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Sellers Probe New Dashboard and Defect Rates in eBay Webinar

As usual, there was no shortage of seller questions in eBay’s latest webinar, “Getting the Most out of your New Seller Dashboard.” Hosted by Mary Windishar, and featuring eBay Director of Global Trust Brian Burke and eBay Senior Manager, Standards Kristi Diemoz, the event began a review of the new standards for top-rated seller, which is a maximum defect rate of 2%. (It’s 5% for all sellers).

Burke addressed some of sellers’ main concerns at the outset, such as the extended returns option of 90 days for the coming holiday season, emphasizing that sellers can choose what inventory that they want to include in this, and saying that in September eBay will roll out a tool for that. He also explained the new standards included dings for neutrals and DSR threes, another change unpopular with sellers, because eBay found that buyers leaving those ratings purchased less.

He also advised sellers to only open cases when they are confident that eBay will rule in their favor. And there was a rundown of the coming dates of the new standards, including May 1, when the three-month evaluation cycle for the new standards begins.

A short video demonstrated the new seller dashboard, and slides drilled down into what the defect reports look like. As of last week, sellers can run reports on transactions with defects, Diemoz said. On April 29, these would be just going forward, not retroactive. Your projected status is there, along with a breakdown by defect type, which Dieomoz thought was “most helpful.”

Diemoz said sellers can either open or save their eBay defect report, and stressed that although more than one “X” may show in different columns, they don’t count as defects if they’re both for the same transaction. The transaction defect report is updated every 5 to 7 business days, she said, but she noted that the preview is updated daily.

Some sellers had told Diemoz that they had refunded a buyer, but it still showed up as a defect in their dashboard, she said. She emphasized that if an item is not as described, even if the buyer is refunded, it shows up as a defect.

Patterns, Trends and Tips
“We never expect everything to go perfectly,” Diemoz said, but throughout the presentation she emphasized that the main thing for sellers was to look for “patterns and trends.” She said eBay shipping labels were “a great tool” because they do lot for you, including all the tracking uploading.

A few tips she gave: if you’re selling used items, make a very good description of any flaws, specify the correct condition, and use all available item specifics.

“It’s also very important now for sellers to review their listings in a mobile format including phones and tablets,” she said. In terms of feedback, “try always answer any member questions within 24 hours. Be proactive; tell buyers when there is an issue.”

PayPal Transactions Count
Diemoz said sellers should always use the eBay cancellation process. She noted that eBay also tracks PayPal transactions, so even if they see a refund given via PayPal, that may count as a defect.

In the cancellation process, always select the right reason. If you sell shirts, she said, for example, a seller may not be able to find the right piece of inventory. “If that happens, select item out of stock or sold.” Or if a buyer “reaches out to you and says, “Oh my gosh I actually need an extra large,” go through the cancellation flow and then select “buyer changed mind.””

Diemoz gave an example of a seller who said “eBay is counting this item against me when the buyer changed their mind.” But they didn’t realize they had a transaction via PayPal.

She also said to be sure to use an eBay-supported shipper.

Know Your Evaluation Period
The transaction defect report is a great tool to help you get the insight of where you can improve, she said. “Make sure you’re doing the right processes to make sure everything is being captured correctly.” And, she emphasized, the “biggest thing is focusing on any issues you can prevent in the future.”

If you view your preview, and you download your report, and “you think about, what might I do differently? What might I do going forward that these issues might not happen?,” you’ll have an opportunity to improve, she said.

Q & A
At this point, Mary Windishar opened the floor for questions.

Dave had a question for Diemoz: he says he sometimes refunds 15% to his good customers in PayPal. “So does this count against me, or only if I refund 100%?” he asked.

“So yes, a partial does not count as a defect,” answered Diemoz. But “yes, if you do process a refund for the full amount in PayPal without any communication where we can see where the buyer was requesting, that may count as a stock-out,” she said. “So your partials don’t count as a defect, and make sure you’re using the cancel transaction flow when you did refund the full amount,” she added.

The next question was for Burke. A lot of sellers wanted to know, “What do I do for buyers who don’t give feedback automatically?”

“So it’s not necessarily important if you have 100% feedback; we all love to get 100% feedback from the buyers, but not all buyers are going to give feedback,” replied Burke. He added that, “We do send a reminder email to buyers within 30 days of the transaction, but just remember that if we don’t get a signal from them, that’s ultimately going to count in your favor. We’re going to treat that almost like a positive feedback.”

