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Improving eBay DSR’s – A Personal Account

eBay Detailed Seller Ratings Card  - DSR'sThey’re eBays version of your school report card and every time a buyer leaves you a feedback comment, eBay asks them to leave a survey on your performance as a seller. I am of course referring to the “eBay Detailed Seller Ratings”.

The following is a guest post from Pete Moran who has documented his struggle, successes & strategery in turning the eBay DSR’s to his advantage.

All successful eBay sellers will highlight the importance of keeping your Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR’s) as high as possible. Not only does it give buyers confidence you do as expected but also allows access to the eBay powerseller and Top Rated Seller program which if you are serious about eBay you need to be in.

However for those relatively new to eBay or just starting out as you scale your business you may notice that your DSR’s start well but then gradually slip as the number of transactions grow.

This is exactly what happened to my business and the following article describes what I did about it.

 

Our Background

Our business was never planned, my wife started selling our unused brick-a-brack at car boot sales as so many of us do.  However, she took it the step further and started buying really nice vintage and retro items from other people’s car boots and selling it for a profit at her own.

“Our business was never planned”

Pretty soon she graduated to buying at car boots, auctions and a wide variety of other sources and selling part time on eBay.  Although still modest sales the business showed promise and she quickly (within 3 months) became a PowerSeller and then a Top Rated Seller!

With these honourable titles business accelerated and what started as a hobby became a full-time job.  I joined my wife in April of this year as a family business with the intent to making a decent living doing something we both enjoy.

The Problem

When taking a business from a part time hobby to something more substantial, growing pains are inevitable, we started to see our DSR’s once 4.9’s drop to 4.8’s and then our postage and packaging charge DSR went to 4.7.

What did we do wrong?

Simply we didn’t have a strategy to ensure our DSR’s remained high and it was starting to show.

Reading through the eBay forum’s many people had been contacted by eBay as their DSR’s approached 4.7/4.6 with stern warnings they were not living up to the high standards expected of sellers.  It became clear that if we dropped to 4.6 there was a high likelihood we would lose our eTRS (that’s the top-rated seller status) and our sales would suffer…we needed to react and fast.

The Postmortem

“The first step in turning around our degrading DSR problem was to actually accept we had a problem”

The first step in turning around our degrading DSR problem was to actually accept we had a problem, we had not changed the way we had worked so the issue was just becoming more apparent as we scaled.

We were fortunate enough to convince Matt Ogborne to give us an hour of his time in which we gleaned some invaluable tips! He ran through each of our DSR’s and questioned how well we were doing with them, what was impacting them and what the customer thought was important.

How accurate was the item description?
eBay DSR - Item As Described 

Selling second hand goods means that unlike goods where you can take photo’s, write titles and descriptions once and sell multiple times – every item (which equals one sale) needs photographs, a good title and description.

We had been fortunate that this DSR has remained steady, we had always ensured there were several photographs of each item, especially highlighting any defects and this combined with a precise description has left us in good shape.

How satisfied were you with the seller’s communication?
eBay DSR - Communication 

We had left communication entirely to eBay – that is to say we never personalised any emails, we did not give thank you notes or inform the customer of delivery times.

eBay does a great job of automating the standard communication, but it is the most basic level of communication and could be greatly improved upon.

How quickly did the seller dispatch the item?
eBay DSR - Dispatch Time 

“we still had some hangovers from how we worked before”

As this had evolved from a hobby, we still had some hangovers from how we worked before.  On our listings we would specify we would post within 3 working days, and often it would take that long as we would wait for a number of sales before packaging and dispatching in one go.  This was of course more convenient for us, but not convenient for the buyers.

Matt rightly pointed out that buyers expect you to dispatch fast and even though you may specify how long you expect dispatch to take, ultimately if the buyer feels you are dispatching too slow then you are dispatching too slow.

How reasonable were the postage and packaging charges?
eBay DSR - Postage and packaging Charges 

This was and still is the hardest DSR to get *right* the buyer is unlikely to know the true cost of postage and packaging, many think it is just the cost of the actual postage and not to take into account the time it takes to package, the cost of material it takes to keep it safe, trips to the post office etc.

We sell some delicate and bulky items, antique porcelain needs to be packed very carefully in a lot of protective layers, boxed and sent.  This is not only highly time consuming but the costs can be significant.

