever phoned me before”. I find this extraordinary, I love speaking to my customers. It builds the relationship, they remember the personal service, and many then come back to order again.

    Example: Customer orders two items. From experience I know these two items are probably not right so I call the buyer and ask questions, and if something is wrong change the order so customer gets exactly what they really need. Customers appreciate this type of personal service and they remember it. Sometimes they even add an additional item to the order.

    Calling customers is good for business but in this “modern age” there seems to be 2 issues: Many people seem scared of the phone, and the youth of today generally don’t seem able to communicate with anyone. Its “like” they prefer to hide behind the anonymity of purchasing online. How many times have you asked a seller to send his number so you can call them and they refuse? I had one yesterday who told me he didn’t have a phone so would I ask questions via eBay messaging system. Frankly I view this reluctance or inability to communicate as very sad.

    Call me old fashioned but I remember the days when you placed an ad in the paper and people had to call and you had to talk to them. Why should online sales be so different? Don’t be scared of the phone, its good to talk!

    Managed returns will open the floodgates to bad buyers and will cost good sellers. This is an unavoidable consequence of the impending changes but if you want to help avoid defects and other issues then be approachable but also take the initiative when ever possible. Pick up the phone and talk to people. Put you phone number on all listings, include a note with all orders that has your phone number. Tell buyers to phone you if there is a question or issue. Communicate!! IMO this is essential and it works.

    Defects and Managed Returns will be a nightmare. My advice is to take a very long holiday starting August 1st!!

    • Vamp
      3 years ago

      You sound like an awesome business person.

  • s
    3 years ago

    Buyers hate using the phone to complain. Yet they love it if you phone them – if ebay would just make a phone number mandatory and allow a seller to make first contact when an item is reported as not as described or lost, that would be a step in the right direction. All this defect nonsense is just so not needed; there will always be problems, its how you sort them is the difference between good and bad sellers. Ebay just want your money, they dont communicate, they do very little which is not ebay monetisation-

  • bill spears
    3 years ago

    It’s all very well including a business card with phone details so that a customer can call you (IF they want to) about an ‘item not as described’. Trouble is…. customers are opening cases and causing defects for ‘Item not received’. If they havent received the item then they havent got the business card with phone details.

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