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Understanding Detailed Seller Ratings

Seller ratings move beyond mere positives and negatives

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Understanding Detailed Seller Ratings

Detailed seller ratings affect not just buyers' opinions, but search ranking and Power Seller status as well.

Image: Aron Hsiao
eBay's traditional feedback system has always been one of its crown jewels. Endlessly imitated, it remains one of the best ways to ensure buyer and seller satisfaction in the e-commerce world. In response to years of urging from analysts and members, however, today every regular seller on eBay is also listed with a detailed seller rating (DSR) in addition to his or her feedback score. The detailed rating consists of a one- through five-star score (one being worst, five being best) in each of several categories:

  • Accuracy of the item description

  • Seller communication

  • Shipping speed

  • Shipping and handling charges

Detailed ratings appear in a seller's feedback profile once he or she has earned at least ten (10) detailed ratings in the last 12 months, and are calculated as a simple average along each metric.

From the Seller's Perspective

The most critical and immediate impact of the detailed seller rating system is the fact that it significantly affects a seller's best match ranking. A tiny drop in detailed seller ratings (falling below 4.2 in any category, for example) can effectively send bidding and buying numbers into a tailspin. Participants in the power seller program will find themselves removed from the program if their DSRs fall below 4.5.

If as a seller your first impulse at the thought of these detailed ratings is to be annoyed or nervous about them, pull up your socks, straighten out your logistics, and provide better customer service. Truly top sellers should rejoice at the existence of DSRs, since they provide a way for top sellers to be rewarded for great customer service, rising to the top of search results and thereby earning more sales.

As an eBay seller, it's now simply good business to make it your goal to provide excellent customer service in these areas. Specifically, you should:

  • List items with helpful descriptions. Be sure to provide detailed item descriptions complete with at least one but preferably several photos. Spend time on item condition, item features, item limitations, and terms and conditions of the sale (don't leave this last one out).

  • Make yourself available to respond to email and/or phone calls. For a certain group of eBay sellers, this one will be very difficult—it sometimes seems as though some sellers enter the eBay business precisely because they think it gives them a way to avoid having to deal directly with customers as living, breathing humans. With the advent of detailed ratings, however, your communication skills may begin to figure into your market share. List contact information in your item descriptions. Respond to email and/or answer your telephone. Quickly. It's as simple as that.

  • Ship on time. Before you begin to fret about having to ship every purchase on the same day (although this would be ideal from the customer's perspective, no doubt), keep in mind that it's much easier for customers to see shipping lag times as “normal” rather than as “worrying delays” if you simply mention your shipping schedule in your item listing. Give your customers some idea about when you'll ship, how you'll ship, and when items should arrive. Put this information in your item listing.

  • Avoid overcharging for shipping. Listing items with excessive shipping costs is already against eBay rules and can get you into trouble if you do it routinely. It's also bad for business, since many customers don't anticipate huge shipping costs and/or don't believe them when they see them before they bid. Now that detailed ratings are around, if you're charging overnight bubble-wrapped shipping rates, you'd better not be delivering via four-weeks-by-sea using old socks and newspaper as packing material.

Above and beyond all else, use your common sense and as always, make it your business to get your customers' good ratings. Mention detailed seller ratings in your item listings and say that you're determined to earn the best ratings possible from your customers. Not only will it be increasingly good for first-time sales as detailed ratings become more widely known and used, it's also good for repeat business, since good detailed ratings essentially mean that your customers are satisfied with their purchase.

From the Buyer's Perspective

If you find eBay's basic feedback system to be too restrictive, detailed seller ratings give you another weapon with which to ensure that sellers provide the level of customer service you demand.

Before leaving a detailed rating, however, keep in mind that anything other than five stars does actually penalize the seller in question, causing them to fall in search results and reducing their ability to sell. It's best, therefore, to give full marks to any seller with whom you're generally satisfied, and to reserve less-than-five-star ratings for sellers you're truly upset with and would like to see restricted on eBay.

To leave a detailed feedback rating, follow these steps:

  1. Proceed to leave feedback as you normally would.

  2. Check “Positive,” “Negative,” or “Neutral” as you always have, in order to provide an overall rating for the seller. When you do this, the list of detailed ratings metrics will appear below the text box into which you type your feedback comments.

  3. Click on stars next to each metric to rate the seller relative to that metric. For example, if the seller in question has particularly good communications skills and practices, click on the fifth star (from left to right) for the sellers' ability or willingness to communicate.
Note that detailed feedback doesn't just give you a way to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with sellers—it also gives you as a buyer a better way to evaluate sellers' performance(s) and to match them to your own needs. Need a package quickly? Don't buy from a seller with a poor ship time rating, even if he or she promises overnight shipping. Expect to need tech support for the item you're buying? Don't buy from a seller with a poor communication rating.

You'll soon find that you can use detailed seller ratings to select sellers in such a way as to ensure that you are happy with a transaction.

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