Many eBay businesses offer free postage and packaging to effectively remove this DSR from a rating, we unfortunately could not do so without making a loss so we needed to find another strategy.

The Strategy

So we understood where we were going wrong, now it was time to get to work to turn around our DSR’s before our business suffered.  Making use of Matt’s suggestions as well as some idea’s of our own we devised a strategy to improve our DSR’s as quickly as possible.

The aim of our strategy is simple:

“to ensure that every one of our customers receives the best possible service from us, above and beyond what they expect from buying online“

We are human beings, and it’s much easier to offer lower ratings to a business or person who has offered mediocre service than to a business who even if in some cases may fail, makes up with it in willingness to please.

So with this in mind we worked on improving our overall service to ensure that every one of our customers felt as special and valued as they are!

The Friendly Seller

Accomplishing this started at the very first contact with a customer, which in some cases if they ask a question about an item or perhaps when they have made a sale.

“an extremely polite and friendly manner”

In every communication we try to answer as fast as possible in an extremely polite and friendly manner.  By acting like people rather than just a business in many cases we quickly build a rapport with our customers which instantly makes it harder for a customer to rate in anything but 5’s.

Keeping the customer informed

The second part of this enhanced communication strategy is to keep the customer informed at every stage above and beyond the automated eBay messages.

“keep the customer informed at every stage above and beyond the automated eBay messages”

If a courier is needed when booked we inform the customer that it has been booked, when it will be picked up and the estimated delivery date.  When it is dispatched we mark it as dispatched on eBay and then send a note letting them know that it has been dispatched.  Similarly with Royal Mail, if you organise your postage via PayPal the item is marked as dispatched once the postage label has been printed.

We also drop a short note letting them know it has actually been posted and when it is expected to arrive.  This level of communication not only ensures that the communication DSR is well serviced but also highlights that you care which again makes it harder for a buyer to rate another DSR lower.

Dispatching Fast

We made a decision to dispatch the same working day for any orders before 1pm, as a small company of just two this can sometimes be difficult to manage but so far we have made it work.  The fact we dispatch so fast means our dispatch DSR is back on the up!

Delighting the Customer

When we have bought something online (assuming it is something more fun than practical) there is a certain anticipation when waiting for it to arrive.

This can be used to the wise sellers advantage in a few simple ways, Matt again gave some great ideas around this which we have implemented to a great effect.

These are just some steps we have taken:

  1. The Customers Perception of Time
    If an item is sent 1st class post in most cases the item should arrive the next day, in our message to say it has been dispatched we always indicate it is most likely arrive the day after it should arrive e.g. if it was sent on a Monday we say it should arrive by Wednesday when really we expect it to arrive by Tuesday.If it arrives on the Tuesday we have secretly earned some brownie points that it arrived earlier than specified and if it didn’t and arrived the day after, we were on time. Win-Win.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the received package
    We make every parcel as beautiful as possible – initially as we often send larger items we would use reclaimed boxes to put our items in and then add the postage label.  Someone receiving a re-used crisp box did not have a great perception of us as a company.So we worked on our packaging, every item is first wrapped in a beautiful tissue paper before going through its ‘protective coating’.We still in some cases use second hand boxes but every time we cover with brown parcel paper so that the first opinion is always a good one!
  3. The small barrier of tape
    We ensure it takes that little bit of extra effort to unwrap the item at the final stage, in our final bubble wrap layer just using that extra bit of tape which takes a moment longer to open builds anticipation!
  4. Getting Personal
    We include a personalized “thank you” letter with every item, this is an important part which has multiple effects.  Firstly it gives you the opportunity to reinforce the rapport with the customer which was started in earlier communications. It offers the opportunity to cross sell some of your other products (but do so carefully should not turn into a sales letter) and finally you can gently thank them in advance for leaving positive feedback.Many times we have been thanked for the letter, it makes the transaction that little bit more personal.
  5. Sweets, they always work
    We also include a simple ‘lolly’ with every parcel which is mentioned in the letter as a ‘thank you’ gift.  Whilst this small step does add a cost to each parcel it once again indicates to the customer they and their business is important.Matt’s comment: I love sweeties, try it it works amazingly well!

Dealing with problems

It doesn’t matter how much you try – things are going to go wrong, items lost in the post, damaged items or a customer feels that something is not as described.

