Posted Thursday, February 3, 2005
Over the years, I have been amazed at the "blinding" greed and reckless approach to commerce that some business owners have employed. Lying to customers, selling inferior merchandise, and not offering refunds, left a firestorm of irate customers in their wake. Without fail, all of this "ill will" led most businesses to bankruptcy, and in some cases, Federal Prison.
I realize that not everyone engages in "business criminality" that rises to the level of fraud and incarceration. Most people try to be good stewards, and approach their enterprise in an honest and forthright manner. For those of you who own thriving business concerns you already know that in most cases the customer is always right. You make sure that you communicate effectively, refund monies if the buyer is truly unhappy, and try to meet the needs of the people who buy your goods or services.
However, there are more than a handful of Ebay sellers that are of the mind that customer service and effective communication is not something that they need not participate in. Take the case of a woman named Barbara, (Nickname: BobAnn) who recently posted her disappointment on the Ryze Business Network:
Barbara Cerda wrote:
"When will sellers on Ebay understand that customer service is key? And when will Ebay sellers learn using customer friendly approaches can only make their business grow?" Again today I've bought from a less than friendly seller.
Thought I was placing a bid and instead bought the item at the buy now price. Of course the seller refused to allow the retraction, nor was I allowed to place a bid. I always pay for my winning bids immediately upon email confirmation.
And did so in this case. But it would have been customer friendlier for this seller to accept my retraction to be replaced with a bid. He would have gotten repeat business from me and my friends. His "Buy Now" price is 30% over the retail price for this item. Lesson learned by me again - that there are way too many sellers on Ebay out to grab a buck and the hell with fair practice.
Lesson learned yet again."
The operative phrase here is "repeat business from me and my friends". There is no better endorsement of your product or service than word of mouth advertising. Lack of flexibility on the part of the seller, not only cost them one customer, but also destroyed the possibility for future business. Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster!
As an auction seller, (Ebay auction ID: LevelBest77) I would have accommodated her request right away. And while I have never had anyone use "Buy It Now" by accident, I have had several people over the years ask me to retract bids. The number of people who have made that request can be counted on one hand! Some, did not even understand the process, (bid retracting) and I was more than willing to guide them through it.
People make honest mistakes, and you should never "abuse" a buyer for doing so. If you plan to get into Ebay auction selling for the long haul, always practice good will toward your customers. Unless someone is totally unreasonable, and you have done everything in your power to accommodate their request, never deny people the ability to change their mind, return an item, or retract a bid! Developing good will also requires that you anticipate customer needs…..
For instance, I had a few overseas customers bid on a wireless router. This particular item needed to be powered with a Universal Adapter, since voltage requirements in France and Australia are obviously different from those here in the United States.
I made this abundantly clear to both bidders before they sent me any payment. The purchase of such an adapter, not to mention the shipping price, would have doubled the US retail cost. I told them that they could probably get the product cheaper at their local electronics stores. Without hesitation, I let them out of their obligation to pay for the item. I then contacted the next highest bidder and offered that person the chance to make the purchase.
Both bidders thanked me for my honesty. They had forgotten about the electrical differences. I could have ignored that little detail, and sold them the item anyway. I just had to put myself in their situation. Think of how frustrated they would have been if I did not reveal that information. Buyer’s remorse would have set in quickly, once they realized that they could have purchased the same item for a lot less in their native countries.
While the benefits of these actions may not have an immediate effect, you can be sure that should I ever have another "item of interest!" these two gentlemen would not hesitate to purchase from me. They can count on me to accommodate their needs, instead of catering to my wants. Creating this type of good will instills trust, and the knowledge that you have the customers best interest in mind.
"Me thinketh thou doth protest too much!
Do you accentuate the positive? Or, do you run on negativity? Negative Ebay feedback is a tool that everyone should use with restraint, or not at all. As a rule, I never leave negative feedback. Unless someone has blatantly lied about your product, or attacked you personally without merit, then I would not leave any feedback in the "minus" side of the isle!
"Flame" wars are not pretty. I have seen a lot of unnecessary back and forth "banter" that could have been avoided, if they (the seller) just resisted the urge to make their "two cents" known. Sometimes it gives customers the impression that you are more concerned about arguing, then conducting your business.
I have also witnessed seller feedback that has included some pretty foul language. Engaging in this type of verbal sparring is not much of a confidence builder either. It is more telling of what you are, then about revealing the sins of your customers. Don’t go out of your way to register a negative response if you can help it. Heed the sage advice that our Mother’s use to tell us: "If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!"
"What we have here is a failure to communicate!"
Communication with your customers should not amount to the sound one hand clapping! Bottom line, if someone e-mails you with a question--answer it! Here is an example of the type of feedback I obtained by doing just that……
"He was very Helpful and cooperative in answering questions. Follow-up: Will DEFINITELY use his services anytime he has items of interest! Great Seller!"
The gentlemen who left this positive review, wanted to know about some of the particulars of a "Mickey Mouse" clock I had up for auction. His wife is a collector of all things Disney, and thought it would be a nice surprise for her birthday. The clock, to say the least, was in sad shape. It was incapable of keeping time, and the only part of it in working order was the second hand. I thought for sure that he would be disappointed with the item despite full disclosure of all of it’s imperfections.
To my surprise, not only did I receive positive feedback, but he also told me that his wife absolutely loved it! In this instance, one man’s junk, truly, is another man’s treasure! I never thought this item was worthy of any praise! The time it took to answer his questions—all of five minutes!
I know that some of you will say that I am not being realistic. You just can’t answer e-mails all day; "I have a business to run!," you might proclaim. If you plan on making a living on Ebay, then you better think about hiring someone to help you answer your daily inquires if it is just too overwhelming. If you specialize in a particular product, set up a Frequently Asked Questions page to any Auto-Responder.
If you use Ebay on an infrequent basis, and have less than thirty listings a month, then you really don't have any excuse not to provide great customer service and e-mail communication. You shouldn’t be inundated with questions regarding that many items, unless the product you are selling is technical in nature.
If you ignore your customers, they will go away. Good customer service should be woven into the fabric of every good business. I cannot overemphasis the importance of this issue. I continue to be perplexed by the fact that it is last on the list of business priorities for some Ebay sellers!
Will good customer service and communication alone make you rich on Ebay? That would be a resounding "no". You will have to understand your market, and provide products that the Ebay community will bid on consistently. There will be "bidders & buyers" out there that will make mistakes and commit some auction sins! Forgive all Ebay sins and you will be rewarded with happy, repeat customers!
About the Author
Robert C. Potter is the author of "The Ultimate Guide To Products For Resale." Over 300 Wholesale & Surplus Supply Sources, For Ebay Auction Sellers, E-Commerce Websites, Flea Market Vendors, and Retail Store Owners! You can find his ebook here: (http://www.productsforresale.com)