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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.