I’ve been pretty good about not commenting too much on eBay-related topics in the press over the past year.
Since I left eBay in May 2007, I’ve tried to be careful here on this blog with regards to eBay. It’s hard sometimes, when you read a column online that is wildly off base, to not want to jump in and “set the record straight”. Of course, when you work for the company, you tend not to do this because it’s hard to separate a personal rebuttal from an official company response. Ironically, when you leave the company, you also really aren’t free to respond, because it now isn’t your place to fight those battles.
I read an article this week, on Auctionbytes, about the new Detailed Seller Ratings and the relatively low ranking of the Top 25 eBay Sellers, and I felt I had to comment.
In case you are unfamilar, eBay rolled out new “Detailed Seller Rankings” to their feedback page last year, in one of the biggest enhancements to the feedback system since it’s debut. These detailed ratings allow buyers to rate sellers on four additional dimensions, from 1-5:
- Item as described
- Shipping time
- Shipping & Handling charges
Seems like an obvious improvement to most buyers. However, no part of the eBay ecosystem is simple to modify, and there has been considerable angst and discussion among top sellers about this new improvement.
I’m not going to get into the debate and issues that sellers have raised with the new system. I’m not an expert on the system, and I haven’t read all the arguments in detail. The fact is, the original feedback system did not gather any structured data about the end-to-end service offered by eBay sellers, and this system is definitely a first step in attempting to gather that data. For a company that wants to focus on a great buyer experience, this is absolutely necessary.
Instead, I want to comment on the article, largely because of its conclusion:
A study of eBay’s top sellers reveals they rank poorly in terms of the detailed ratings left anonymously by their customers, with most falling in the bottom 25 percent of all sellers for such ratings.
… It’s troublesome to see that eBay’s top sellers perform poorly with DSRs, and AuctionBytes believes the data indicates eBay needs to reevaluate the new rating system and reconsider its decision to use DSRs to punish and disadvantage sellers. It should also provide much more information about the results – on an ongoing basis – so sellers have a better understanding of how the new system is affecting purchasing decisions and sales.
(BTW The article looks at the Top 500 sellers, according to Nortica.)
Fundamentally, I agree with this line:
It’s troublesome to see that eBay’s top sellers perform poorly with DSRs
But I disagree with the resulting conclusion:
AuctionBytes believes the data indicates eBay needs to reevaluate the new rating system.
In response to this, let me ask the following question:
What if the top sellers on eBay, as measured by feedback score and/or sales volume, actually are not offering the best customer experience to buyers?
Too often at eBay, I would see these two things confused together. There was an assumption that the top sellers, always measured by GMV (gross merchandise volume) or Feedback score got that way by being the best for the end customer, the buyers. However, in order to believe this, you have to believe that you can only build GMV and Feedback with a great customer experience. What if that’s not true?
What if the DSRs are telling us that eBay’s “top sellers” are actually offering buyers a below average customer experience?
Well, I’m a just an eBay seller now myself. I don’t do huge volume, but I have almost 800 feedback, and I flirt constantly with being a bronze PowerSeller. I have an eBay Store, and I use eBay’s Selling Manager.
My DSRs to date are (based on 81 sales with ratings):
- Item as described: 4.9
- Communication: 4.9
- Shipping time: 4.9
- Shipping and handling charges: 4.7
So it looks like I’m in the Top 25% of buyer experience on these ratings (well, above median for S&H).
What if these DSR’s are saying that buyers have a better experience buying from me than when they buy from one of the eBay Top 500 sellers?