|Tue Apr 14 2009 23:37:21|
eBay Moves toward Guaranteed Buyer Satisfaction
By: Ina Steiner
eBay is moving toward a system where it captures more information about transactions in order to guarantee buyer satisfaction, since unlike retailers, eBay does not currently know whether a buyer has paid for an item or whether a seller has shipped an order. Spokesperson Usher Lieberman said it would take some time before eBay could stand behind every transaction on the site, but on Tuesday, eBay announced some features and a new dispute process as part of these efforts.
For sellers, Tuesday's big news was eBay's new dispute process in which it will more aggressively inject itself into the buyer-seller relationship. Todd Lutwak, Director of Seller Development, said there may be times when eBay needs to play a role to ensure buyer and seller satisfaction. This is a change from early days when eBay declared itself "just a venue," particularly in courtrooms involving legal liability.
In some cases, eBay itself will refund buyers, it said, but would not reveal how it would recapture those monies. Spokesperson Usher Lieberman told AuctionBytes there were a number of ways it could go about it but said the company was not committing to a specific method. "We'll work with the sellers," he said. Some sellers have expressed skepticism that eBay would pay any out-of-pocket costs, however, believing the company would find a way to get payment from sellers.
eBay is still encouraging buyers to interact with sellers in any dispute, according to Todd, but has added another option for buyers and sellers by providing an 800 phone number to get eBay involved in the process. This will lead to a quicker resolution for both buyers and sellers, he said.
eBay will look at all the information available in making a determination, including the seller's history. In addition, Todd said, "Often we know when a buyer has paid, sometimes we know when a seller has shipped."
I asked Todd whether sellers who do not use eBay shipping tools would be at a disadvantage in the dispute process. He said eBay needs a lot more shipping information from the seller community. That's where new "Package tracking in My eBay" comes into play. For sellers who print shipping labels through PayPal or eBay, tracking and delivery confirmation numbers will automatically appear in the buyer's My eBay. Sellers who don't use the PayPal or eBay label printing solution can enter tracking information manually in My eBay.
Currently the tracking ability only supports USPS and UPS. eBay is hoping third-party providers, including services like FedEx, will create additional solutions, and Todd pointed to the new Seller Manager Applications beta as a way for them to do that. In addition, Todd said there would be more announcements over time about tools and incentives for sellers to provide eBay with shipping information.
A source as told us that, later this year, eBay would provide a method for buyers to print return-shipping labels from eBay. Along with requirements for sellers to publish their return policy, this will provide eBay with evidence of whether a buyer has indeed returned an item to a seller in a dispute.
While the main thrust of today's announcement is the move toward a marketplace with perfect information that will lead to better buyer satisfaction, eBay is pitching it to sellers as a way to increase their efficiency.
Todd said that by providing shipping information to buyers, it would alleviate the need to contact sellers or open a dispute. In addition, eBay is adding a Smart FAQ feature to help reduce the number of questions sellers receive from eBay buyers.
Look for more details on eBay's plans for improving the unpaid item dispute process. eBay wrote on its website:
We are planning two significant changes to the unpaid item dispute process. First, for PayPal only items, eBay will be able to auto-file and auto-credit sellers. Second, for Fixed Price items, we will begin removing negative and neutral feedback ratings left after a seller files an unpaid item dispute. We expect to launch both these changes in 2009.