I got to the Town Hall session a few minutes late; the place was packed, and I got sent to some sort of overflow room where I was watching Griff and other eBay people on two big screens. I'm sort of removed from the controversy physically, but that's in keeping with the tone of the session, which is starting out as a love fest rather than the controversy we saw yesterday. eBay is prepared for hostile questions about feedback; they deflected the first attack expertly. Subsequent questions are more of the cream puff variety. Here is a first batch (not complete, and not a transcript):
Larry Phillips, Internet Merchant Assoc: I want to ask the same question yesterday: why is a 4 on a DSR a failure? Why not change the wording to reflect the ratings more accurately?
eBay rep David: We acknowledge we have heard from you and we will come up with a solution, no later than the holiday season. We will address the negative feedback during the UPI process. The third question was negatives and neutrals. We will address that too. I want to make that commitment t you all.
Burke: The average is something we are looking at.
Lorrie: the reason we do eBay live is to get input. Every night we talk about the feedback we are getting. We are here to make you successful. If you are successful and buyers are happy, we are all over that.
Question 2: Tracy Jannick (sic): I love Giving Works; the program is great but you haven't done enough to make it easier to find.
eBay: We love it, we'll do it.
Question 3: Kat (or Cat): My feelings are hurt. You guys sent all these announcements out while we were learning. Why?
Dinesh: We acknowledge we need to do a better job of it.
Question: Why when I have built up my business for a period of years, do you count my feedback percentage by looking at comments only for the past year?
eBay (David): buyers have a fear of leaving negative feedback One way to get around that was to leave a neutral. Instead, they would leave lower DSRs. In the new system, we didn't want to disadvantage them. We acknowledge that the rate of neutrals will probably go down over the time and over time, we will have a better option for how we account for neutrals in your feedback percentage. We felt 12 onths was more indicative of your recent performance.
Brian Burke: the percentage is based on the past five months, but you do get credit for all your scores.
Greg's comment: These guys must have spent the whole morning coming up with talking points on how to address seller hostility regarding feedback changes. [--break--]
Question: James, Internet Marketing Center: The new policy which takes place July 1; we are looking for more information. You can still link to your site but not market it. eBay still has Yahoo paid ads at the bottom of search pages; it seems contradictory to the new policy.
eBay: We recognize that advertising is taking business off the site and that takes people away from sellers. We got a lot of great feedback yesterday and today, and we are looking at how to allow sellers to grow their business, and at the same time, we are trying to limit fraud. We have seen people who use that (the links policy) in a negative way.
Brian Burke: We probably made the announcement a little prematurely; please wait until we have all the details outlined in the coming weeks.
Question: Joanne, the Queen's Treasures: Thank you for a great conference (applause). We are concerned about customer satisfaction. We work hard to get our customers buy more than one item from us at a time. We have more than 11000 feedbacks. We feel if you are taking the negatives from buyer who are unsatisfied, and not allowing any kind of mediation, and using neutrals, how do you keep the buyer really satisfied?
Burke: Is it really that you are not getting credit for all your feedback? (Yes). Earlier this year, we started providing credit, if you started interacting with someone in separate weeks. If sellers are interacting repeatedly with customers, they should get credit for that.
Question (Flyleaf Electronics): Neutral feedback: if you go to the feedback overview page, it doesn't count for anything, but it has the same ffect as a negative. Why is the word not out about that?
Burke: There is a bit of a nuance here. We need to be clearer on that. The text is accurate in that neutrals do not impact your feedback score, but we need to get text out that says it does impact your feedback percentage.
Griff: One of the places we need improvement is buyer education. (Applause)
Q. I have heard innuendos about where stores will be in the coming years.
eBay: Stores is not going anywhere, we love them as much as you do (Applause.)
Griff: I understand the angst about this. We dropped the ball a couple years ago about stores. I think you'll see some great things in the coming years.
Q. Even the mom and pop stores?
Griff: We can't exist without the small sellers. You are the heart and soul of this company. We value you more than you know. (Applause.)
Greg's comment: Feel the love!
Lorrie: There are no small or large, there is only good to us. We are committed to the unique sellers who give us our character.
Q (Drew Perry): I teach folks how to sell houses on eBay. Most of these people are smart, but they have no knowledge about eBay. I send them to YouTube. Is there anyway we can have eBay video hosting so they don't have to go to another site so they don't have to figure out HTML to do learning? Even if eBay would charge $1 or $5 to host your video?
eBay: We do get a lot of requests for rich media and video, particularly with eBay Motors and houses. It's something we think we should do longer term. We don't have any immediate plans but we're looking into it.
Q. Silvia with Sports Bra Foundation: With DSRs, why does eBay feel it is not important to see which buyers are leaving ratings? It's like they can go behind a little curtain and say no no they did bad, when they said to us we did a good job selling to them. (Applause.)
