The executive in charge of feedback at eBay appeared on eBay's radio program today to discuss changes as part of the Fall Seller Release announced this morning. Brian Burke, eBay's Director of Global Feedback, answered questions about the new feedback removal policy along with his colleague Ismael who is Senior Manager of North American Feedback.
The segment replaced the usual Town Hall Meetings that normally follow a major announcement impacting sellers. There were a few revelations throughout the segment, for example, the executives said the new feedback removal policy is retroactive for 60 days.
In the introduction, Jim "Griff" Griffith said it was the first update in memory where there's really no bad news.
"It's all good news. It's all expansion of things. There is now a grace period if you're a top rated seller and if you're trailing 12 months, you have two evaluation periods to pick it up. And the expanded feedback policy. The last bullet on the seller update page, eBay determines the feedback criteria. eBay removing feedback ratings is "the right thing to do." Also eBay returns enhancements. They're all pretty good."
Greg Holden, our intrepid live-blogger, took a stab at covering the radio segment that included some questions from listeners. Keep in mind this is not a transcript, and please forgive any typos or mis-attributions.
Brian Burke: I think number one, we're trying to have a more globally consistent policy. We also wanted to make it more fair. Those sellers who are using our item specifics, working with the buyers, we want to protect them in those scenarios where they are doing best practices from a buyer's standpoint.
Ismael: The biggest change is that we want sellers to make it very clear,...large photos, clear photos, take all the pertinent details about the item in item specifics. If they do this, the seller will be protected from any feedback they receive.
Brian: There's a number of changes to the policy, but the significant ones are the ones where they are using structured data. If you use the item condition field and you say the item is used and the buyer leaves a negative feedback and says it was used, we're going to look at that negative feedback and say, that's not necessarily the seller's fault. There's another example that few people have run into, but, If the buyer sends an email after purchasing and says hey, can you ship to a different address, and it has already been shipped, based on data pulled from our site, and the buyer says the seller wouldn't ship to an address, we will look at that and protect the seller in that scenario.
Griff: eBay says "removing the feedback ratings is the right thing to do."
Ismael: Every seller encountered a situation where PayPal puts a hold until an item is received. Sometimes it's a number of days while PayPal investigates. There's a hold on that payment so the seller doesn't ship the item. That can result in a frustrated buyer. If the buyer leaves negative feedback, we will protect the seller.
Brian: We want to ensure that the agents, as they are looking at the cases, look at each case holistically rather than strictly by the rules. That said, we've got rules there for a reason. We want the agent to be able to say, here are some things we'd like to see you change, and in the future, we'll protect you.
Griff: You brought up a case that *wouldn't* be a case for removal. What was that?
Ismael: A new policy we have is we will protect the seller in the case of a cancelled transaction. Buyer buys item, realizes that The Home Depot is selling it cheaper, cancels the transaction. We will remove any feedback there, but we wouldn't remove the feedback if they cancel the transaction because the seller ran out of stock. That's not a seller best practice.
Brian: The buyer has a legitimate reason for leaving negative feedback in that case.
Lee Mirabel (cohost): Let's say I get negative feedback,...what do I do to get the low ratings and negative feedback removed?
Brian: If it's clear cut like that, the seller should contact customer support. Whether it's email or phone. Depending on what country you're in, you might not have access to phone, you can just email us. You can contact customer support with the item number, with the feedback that was left and the reason why you don't think you should have it, and the agent can take care of it while you're on the phone and take care of the situation while you're still on the phone.
Griff: Will I be referred to a rep who can make that decision or just a general rep who may not know the answer?
Brian: As the information comes that they know it's about feedback, you'll get routed to a queue where agents are there who can handle feedback.
Lee: Do we get instant gratification or does it take a few days?
Brian: If it meets the new policies, you will get instant gratification. But I caution that there are plenty of reasons for buyers to leave negative feedback. Also we want to distinguish between sellers who are providing great service and those who aren't.
Griff: And you should always try to work it out with the buyer first. ... Is there any message if you leave negative feedback, that tells a buyer to contact the seller to work this out?
Ismael: In fact there are two messages.
Lee: When does the expanded feedback policy take effect?
eBay opened the segment to questions from listeners.
Q. Lynn: I think I love the new changes. ... During holiday time, I sell a lot of brand new toys, very common toys. Say I was selling a new iPhone 5. Customer get it, isn't what they thought it would be, and they have left me negative feedback, based on the product, not on my service or what I have done. In this case, would this be removed?
Brian: I think we would need to understand why it didn't work or didn't meet their satisfaction, and what was the discrepancy between the description and what they received.
Q. When you list an iPhone 5, you use the details that are in the standard database for that item. They get it and they say 'It's not big enough.'"
Brian: In a scenario like that, the changes, if we stick with the iPhone 5 example, all the data gets pre-populated in the item Specifics fields. In that scenario if the buyer says I thought I was getting the black iPhone and there is clearly a picture of a white iPhone, we would protect the seller. Whenever you can use item specifics or create your own Item Specifics field, and you say, there is a blemish, and the buyer complains about that, we would protect the buyer. ... Going forward, make sure that in the Item Specifics field the model number and count are included, we would protect you going forward.
Griff: But not if it was just in the description, you want to create in the Item Specifics.
Griff: Why is that?
Brian: They're kind of bulleted, and at the top of the description, so the buyer can see them at a glance, instead of I've spoken to thousands and thousands of sellers at eBay and I've seen the 7-page descriptions, and it's unlikely in a mobile world that a buyer is going to read that much content.
With the TRS program, going forward, there will be a grace period for those sellers who kept good standing for three months, if you miss one month, we'll keep you in the program.
Q. Lloyd: One, I understand the new eBay feedback system, is that retroactive?
Ismael: It's retroactive for 60 days.
Q. Two, I sell motorcycles on eBay. With a BIN or best offer available, I run into a lot of problems with buyers making an offer and then backing out. Is there anything I can do about that?
Griff: Next year, in eBay Motors, we will have an expansion where when someone makes an offer and the offer is accepted, that will close out the item.
(Editor's note: This was a reference to Best Offer that was rolled out in some categories in the Spring Seller Release.)
The entire radio session is available where other areas of the Fall Seller Release were also covered, and on Thursday, eBay will hold a call-in question and answer session from 11:00 am-1:00 pm PT - details at the end of today's eBay Announcement.
You can learn more about eBay's Fall Seller Release and post a comment in the Blog.
And please take our survey and let us know what you think of the changes.