“Connie” wanted to know the difference between validation by the carrier and validation by eBay Burke said when “we say eBay validation, we’re actually looking for the carrier.”

Diemoz added that sellers should make sure the carrier integrated with eBay for example some people were using OnTrac, and “that is not integrated with eBay.”

Amelia want to know, “If a case is never escalated, does it count against a seller?”

“So, it does,” said Burke. “As soon as a buyer opens a case for item not received, or for being not as described, and then that would count against the seller.”

Another seller wanted to know at what date the shipping cost DSR would not count against sellers.

“So effective with the cycle on August 20, we will be shifting from the current system,” said Burke, adding, “Ship cost still matters today and it will continue to matter until the August 20 cycle. And at that point we’re going to still collect that information…the buyer will still be able to leave ship-cost DSR and communication DSR, and I would encourage sellers to look to see, okay, what kind of ratings am I getting for those two detailed seller ratings? But effective with the August 20 cycle, (it) will no longer be incorporated into the seller standards,” he said.

One seller asked, if they would get dinged “if the buyer purchases the wrong item and we agree to cancel the transaction?”

“As long as you and the buyer agree” and use the cancel transaction flow “because the buyer changed their mind,” it would not count as a defect, said Diemoz.

However, Diemoz added, if the buyer opened a snad case and said “you know I got the wrong item” or “you know I want to change my mind,” or whatever, “in that situation my advice is to still just take care of the customer,” said Diemoz. “We know that sometimes situations develop where buyers might open a case for something they don’t mean, but typically, it’s not a common occurrence. If you take care of the customer and usually you leave with a happy buyer and you’re good to go,” she said. However, you would always have the opportunity to escalate. “But be sure it would be found in your favor.”

Dinged for First-Class Shipping? 
One question came in about shipping with a first class stamped envelope. “Do I get dinged on tracking if I send products via USPS first class mail with a stamped envelope? There is no tracking available for stamps.” Windishar added that several people had asked this.

“So that would not count as valid tracking. If there is not tracking that the buyer can click on in … then that would not be counted as a valid tracking ever,” said Diemoz. She added that the seller should remember that the requirement for valid tracking was to be at least at 90%, so that seller may want to look at their business practices and “say can I use stamps on a couple of items and will my overall percentage still be okay?”

Burke jumped in and added that the reason eBay was doing this was “because expectations for buyers have changed.”

Someone named Ann said there was a “rumor circulating that an eBay rep said that everyone will be on a three-month lookback” period. Diemoz apologized on their behalf, and said they would continue to have both a 3-month and a 12-month lookback.

“Jack” asked, “How many top-rated sellers are there now? What percentage of those will this new system eliminate?”

“We don’t disclose the numbers of Top-rated sellers today and we won’t going forward,” answered Burke. He said their expectation is that not everyone who’s top-rated will stay top-rated as of August. “We want to make sure we’re rewarding those sellers meeting the expectations…The reality is, we raised the bar.”

One seller asked what decides whether you’re on a three-month or 12-month lookback? Diemoz answered it was “the amount of transactions you have had on the site.” If you had over 400 transactions in a three-month period, you’ll be on a three-month lookback. She added you can view on your seller dashboard what your look back is, “right under the section that tells you the defect types you’ve had.”

The “Empty Box Scam”
A seller named “Charles” wanted to know “how is eBay protecting sellers against the “empty box scam?””

Burke responded that this is not something that happens frequently. If a seller uses Hassle-Free Returns, they can use the dispute mechanism. He also made an analogy to if a seller owned a brick-and-mortar store, “for example if someone’s kid breaks an item, the seller takes that hit.” But a seller could look to “other proof” such as the weight of an item when it went out and when it returned.

Other questions came in about topics such as item descriptions, the different performance standards eBay has globally, optimizing listings on mobile devices, and what to do if an item breaks. Check for more coverage of the Q & A on the AuctionBytes Blog.

Wrapping up the session, everyone thanked everyone else for being there, and Burke said to the sellers in the audience, “Thank you for your business.” He emphasized that the changes were designed to keep the buyers coming back. “eBay and our sellers, our goals are aligned on this one; we want more buyers purchasing more frequently.”

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Julia L Wilkinson
Julia L Wilkinson
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004, 2005, 2006). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, "Flip It Again."