eBay is hosting a Town Hall meeting to answer questions about changes announced on Tuesday as part of the Spring Seller Release 2014. EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor Greg Holden will be live blogging the first hour of the meeting and we'll update this post as warranted.
The meeting is being webcast via eBay Radio beginning at 3:30 pm Pacific. eBay will take questions via phone (888-723-4630) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Stay tuned for updates.
In attendance at the Town Hall meeting (excuse any spelling errors in people's names):
Brian Hsu, VP of Business Operations;
Lynda Talgo, VP of Global Mangaed Marketplace;
Brian Burke, Director of Global Reputation;
Jonathan Haney, Head of Returns Experience.
NOTE: See the AuctionBytes Blog for Julia's excellent summary as well.
(Ina: Greg is gearing up. Remember, this is not a transcript)
Brian Hsu: We hear from sellers they are at the mercy of buyers, and that they don't have enough information to meet seller standards, so we are providing a new level of detail for sellers.
Brian Burke: Moving to a single "defect rate" - 2% defect rate for Top Rated Sellers, everyone else 5%. We are getting questions from sellers about sellers regarding tracking information. He's addressing other issues, including about taking returns through the end of January during the holiday selling season for TRS sellers.
Greg Holden here, your intrepid reporter, covering the beginning of the eBay Town Hall on the Seller Updates. ECommerce Bytes' blog is steaming with comments from fired-up sellers. How fired-up will the callers be at the Town Hall? Let's see.
Summary of the Spring Seller Update: the aim is that they are "trying to improve the buyer experience." Did you have any doubt they would say otherwise?
Please don't quote the author of Charlotte's Web in association with these changes! Sublime and ridiculous.
"eBay is counting a neutral feedback as a negative again," one caller comments. "What is the rationale to justify this philosophy?" Good questions. Donna of Renegade-Chance is the seller.
Brian: "one of the things we looked at is what was impacting a buyer's likelihood to come back and purchase again on the platform." with neutral feedback the result is close to a negative. It's not a negative, he says, but...it might as well be.
Lynda: "Feeling good about the service our sellers are providing to our buyers." She thinks there will be less need for seller protection in future.
Donna: Refers to computer glitches that resulted in sellers being penalized. eBay mistakes and counting a neutral as a negative will cause problems going forward.
Q. Will there be a follow-up meeting if questions are not answered? I have a 9 to 5 job.
A. No, only one meeting, but can ask questions tomorrow 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on eBay Radio. Also Webinar at 1 p.m. on this subject.
Q. Another question about neutral feedback.
A. "Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer," the eBay rep says. The standards program will continue to evolve, she says.
Griff adds: the data shows otherwise when we talk to buyers (about neutral).
Don't focus so much on the word "neutral" but on what the buyer is trying to say to you with that neutral, says Brian. So we're supposed to read our buyers' minds?
Q. Jackie is a member of eBay since 1998. Has a chronic illness, and it's difficult to schedule due to her condition. Standard in her hobbyist group is 3 days for shipping and handling. "A lot of your businesses are small people, low volume," she says. Does eBay really accept that? She asks, how can you be imposing a one-day turnaround?
A. Brian Burke: The one-day standard is not a requirement to sell on the platform, but it is to earn Top Rated Seller. If you've been on the platform since 1998 and successful you can continue to be successful.
"I can continue the way I am?" she asks.
You're not required to use one-day handling, Brian continues, but you can get the occasional low DSR, claim opened or neutral.
Griff asks how many items she sells. A couple every two months, she says. "I was hoping to expand on eBay, but I can't compete with these other people," she says.
Griff suggests that she be proactive with buyers and advise them that there might be a problem.
(Greg: To its credit, I must comment that it's good eBay is having actual conversations and follow-ups with sellers, not just single questions.)
Q. About returns: How can we verify that the item was really not as described? We sell a lot of computer components. When people get that item and it doesn't work, haven't established why, we do a return for them, but we discover the item is working perfectly fine and the issue was compatibility with their hardware.
