1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Fundamentals of Customer Service on eBay

Twelve practices that can make or break you as an eBay seller


Fundamentals of Customer Service on eBay

It goes without saying that you always thank your customers for their business. But knowing how to turn that "thank you" into more than just words is where too many sellers fall down.

Image: ra2 studio / Fotolia

The eBay marketplace is a cutthroat place with lots of selling and lots of competition for each seller. eBay itself is notoriously fickle and at times harsh as well, with some sellers saying that they "live in fear" of getting dinged by negative feedback or detailed seller ratings and seeing their seller performance rating suffer as a result and/or losing their top-rated seller status.

In practice, there's one way to address all of these concerns on eBay, and it's to be that stand-out, spotless seller that buyers and eBay love. Not only do you eliminate your risk of running afoul of eBay, buyer protection, or your customers that way—you also drive sales, both by word of mouth and because good customer service chops tend to come through as customers read your listings.

Good Service Techniques are Rare, But They Can Be Learned

Unfortunately, as most buyers will quickly explain, not every seller really has a good grasp on what good customer service is. "You do your best, you win some, you lose some, you make a buck," right? Hardly. Good customer service is rare and prized by customers, which is why businesses that offer it tend to thrive and outperform competitors, even at higher price points. For those that struggle to figure out what good customer service looks like, here are some basic starting points to illustrate the concept.

  • Take customer service seriously. The first step in delivering stellar customer service is ridding yourself of the belief that the sale is the most important thing, and that once money changes hands the rest is just...the rest. Customer service is at least as important as, if not more important than, any sale that you make. Get yourself to believe this and the rest will come easily.
  • Respond promptly to customer contact. Letting your phone ring 8-10 times (much less not answering altogether) and waiting 2-3 days to respond to email inquiries from customers are no-nos. Set your office up and/or staff it so that you can answer the phone now. Make it a goal to reply to all email on the same business day that it was received; better yet, say this in your listing descriptions, and then deliver on it: "We respond to all email sent before 3:00 pm in our time zone on the same business day." Just being there to assure worried customers that there are real people on the other end of the line or email box is often the difference between a satisfied customer and an unsatisfied one.
  • Keep any promises you make or imply. In your listings and in your communication, do what you say. If you have no intention of doing it, then don't say it. Next-day means next-day. Accepting returns for a refund means accepting returns for a refund. Customers that believed something you said or implied only to find you trying to mitigate or weasel out of it later in order to press your advantage don't have any sympathy for "your position" as a seller. Instead, they simply feel had, and they're likely to tell eBay and everyone else about it.
  • Be pleasant and helpful. Even if nothing particular is on the line, or even if the person on the other end of the line is being rude, ridiculous, aggressive, or just plain mean, stay pleasant and helpful in your responses and outlook. Remember, you're the professional, no matter how frustrated you feel. Word gets around, especially when there's a feedback system in place.
  • Know your regular customers. Ever patronized a business that knew your name, whose owner would greet you when you walked in the door, or who would look out for your interests and proactively reach out to you if they had something on offer that they guessed you'd want? Were you fiercely loyal to that business? That can happen on eBay, too—assuming you've been paying attention enough to recognize when someone has bought from your four times in the last month. Keep a list. Don't miss out on sales or loyalty just because you weren't paying attention.
  • Let your customers know you. Sometimes new business owners imagine that acting "professionally" means appearing to be big and impersonal like a megacorporation. It doesn't. People have to patronize megacorporations; they don't have to patronize eBay sellers. Let them know who you are. Give your business some personality. Have an About Me page. Customize your eBay Store. Open up in your listings and communication. Tell your customers (without boring them by writing a novel) a bit about your business, your values, and why you are who you are. It will help them to remember you and your business and bring them back when it's time to buy again.

This is a start, but there still more to customer service than this, particularly as your eBay business grows. Read on for more tips and tips that increase as importance as you expand in size and volume.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.