The head of eBay Feedback can't even keep the new defect policy straight, so how can anyone expect customer service reps to give clear, consistent answers to sellers?
During last night's Town Hall Meeting there were a few instances when managers were uncertain of the answers to give sellers who called in asking about new eBay policies. And at one point, a Director had to backtrack on an answer he had provided, and in another case, two top executives contradicted each other.
The first instance occurred after a question about defect removal. The seller asked:
"I would like to ask about the manual defect removal, or de-scoring. The policy states that "we remove defects when we have objective information in our systems." What are some examples of objective information?"
Brian Burke, Director of Global Feedback, thanked the seller for her question and said:
"I'll give a really clear example. A seller files an Unpaid Item claim. The buyer doesn't respond to that claim. The seller closes the Unpaid Item dispute. That's very clear information from an eBay perspective that the buyer didn't complete the transaction. If the buyer then leaves a negative feedback, or opens a claim, of if they already tried to leave a negative or neutral feedback, we just automatically, as soon as the case is closed, the unpaid item process is complete, any feedback that's been left, is automatically removed. And so, objective removal of feedback."
The moderator, Griff, started to provide another example of what eBay considered objective information, when Burke interrupted him:
"The only thing that I'd caution there is, you know, I was, uh, I was probably speaking out of turn on that one, so you know,..."
Griff tried to bail him out as Burke verbally stumbled. Burke continued, "Depending on what information was there, it may or may not be removed. It's less objective than something like that, or, another case of objective information is, we choose to suspend the buyer. At that point, we might remove defects as well. Or, we make a decision around...," and he went on to give an example of a postal strike in the UK being objective information.
At another point earlier in the Town Hall event, Burke had been uncertain about his response to a question, saying, "I may have my head handed to me on a platter later, but I don't think so." He told a seller that if she could show she mailed a package and the reason for its late delivery was due to it sitting, stalled, in a USPS postal hub, that that was "objective information that an agent could look at" and said she should call eBay.
Yet over the past several months since eBay implemented the defect policy, many sellers have said eBay does blame the seller for mistakes due to the shipping carrier and will not remove defects when a package is late due to the fault of the shipping carrier.
In fact, in May, I wrote about sellers who reported eBay customer service reps were faulting them for using the U.S. Postal Service when shipments went awry.
In another case, when answering a seller about buyers who unintentionally open a claim when they wanted to ask the seller a question, Griff pushed Burke to state what a seller could do in that situation to get a defect removed - "so what should that seller do," Griff asked Burke pointblank.
"So I think, part of it is yes, so that, no. I don't want the seller spending time, 3 hours on the phone calling a CSR agent. I would much rather the seller step back and say, what else can I do. If they do spend that 3 hours, I think they're going to be disappointed at the end of the day."
Burke emphasized that sellers should look at their business "holistically" and improve their performance before it got to the point of having a 2% defect rate, advising sellers to look at resources on the eBay website about selling.
At that point, eBay Vice President of Merchant Development Michael Jones stepped in, apparently not wanting to leave the impression (or acknowledge?) that it was futile for eBay sellers to try and get unjustified defects removed by its customer service reps, and he reassured users that they should call if they ran into problems.
"In the scenario you painted, I can understand what Brian is saying, and that is the way we should be looking at it, which is, make sure you're doing everything you can to not get to this point. But if you do, you should call us so that we can help you out. And we will."
Jones went on to say eBay was learning like everyone else and was looking to see how eBay could improve the flows as well.
While Jones provided the answers sellers wanted to hear, Burke was probably more accurate when he acknowledged the long wait times to speak to a rep only to be followed by disappointment. No wonder sellers say they receive different answers from customer service reps as their calls are handed off from one rep to the next.
With sellers already in turmoil as the August 20th deadline approaches, eBay brass showed during the Town Hall meeting a deficiency in understanding their own policies, which only adds to the confusion described in eBay discussion boards, EcommerceBytes Blog comments, and letters I receive.
This week, eBay heaped on even more changes with its Fall Seller Release that sellers now have to absorb and conform to. As Jones stated at the beginning of the Town Hall Meeting, the holiday shopping season is nearing. Sellers need clear answers on what they can expect from eBay, and they need eBay to follow up on what it promises.
eBay has had months of hearing from sellers about their experiences with the new defects. With exactly a week to go before the new Defect Policy kicks in, it was hardly reassuring to hear eBay executives confused about how the system works.
You can find the 1.5-hour recording archive on VoiceMarketingRadio.com, the service eBay uses to broadcast the meetings.