A. Jonathan: It's a tricky one for a lot of our sellers. You hear of this problem frequently. We have a bunch of different options today. 1. If it happens to be a money-back guarantee case you have three days to work it out via email communication to figure out what is going on or it gets escalated up to eBay. Make that communication as clear and transparent as possible. If you are using hassle-free returns, your buyer gets a shipping label and you get the item back immediately. You can see if the item matches the description then 1) issue the return and make the buyer happy or 2) escalate the item and ask eBay for help.
Griff: I am a big proponent of hassle free returns. If I was in your shoes I would say, sometimes item don't work because of compatibility issues. We'll take it back. That gives the buyer more confidence. Then you're covered.
Q. I don't think the issue is customer service. The issue is we don't want to get above the threshold where we risk our seller status because of compatibility issues that count against us.
Griff: Customers who are reached out to by their sellers are usually very happy and likely to leave you glowing feedback.
(Ina here: "Return initiated for a reason that indicates the item was not as described" will contribute to a seller's "Defect Rate" - wasn't this the seller's concern?)
Q. Karen: I've been selling on eBay since the late 90s. My biggest issue is, no problem at all with the new seller standards. I'm great with being professional and being proactive. My biggest issue is I sell vintage, costume jewelry, and I'm concerned with the three-month window to return things. Very tough to do with one of a kind items. Very concerned about losing my Top Rated Seller status over that.
Griff: It's for Top Rated Plus.
Karen: I sell for another seller as well. They are all one of a kind things. It is out of the question to be taking returns for months on end.
Griff: Have you had a problem with returns in the past?
Karen: Absolutely. But because our listings are one of a kind and fragile we offer a 14-day but we say we only take returns because of errors on our part. We pretty much don't have a problems.
Brian: During the holiday season you can continue to sell, your items, they just won't be Top Rated Plus. You will still be Top Rated. I would emphasize that if you look at ecommerce in general, the direction people are headed, during the holidays, there is gift giving going on, and if your inventory isn't gift-able, I would consider it.
Karen: It's one thing when you're selling a DVD, it's another when you are selling an Yves Saint Laurent bracelet. It's different.
Griff: It sounds like you are making this decision from a position of fear of what might happen. If I was a buyer and asked you to take it back what would you say?
Karen: If I sold it to you on Dec. 31 and you wanted to return it on Jan. 1 I'd say you're full of baloney.
Brian: You don't have to change your business practices for the holidays if you choose. It's Top Rated Plus [you might lose].
Q. Can you opt into the program and then select by item which ones are participating listings and which you don't want to be hassle free returns?
A. No. As we built out and thought through hassle free returns, it's to make you more efficient. To pick two or three items and make them hassle free makes you less efficient as a seller. But at the listing level, you can make your return policy whatever you want it to be.
Griff: I always tell sellers that by just going on the assumption that something might not work, you might be doing yourself a disservice.
Q. Catherine asks about the change from Detailed Seller ratings to the new system. How do we know our status won't change. If we were doing OK on detailed seller ratings, do we have to be worried about this new system?
A. Lynda of eBay: It sounds like you have great selling practices right now. While that doesn't 100% translate exactly to the new program, I wouldn't exactly be worried. Just based on your description, I'm not hearing anything that would cause me to be concerned.
Brian: Reminder, to people wondering what their status will be, the seller dashboard will have a preview in April. (goes into effect in August)
Q. Scott: Comments, I have liked the seller updates for the past couple of years. We have used them as a bar for the service to offer our buyers. However, I have a couple of technical questions. I'm confused when I listen to conversations. #1 is the defect rate, wheereas DSRs were anonymous are we going to be able to see what our defects are? #2, Feedback, if we get the neutrals and negatives revised, will they still count? #3, how much time does a buyer have to open a case? 30 or 60 days?
A. Lynda: When we share the results of our ability to get his data, and share it with sellers, their growth is outpacing that of their competitors in ecommerce. I want to mention there will be a microsite for sellers to go to where they can get item level detail about the beat-backs (?)