“things are going to go wrong”

In our case as we have already made such an effort to build a relationship with the customer it makes it easier to resolve.  In all cases so far customers have contacted us when something has gone wrong and we have listened and resolved the problems quickly and most importantly without taking it personally.

Even when things do go wrong it’s an opportunity to build trust with a customer, in most cases so far customers have not only been happy with the outcome but also have bought from us again!

Monitoring DSR’s

If you have an eBay shop eBay provides reports which allows you to monitor your DSR’s, you can navigate to the reports as below :~

Home > My eBay > My Account > Seller Dashboard > Your reports

eBay Top Rated Seller Dashboard

In these reports you can specify a date range and a geographical area, if you use this report regularly (weekly, monthly or keep a running log) you can easily see how your DSR’s are doing.

Since implementing our strategy we have kept a running log of DSR’s every couple of days I run a report for the last few days to see how customers are rating us.  It allows me to quickly see if the strategy is working, which generally it is.

Conclusion

Do we have straight 5 DSR’s? The honest answer is no, we still get the occasional 4 and the even less occasional 3 but these are by far the exception rather than the rule.

“by taking our DSR bull by the horns we have had lots of other positive side effects”

However by taking our DSR bull by the horns we have had lots of other positive side effects, we have needed and learnt to be more efficient and organised especially around communication and dispatch.

“Customers are increasingly thanking us for our letter and lolly and recommending us to their friends”

Customers are increasingly thanking us for our letter and lolly and recommending us to their friends. We have repeat business which is the best kind of business and our feedback has gone from the boring ‘great ebayer’ to really genuine nice and kind compliments.  All in all it has made our business better in every possible way.

About Pete Moran

Pete MoranThis was a guest post by Pete Moran.

Pete is a technologist and entrepreneur, most recently selling funky vintage & retro homeware on his websitemodetro.com and his eBay store in partnership with his wife.

 

 

Your Feedback!

A week or so ago I got an email, “Matt the lolly’s are working” it exclaimed “and I’ve done a lot more too, it’s working!“.  Pete really did take the suggestions to heart, it was over a month ago we spoke on the phone. Pete crucially took action and has shared his experiences so far with us, this leaves us with this question:

What could you use from Pete’s suggestions to help your DSR’s on eBay?

Let us know in the comments box below.

How to Beat eBay DSR’s – Use Positive Psychology with the Customer

I was reading an excellent post by Chris Dawson on Tamebay regarding the flaw in the eBay iPhone & iPad Apps where sellers can be rated for shipping on items that have free shipping and by their[eBay’s] own design, sellers whom offer free shipping are exempt from being rated & automatically receive a 5 star rating on this aspect.

You can read the full article here eBay DSRs: Are you rated on dispatch or delivery time?. It reminded me of a simple tactic I used employ, which I’ll share with you in this article.

I’ve held off and releasing this article for a Friday, so you can ponder it, get to grips with the concept and let your orders back-up over potentially three days of orders and let rip this beauty on Tuesday, then watch the instantaneous results.

Knowing the Rules

Firstly knowing the rules and how to leverage them is just one part. By offering free shipping, you are immediately incur five stars for DSR rating for ‘Postage and packaging charges’ (although, from the Tamebay article, obviously eBay need to work on this a little for their Apps).

You can see the help page on eBay for the DSR’s here and I have quoted the interesting part:

If you provide free postage, buyers will see a note when they are rating your postage & packaging charges that a 5-star rating is appropriate

Not forgetting this exit too:

No detailed seller rating can be given for local pick up items

Did you know the latter one? I had forgotten, a neat exit point. Offering free shipping and offering pick ups for orders can be two variables worth experimenting with.

The Despatch Process

You most likely contact buyers them when they buy, pay (as for eBay the paying part is not always immediate) and when you ship their order.

Notifying a buyer you’ve received their order and their cash, that you value you them, the order is not in some black hole, have reassured the customer that you’re dealing with the order is great and is an important part of the despatch process, even eBay’s SMP (Selling Manager Pro) does this rather well.

You should do everything you can, to work out a process or employ software that makes the despatch process the most efficient possible, however my questions is, why leave yourself open to the lag of delivery?

Lets bend the perception of time in our favour, after all, we are the time keeper in this process. I’m suggesting while you may have a rapid despatch process, the latter part of the process can be tinkered with, in your favour.

Didn’t you mention positive psychology?

