eBay Town Hall: Expect Major Announcement Next Month
By Ina Steiner
If you listened to the questions posed by sellers at eBay's Town Hall meeting yesterday, you would probably conclude that sellers are unhappy with the DSR (Detailed Seller Ratings) feedback system. eBay said it would be making some changes to give sellers more visibility into DSRs and would announce additional changes affecting sellers next month. No details about forthcoming changes were revealed, but Dinesh Lathi, Vice President of Seller Experience, said this year's changes would help sellers be more efficient and profitable.
Lathi was speaking at eBay's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday afternoon. As revealed at the Long Beach meeting of top-sellers earlier this month, Lathi said eBay would limit major changes that impact the way sellers do business to two per year, and would give at least 60 days notice of the changes. "One of the things we've heard consistently from our sellers is that the frequency and pace of changes did not work for sellers."
Concern over feedback and DSRs was the common theme that emerged during the Town Hall meeting, where eBay executives answered 25 questions from sellers who called in or emailed during the event, which was broadcast over the Internet.
A question heard several times in various ways was, Why do buyers think they are giving sellers a complimentary rating when leaving a DSR of 4 when sellers in fact must keep a rating of 4.3 or higher? The DSR-related questions came from established sellers and newbies alike.
Bernard of Washington State, a Platinum PowerSeller with 100% positive feedback, spoke about the Shipping time DSR. "A number of us sellers are getting 4 stars, because a buyer thinks that "quickly" is a heck of a compliment, but the numeric is a negative."
David of Mount Pleasant, Texas, said the DSRs are more subjective than objective. Marie, also from Washington and a PowerSeller for close to 10 years, said DSR was a good system, but the current verbiage creates problems for sellers. While her ratings were high, she said she mentors new sellers - "It's a constant problem for them," she said. "It's not the system, but the verbiage."
A seller named Dan said he began selling on eBay in September due to employment changes. "I'm wondering if I should continue my business on eBay." He said he believed having buyers rate sellers on shipping time and cost was "insane" since it was out of sellers' control, and that buyers knew shipping costs ahead of time. He also said that buyers may be unaware that leaving a 3 or 4 could seriously harm a seller, stating that before he started selling, he would leave sellers ratings of 3 or 4 stars, thinking he was giving them satisfactory or good ratings.
Gail from Lexington, South Carolina took issue when an eBay manager told a previous caller to "take what you read on the discussion board with a grain of salt." (Brian Burke explained that he said it because he didn't want the caller to worry about something that was not impacting him.)
Sellers were also concerned about changes to the Seller Dashboard that displayed red bars when sellers' performance dipped. Jim (Griff) Griffith said he had heard this complaint a lot, and suggested making the bars a different color. eBay manager Kristina Klausen mentioned it was too late for any such changes to go into the next rollout.
Klausen revealed that sellers would be able to gain visibility into DSR scores through reporting capabilities scheduled for the next rollout. Sellers will be able to run reports for different types of items, will be able to compare international and domestic DSRs, will be able to compare items with free shipping with those with shipping charges, and will be able to create custom reports by entering item IDs.
eBay managers read a letter from a reader who critiqued PayPal's new notification emails, saying the font is hard to read and that PayPal eliminated the clickable link to the item description, causing him more work. (You can read more about the changes on the AuctionBytes Blog.)
eBay also addressed a question about whether it would add the ability for buyers to put items into a shopping basket that would show combined shipping costs before committing to buy. Sarah, who's in charge of eBay's top seller program, said eBay is looking to add it in late 2009 or early 2010. "It's a huge project, it's very, very complex. And so when we do it, we want to do it right." She added, "It's pretty critical we come up with this solution."
Tabbatha from Houston asked how to get notifications for listing promotions, and a seller named David emailed asking about eBay's paperless payments policy and why some sellers were still advertising checks and money orders on their listings. A seller from Charlotte asked why he was able to receive a negative feedback from a buyer who hadn't paid for his item. Nathan asked if eBay would consider adding a vacation setting to Good Til Canceled BIN listings (eBay is looking at this), and OTC asked why the member-written Guides were no longer pushing traffic to sellers' listings. Rich from Illinois asked if eBay would hold live Town Hall meetings around the country.
Backyard Collector emailed the question, When was eBay going to update the shipping capabilities to support the new USPS flat-rate boxes? (An eBay manager said eBay supports them in the listing flow, but not in the label flows on PayPal. It's coming in the second quarter - April/May/June period.)
Eugene sent an email saying his account manager told him that buyers could use PayPal to pay for items in eBay's Adults Only category. eBay confirmed that was correct (see this story).
Art from Columbia, South Carolina asked why it was so difficult for sellers to find the new reporting hub. Brian Burke said eBay had introduced it last May as a one-stop place to report problems. You can find it via the Help pages and there are links "Report a Problem" on the page where you leave Feedback.
Stu from My Grannys Basement asked why PayPal couldn't fix inconsistencies in addresses before sending it to sellers, who then had to fix the address. Rich Matsuura said he loved the suggestion and said PayPal needed to move to a better address validation process at checkout.
Amber from Quincy, California, said she sells internationally in media categories, and the shipping caps on the UK and Australia eBay sites really hurt her business. And Rob emailed a question asking what eBay thought of Scot Wingo's suggestions to fix eBay.
The remaining questions all centered around feedback and DSRs.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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