The eBay boards and social media were buzzing yesterday about the eBay Spring Seller 2014 Update. Many sellers are unnecessarily jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. I had the privilege of speaking to Lynda Talgo, VP of Global Managed Marketplaces at eBay to clarify some of the changes and gain some insight on why the changes are being made.
According to Talgo, eBay has designed a new seller evaluation system to improve the buyer's experience and reward sellers who correctly follow eBay policies and procedures. eBay has done extensive research about buyer purchasing activity and is using this data to improve the buyer's experience and help sellers succeed. They've been studying the things that are driving buyers to spend more money and the things buyers care the most about. eBay wants to reward Top Rated Sellers so their businesses can grow faster.
eBay has been working on developing tools so sellers are better equipped to work with buyers, make more sales, and improve the buyer experience. eBay is giving sellers several months (until the August 20 evaluation) to get things in place to meet the new requirements for TRS. One excellent piece of news - eBay is working on "transaction level insight to what transaction causes problems with DSRs." For example, sellers who have all positive feedback, but are dinged on DSRs for item description. Sellers will be able to see what transaction caused the problem. (eBay is still working on how to provide this information to sellers so that they can improve, but allow the buyer's identity to be protected for obvious reasons because buyer honesty is crucial to a successful marketplace.) Right, now sellers are left scratching their heads when this happens and wondering where they went wrong.
One issue that is causing much confusion in the eBay community is "Seller-cancelled Transactions." Many sellers have reacted with statements about abandoning customer service if they will be penalized for agreeing with a buyer to cancel a transaction. According to Talgo, the reason eBay wants to discourage sellers from cancelling transactions has nothing to do with the buyer initiating the cancellation. eBay knows that some sellers cross-post their items on multiple sites or have their eBay inventory on the sales floor in a brick and mortar. eBay wants to discourage "habitual cancelers" from running their business this way because it isn't fair to buyers.
Too many buyers are encountering sellers who have a single item, cross post it on Etsy, Amazon, Bonanza, Ruby Lane, Craigslist, or have it on the sales floor in their brick and mortar shop - then cancel the transaction with an eBay buyer when the item sells elsewhere. eBay wants to be the preferred marketplace, not an afterthought for sellers who have a presence on multiple sites or a physical business and throw things up on eBay to see what happens. eBay wants to be the first choice as a selling platform and wants sellers to be committed to following through with transactions.
If a buyer messages a seller with a cancel request, there will be a form of some kind (boxes to check) about why they want to cancel - changed mind, purchased by mistake, etc.This type of buyer-initiated cancellation will not count against the seller. The new policy is intended for sellers who habitually pull the rug out from under buyers because they have items cross-posted, frequently run out of stock, or otherwise have a pattern of backing out on buyers.
Insights from eBay Execs:
eBay feels that customer satisfaction is paramount to success.
eBay wants to create a more trusted shopping experience for the buyer.
eBay plans to reward its best sellers with more visibility which leads to more sales.
eBay has a commitment to helping sellers (of any size) succeed.
eBay wants to help sellers meet the buyers expectations.
There is much discussion in the eBay community that the standards for Top Rated Seller are too stringent or impossible to achieve. Sellers are complaining that they can't (or won't) do what is being asked to achieve TRS. Not everyone is cut out to be a Top Rated Seller - if it were easy and everyone could do it, there would be no distinction between a mediocre seller and a Top Rated Seller. What used to be going above and beyond years ago is now expected by buyers.
The bottom line is this - you will have to work hard and go above and beyond to achieve TRS status. A "Top Rated Seller" is the best of the best and it will take work, dedication, and a commitment to excellence to become and stay a Top Rated Seller. eBay is not out to get the small seller, eBay is not evil. They simply want to provide an outstanding marketplace for consumers where satisfied buyers will return again and again.
eBay will be holding a series of Town Hall Meetings for the purpose of discussing these upcoming changes. Register to attend here.