18 Tips to Avoid eBay Negative Feedback
Updated by Online Business Hosting/Expert Brian T. Edmondson
Do you have negative feedback on eBay that you'd like to have removed? Or maybe you'd like to learn some tips to avoid negative feedback on eBay in the first place.
eBay's feedback system is a member-to-member evaluation system that greases the wheels of commerce at the giant online marketplace. To sellers, feedback is everything. When a seller has a high positive feedback rating, it signals to buyers that this seller can be trusted.
Additionally, eBay feedback is no longer just a +1 or -1 system. Every seller also has a Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) that consists of four criteria:
- Item as described
- Shipping time
- Shipping cost
Sellers with high DSRs enjoy certain strategic advantages. The most important is getting higher rankings on eBay's search results.
New Feedback, New Tactics for eBay Sellers
Previously, sellers could leave buyers negative ratings. This created a situation where both sides were afraid of the black mark on their accounts, so more positive ratings were given than were probably deserved. This artificially inflated everyone's ratings.
Now, under the new system, sellers cannot leave negative feedback for buyers.
So now that sellers can't withhold positive feedback for hostage, sellers are forced to earn those positive ratings.
3 Top Strategies for Improving Seller Feedback
- Before the transaction: Create product listings, store policies, and buyer expectations that lead to positive feedback.
- During and after the transaction: Good communication throughout the process is key to getting a glowing review.
- I got negative feedback! What to do if you do get a negative feedback.
Before a transaction is made, how you create your product listings and policies will affect your seller ratings.
Tip #1 - Very Clear Descriptions in Listings
Because buyers can't hold the product in their hands before they buy, they must have a high level of trust in you as the seller. Having very clear and detailed descriptions of what you're selling goes a long way towards establishing that trust.
The idea here is simple: give as much information as you can to the buyer. It sets up the right level of expectations from them, and gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of a competitor. Remember, one of the Detailed Sellers Ratings (DSRs) is "Item as Described". Basically, it means the accuracy of the listing.
- Don't say "new" unless the product is brand new. If your item is used, don't use the phrase "like new" -- a buyer may not read that carefully, and will get an unexpected surprise.
- If the product requires some installation, put up instructions (with pictures!) on the listing. Installation instructions give the buyer extra confidence that they're buying the product they're looking for.
Tip #2 - Use Lots of Sharp, Detailed Pictures
Without the benefit of being able to hold the product in their hands, turn it over, and ask questions of a sales clerk in person, online buyers only have your description and pictures to guide their purchase.
Multiple, high quality photos -- preferably of the actual item you will ship to the buyer -- can be that final impetus to click the "Buy" button.
Quick tips for great eBay pictures:
- Use multiple pictures from different angles. To save money on eBay listing fees (only the first picture hosted by eBay is free), you can buy cheap hosting and self-host your pictures.
- Don't use pictures of a similar, related item. When the buyer gets a product that doesn't match the picture on the listing (i.e., what they were expecting to get), that's a reasonable cause for negative feedback.
- Don't use the flash. Natural sunlight is the best light for pictures.
- Use the macro mode on your digital camera for ultra-closeup pictures that show the details shoppers crave.
Tip #3 - List Everything That's Included in the Shipment
If your product listing contains multiple pieces (or it comes with some accessories), have an easy-to-scan list of everything that will be included in the shipment.
Better still, open up a box and take a picture of all the included elements laid out nicely.
Important: If an accessory the buyer might expect to be included is not included, state that fact clearly on the listing.
(I once bought a printer that didn't include a toner cartridge. I felt like that a toner cartridge was an obvious part of the printer. It turned out be my fault because the listing did say the printer didn't include toner, as the seller patiently explained to me. But it would have been better if the notice was in big bolded print instead of a short non-descript sentence buried in the listing.)
Tip #4 - Use the Cheapest Shipping
This has another advantage as eBay's "Best Match" search system gives low shipping costs and sellers with higher ratings better placement in search results. Free shipping (being the cheapest you can get) has a Shipping cost is one of the 4 DSRs. Buyers like cheap shipping.
By the way, in your emails to the buyer, it's good to remind them that you gave them free shipping on their order. If they purchase a lot of items from different sellers on eBay, they may not remember that you gave them free shipping when they go to give you feedback.
Tip #5 - Have a Clear and Prominent Shipping Time Policy
Even if you're a small operation that doesn't ship out eBay orders daily, you can have a policy on all your listings that say "ships within 5 business days". It's an option when you create a new listing.
Use that field. Be honest.
It's okay that you only ship eBay orders once a week -- but tell buyers that, and make it prominent! Buyers tend to expect to have their shipment out the door within a few business hours, not days. (Amazon's efficient fulfillment process has spoiled internet shoppers.)
Even better, mention your time-to-ship grace period in the listing's description. The default eBay placement is buried in the bottom of the listing, and most buyers won't see it (but will still expect same-day shipping).
Tip #6 - Have an Easy Return Policy
It's better to accept returns and get a positive feedback from the buyer, than to never accept returns and have an unhappy buyer spew negative feedback about you all over the web.
If you have an eBay Store, create a page with details on your store policies. Link to it from the sidebar, and in every listing. Better yet, put your policies in every listing -- that's often the only one of your pages the buyer will see.
Return policy tips:
- Don't charge a restocking fee. Buyers hate that. Instead, have them split the cost of shipping with you.
- The fairest return policy is to have the buyer pay the return shipping. You pay for the shipping going out to them. If buyers return an item, you'll lose some money (to ship the product out), but you should more than make up for it in increased sales by having a nice, easy return policy.