For this you need to use positive psychology with your customer. Let me spell this out in simple words as some might not get this:

Mark your orders as despatched the day AFTER you despatched the order.

Yes that’s right, instead of eagerly marking orders as despatched, flag them as despatched instead and here is the key, then the following morning, mark them off as being despatched.

The automatic despatch email will kick in and the customer will be notified that the order has been despatched.

Imagine your sat your desk and receive the email from company XYZ. The order you made yesterday has been despatched. Sweet. The paradox is later this afternoon it arrives. Has that not exceeded ones set expectations of tomorrow? Have we just warped time in the eyes of the customer?

time-warp-spiral-colck-face

Its all about how time is perceived

If you’re using a slower services say 2nd class or may be a 48hr courier rather than a 24hr courier as your default courier service (I am ignoring any courier rules you may have in operation, for where orders match criteria their courier service alters, eg an order over £20 goes to recorded and so on…) then by marking the orders shipped as a day late, then you’ve already won a day back from the slower courier service. Essentially the 48hr courier service is now a 24hr service.

Note: You should be offering more than one service, gaining sweet upgrades on courier services, people will choose these if its perecived to be faster.

Does it Work?

I know this works because I used to employ this tactic myself. Amusingly my partner just entered my office and asked what I was writing, I explained the article and she giggled. She remembered reading the feedback comments on eBay, where people were leaving comments like ‘I got my item before the despatch email A++++’.

This is also why I have saved this article till today (a Friday), because if you let Saturday, Sundays AND Mondays orders backup (processing them and actually despatching them of course) but marking them as despatched in your back-end system on Tuesday.

So customers receive notifications that their order has been despatched, but the likely-hood is, that their order is going to be with them that day. Quite a paradox.

Try it, for one day

First we reassure customers that we have their order and their money, this is the customers major concern, if they know the company has got their order and is processing it, they feel reassured. So for this I am assuming you have set up automatic notifications that let customers know that you have received their order (and payment if its separate, like on eBay for non immediate payment listings).

Flag your orders for that day and despatch them as normal, however do not despatch them until at least 9am the next day, as we have the weekend tomorrow(this article was posted on a Friday), you should have lots of orders to prove this with. Then on Tuesday, mark them as despatched, even though they left on Monday.

Say you used a 48hr courier service, we just switched it into a 24hr courier service, even better if you used a 24hr service, this shocks the customer because at 9:34 they get an email to say their order has been despatched and at around lunch time, the posty stuffs it through the door.

Deploying this in Real Life

An interesting point raised when running a draft copy across some peers, was in eBay’s Selling Manager Pro (SMP) it would be a waste of time adding the tracking number one day and the next having to go in and marking it as despatched separately. I checked this on one of the eBay seller accounts this morning who had SMP and saw while this is not totally correct, you can add a tracking number and just save it, although not marking it as despatched at the same time would be be rather silly. I think that was possibly his point :)

I have strong beliefs, one of the core ones is that to be manually doing any task that can be automated by either paid-for software or even free software, is categorically not the best use of ones time.

I did at first consider writing an iMacro to automate this task, that worked from a CSV file that would automate the input of tracking numbers and then marking them as despatched, I’d have this working in a few minutes. But there is no need, with eBay’s File Exchange you can do this using their despatch template at the bottom of this page.

For more advanced tools such as eSellerPro, Channel Advisor, 247 Top Seller or similar, most of these have flags in their sales order processing section which can be used to mark batches of orders.

It was also suggested (twice) that this may be of benefit to businesses that generally offer a poorer service or elect a cheaper, slower service. Yes, this would give such sellers an advantage, especially for media products were margins are extremely tight, using such a tactic as explained in this article would give a business the appearance of giving a higher service than they actually achieve, but keeping overheads to a minimum.

How much saving would you make, if you shipped everything you are currently sending via 24hr courier, to a 48hour courier, if it had no negative effect to customer satisfaction?

If you are already despatching orders within really good time frames, buy yourself an extra days grace and that that 4.7 DSR rating to 4.8 or 4.9. As I pointed out in an earlier article, the eBay Top Rated Seller status can be easily abused and you need every advantage you have to ensure you keep it, as it pretty much guarantees you 20% extra sales volume.

Your Feedback

Try it for two days and see if you see the difference in the responses from customers, it worked for me, it can work for you too, ‘Time Lord’.