Burke: The anonymity with DSRs—and they have only been out a year, and we are continuing to learn—was fear of retaliation. We did not want to introduce a system where the buyer was uncomfortable leaving comments. We will continue to look at it…
Greg's comment: eBay is going to have a lot to look at and consider after this eBay Live.
Dinesh: We are committed to getting more granularity about the DSRs.
Griff: I have been at seven eBay Lives, and this is the one at which I have learned the most.
Greg's comment: Does that really mean, this is the conference at which there has been the most anger voiced?
Q (Mark from Australia): As you are aware, eBay Australia is instituting a PayPal only policy. Do you have any other plans to introduce a PayPal only policy on any other sites?
Monroe of PayPal: Thank you for the opportunity ut we are not going to announce anything today. Going to PayPal only in Australia was appropriate for that marketplace. Other marketplaces have different situations. In the U.S. we will definitely *not* go to a PayPal only situation (Applause.)
Q. (Rachel with DiversityBuilder.com): Is there a way to create subaccounts for people who sell on our behalf so people who sell for us don't have to log into account? And by the way, Lorrie rocks! (Applause)
Dinesh: No, there is not, but we have heard that as companies scale their businesses and involve more employees they need more user rights. Keep on us with that one.
Q (Gary Crawford): I have a 100% feedback rating. I was a PowerSeller. What is eBay doing nationally or internationally to drive traffic to eBay.com so people before they go to the mall go to eBay? eBay had a program before,( the It campaign): "It" sucked. What is now the national campaign going forward?
eBay (Stephanie): Thank you for the candid nature of your feedback. We know we have some work to do. We have coupons; starting in May we sent coupons out to our top buyers. We are rolling out royalty programs between now and the holidays. We will continue to develop our marketing engine. We also rolled out phone support.
Greg's comment: I can't capture this fully in the blog but for each semi-hostile question, eBay is falling over themselves to give two or three answers. And the answers go on and on. Very competent damage control.
Q. That's all for people familiar with eBay.com. What aobut others?
Stephanie: Good point. We are focused on all buyers. You will see more media from us.
Q (Dee, PowerSeller, 7800 feedback rating): There are always exceptions to the rule. Why is it that with a buyer who has an unpaid item or who takes three weeks to pay me, why can't I leave great feedback.
Woman next to me: I have asked that so many times!
Brian Burke: One of the reasons we no longer allowed sellers to leave negative or neutral feedback, we looked at the cream of the crop buyers, and the receipt of neutral or negative feedback was one of the top drivers for them to leave the site and we couldn't allow that to continue. Undermined the whole marketplace. With regard to unpaid items, we have expand protections a bit, we know we have more work to do with unpaid items and improve the process. We want buyers to be accountable as much as sellers.
Q (Dwayne Swinford): We sell online through a Web site and also through eBay. We do not have a PayPal account. We have our own merchant account. It seems with the new upgrades, you pretty much have to have PayPal. If we have problems and do things wrong, our merchant will pull our account as quick as you do. Don't forget about businesses that sell on eBay and have their own merchant accounts.
Monroe, PayPal: We do allow merchants to accept credit card payments on their own merchant accounts through eBay. As part of our effort to make the marketplace safer, we are looking for ways to integrate payment into checkout more tightly for those companies who have merchant accounts. I said earlier we don't have plans t make U.S. PayPal only, but we will continue to make payments a way to improve the experience for buyers and sellers.
Q. (Brian): I am the redheaded stepchild of eBay, who am I?
Griff: I think you're me.
Q. I'm a Half.com seller. On the eBay toolbar, motors, express…if you buy something from me on Half.com, you are sent back to the gaudy eBay toolbar. You have to type the address to get back to me on Half.com
eBay: We will work on this and integrate Hald.com more holistically into eBay, you will ee that before the holidays.
Q. Mother of three children, and I make a living on eBay. I worked at the U of Michigan and Merrill Lynch. I can appreciate all this corporate stuff. I personally don't have time for it. It feels to me like you want big sellers and people who are selling mostly new items. That's fine, but I want to make more money than I did in the corporate world. Can you make an eBay One (an eBay where only new items are sold) and bring back the old eBay (Much applause.)
Lorrie: We are finding that there is a need for buyers on the Internet to have all sorts of experiences. They may be looking for paper cups with lids. We are looking at how we take the incredible tradition we have at eBay and bridge that to buyers who are coming back to eBay and looking for it. We have buyers who come to eBay looking for items and they just aren't there. What we hear from buyers is that they want unique things to collect as well as things in their everyday lives. That one eBay has to meet buyer expectations and create success for sellers.
That's the end...