Brian: Cases can be opened 30 days post delivery.
Scott: So you're saying it is 30 after they have received the item?
Scott: repeats #2 above.
Brian: with negative and neutral feedback:
- when we remove them, they will not count.
- when we revise them, they will count
Lynda: We hope great sellers like you can focus on the main things to do and worry less about the one-off transactions, the 2% (defect rate) will give you more margin.
Brian: Our intention is that all things being equal, we want buyers to get the best experience.
Q. Tom in Austin, TX: I've had problems with returns. I'm a tiny intermittent seller. I had two separate buyers who bought a dress and tried to send them back as stained. It was clear they had worn the dress and gone to a dinner party and had an accident and stained the fabric. (he is bringing up Karen's previously mentioned issue of buyers buying items to wear to a party and then returning them immediately after).
I sell at a big discount and in perfect condition, or else I note defects in detail. In the two cases that help me to form my policy of never accepting returns, I had taken such good photos that when they showed me their photos I sent mine and said to look at it and show me where the defect is. In both cases buyers backed down. I do not accept returns, I do not use the eBay shipping system,and have never had any problems.
A. If I look at that neutral feedback, I would say less is more. You don't use our eBay shipping platform, I want to point out that there are benefits to it, such as insurance. You don't have to go to the post office. You get discounted shipping labels. Call out that and that can help you save some communication. On returns, I understand your bad experiences, just two in a long time isn't a bad situation. We do have an item policy for returns. You have to send it back in the condition you received it in. You could intervene and ask eBay to step in.
This is Greg, signing off and handing back over to Ina.
Several more questions, will summarize them shortly.
Q: Seller asks about multivariation listings, he's received negative feedback because of a glitch with eBay's system.
A: Griff acknowledges the glitch, says the team is looking for a fix, "it came up again yesterday."
Q. Seller asks about buyers who ask him about status of shipment - instead of being able to ask him a question, it's now an opened case. For instance, package sent to Puerto Rico.
A. Brian: overseas items don't count. Brian Burke: you should escalate that. Griff: be proactive - communicate with buyers.
Q. Seller Carl has question about scanning package tracking. Post office does not scan immediately, will that add to his "defect rate"?
A. eBay only requires tracking be uploaded on 90% of packages. Griff: bring donuts to your postal clerks and butter them up.
Q. Combined invoicing - settings don't work, so if an item is $4 for shipping and someone buys 7, it will say $28 total shipping on checkout, instead of the $5 he wants to charge the buyer.
A. Jonathan: Use immediate pay for fixed-price items. You can set combined shipping discounts.
Seller responds: I've done that several times and it doesn't work.
Griff says, send an email and he'll tell the product folks, and if you have an eBay Store, look for the Sales Maximizer, it's a much more powerful tool and lets you set up rules for combined shipping
Q. Justin: sells used cell phones and tablets. Gets buyers returning items for things like, "AT&T doesn't have coverage in their area." Can we dispute returns, he asks. He also received a letter from eBay saying he has over 5% defect rate. Any recommendations?
A. Lynda: Look at the notice that informs you of exceeding defect rate, if eBay had advice, it would be included. She thanked him for selling things people really want.
Justin asks what will happen if his defect rate remains above 5%. Lynda said sellers will get a heads up through the dashboard and will try to help sellers, but at a certain point, there will be other consequences. She declined to elaborate.
But, she said, "I wouldn't be too concerned."
And that's a wrap.
Ina's impressions: While sellers were very much concerned about the new 90-day return window for TRS Plus during the holidays and the new seller defect rate, they seemed much calmer than in past Town Hall meetings. The eBay panelists were very reassuring to each seller that they shouldn't worry, as with Lynda telling a seller who was notified by eBay that he was above the 5-percent defect rate not to be too concerned - but in many cases without giving them reasons not to be concerned. Hopefully these sellers won't be lulled into a false sense of security.
Let us know what you think!