Tip #7 - Talk, Talk, Talk to the Buyer
Even if you have bad news, it's better to tell the buyer than to keep them in suspense.
Backordered? Let them know you're backordered, and give them an ETA on when their order might be shipped out. If you miss the ETA, be sure to update the buyer. You can also throw in a freebie or reduced (or free) shipping to keep them happy.
Tip #8. Respond to Emails and Messages Quickly
Check your eBay messages, and respond as quickly as possible. Even if you don't know the answer immediately, or you have bad news, it's better to give a quick reply.
Worst case, you can just say "I got your message, I'm looking into it, expect to hear back in a few days." Your buyer will appreciate the reply.
It is ten times better (from the buyer's point of view) to know about bad news than to get no response at all. Don't you hate it when you send out an email and the recipient never responds? You know it's infuriating, so make sure your buyers never feel that way about you.
Tip #9. Include a Nice Letter in Your Shipment
Let the buyer know that you will work to resolve any problems they have. Encourage them to contact you first if they have any problems or questions. Be sure to include your customer service phone number or email address.
The idea is to show the buyer that...
- they're dealing with a real person, and
- to give them an easy way to work out a problem (instead of using the feedback form).
Tip #10 - Ask for Feedback, Both to eBay and to You
Instead of fearing your buyer's feedback (a sign that you're doing something wrong), welcome and encourage even more feedback.
Show that you really care about having happy customers, and your existing customers will appreciate it. They will even forgive small mistakes.
For example, you could include a self-addressed, stamped feedback postcard in every shipment. Or you could run a survey asking for help to improve your business. (SurveyMonkey.com is a good, free and low-cost Web based survey service.) Link to it from all your eBay listings and/or in emails to buyers.
These calls for feedback above and beyond the eBay feedback system shows that you really care about providing good customer service. And that leads to building buyer trust in your business.
Tip #11. Talk to the Buyer Before Canceling Unpaid Items
When a buyer commits to buying one of your eBay products, that transaction counts. That means both you and the buyer can leave feedback for each other, and you are charged the Final Value Fee for the purchase.
If the buyer never pays, however, you can get your fees refunded by eBay by filing an Unpaid Item Dispute. But don't just file it without talking to the buyer first! Contact the buyer and mutually agree to cancel the transaction. Only for completely unresponsive buyers (say, after 3 attempts to contact them) should you pursue the Unpaid Item Dispute course.
You don't want to incur a retaliatory negative feedback from the buyer without first trying to contact them.
Tip #12. Always Use a Shipment Tracking Number
Buyers want information. They want to know the status of their shipments.
UPS shipments track packages door-to-door. USPS uses a simpler system they call Delivery Confirmation. UPS provides more information, but it's more expensive as well.
Whichever shipping provider you choose, make sure you get a tracking number for shipments. More importantly, tell buyers what the tracking number is so they know when to expect their package.
Tip #13. Don't Leave Feedback Until You've Received Positive Feedback First
Even though sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers, if you haven't left feedback yet, the buyer will be more willing to contact you first for any problems.
Buyers want positive feedback too. If you've already left positive feedback, then the buyer has absolutely zero incentive to be a little forgiving when giving you your seller ratings.
Interested in a more "hands-free" business? Check out this article on How to Make Money with Affiliate Information Marketing.
Tip #14 - Refund Shipping or Give Some Other Freebie
If you anticipate any problems with the buyer, or sense that they're frustrated or unhappy, preempt their negative feedback by giving them free shipping. People love free shipping. It goes a long way towards pacifying angry buyers. It's especially handy for backordered shipments.
You could also give them some shwag, free samples, or a coupon for their next purchase.
Tip #15 - Fix the Problem and Get the Buyer to Change Their Feedback
A newly released eBay Feedback Revision process allows sellers to send a request to buyers who have left negative or neutral feedback.
You're limited to 5 requests per 1,000 feedback received.
When you submit a request for feedback revision, you will be presented with the following reasons to give the buyer plus a message box to provide a short explanation or note to the buyer.
- I resolved a problem the buyer had with this transaction
- The buyer confirmed that he or she had accidentally left the wrong Feedback
This new system is an update to the old "mutual feedback removal" feature that let sellers blackmail buyers into only leaving positive feedback, and inflated everyone's feedback ratings so much it rendered it meaningless.
Tip #16 - Respond to the Negative Feedback
Always respond to negative feedback. Especially if you can't get the buyer to change their mind.
But even if you think you can fix the problem and have the buyer change their feedback, it's a good idea to respond to the negative feedback quickly.
It lets you present your side of the story. You don't want to leave a negative feedback out there unresponded to. Shoppers will see it an assume the worst of you.
You can respond to negative feedback by going to My eBbay > Feedback > Feedback Forum > Reply to Feedback.
Be careful not to let it devolve into a public shouting match. That lowers your credibility a lot more than one negative feedback.
Tip #17 - Move on Quickly
Don't dwell too long on individual negative feedback. Your business is moving product. Do what you can to make the buyer happy. Respond to the negative feedback on your feedback profile, and move on.
The positive feedback will drown out the lone negative feedback. Especially if you've fixed the problem and responded to the feedback.
Tip #18 - Use the Block Bidder/Buyer List
If you've run across problem buyers (or sellers you've bought from and have left negative feedback), add them to your blocked bidder list.
This action prevents retaliatory bidding and future purchases that may be more trouble than they're worth.
If you are interested in making money on eBay, then you may want to consider selling T-shirts on the Internet as another source of online revenue.