I was chatting with an old friend of mine a few days and she was telling me all about how she just bought her very first item on eBay and how she loves the site now. She was basically trying to sell me on the idea of eBay and trying to encourage me to try shopping there as she was so pleased with her buying experience.

I think it only fair to mention that most of my friends from school and beyond haven’t a clue what I do for a living so this friend didn’t know that I had eBay, let alone that I am on the site as much as I am or that I have a blog about it. (One of my best friends since childhood has been known, when asked what I do for a living, to only reply, “You know she . . . works. . . ”) So this is not meant to ridicule my poor friend who had just “discovered” eBay and was trying to pass on a good thing to another friend, not having any clue that said friend was an eBay PowerSeller. But this was a really great moment for me to get a sense of the customer experience without the filter of insider knowledge like we all have.

The bulk of my friend’s praise was on shipping cost and time. She was excited that shipping costs were cheap (not free, thank god, otherwise I would have blown my cover and gone on a rant) and was especially excited because the item had gotten there, in her words, very quickly. They were both so great, in fact, that she has been doing nearly all her Christmas shopping on eBay.

As she was telling me this, something hit me. This was her first ever eBay experience and she was happily buying more on the site and, even better, doing word of mouth advertising and telling her other friends how great it was to buy on eBay all because she had a good experience. Now, this is not to say that there weren’t thousands of sellers out there giving a great customer service experience before Detailed Service Ratings. But with the introduction of DSRs, eBay has increased the likelihood that a buyer’s most recent experience will be a positive one. While my friend may have gotten cheap and fast shipping on her item before DSRs, DSRs greatly increased the possibility that her transaction would be a positive one and, because of that, she went from an eBay watcher to an eBay buyer that wants not only to buy more but to also spread the word. Take into account that, because of DSRs, her next transaction is more likely to be a smooth one, and eBay just won a customer. And that, my eBay selling friends, can only be good news for the all of us.

I was talking Christmas gifts with my husband (this was pre-talking to my friend) and we were panicking because the shipping deadline for a lot of stores is coming up and we usually do nearly all our shopping online. Without thinking about it for even a second before I opened my mouth, I said “This year is the first year I’m not worried because, thanks to DSRs I know we’ll get all of our eBay bought gifts on time .” Now, that was the seller in me talking because I know that us sellers are living in fear of DSRs and trying to give the best customer service possible. But, as a customer, it has given me much more consumer confidence in shopping on eBay for holiday gifts and that is sort of the point, isn’t it? (I usually do about 50% of my shopping on eBay and 50% on Amazon for the holidays, in case you were curious.) I am putting a lot more trust in seller’s shipping promises this year because, unlike past years, there is a real and immediate need for them to delivery on those promises.
Don’t get me wrong, DSRs are a pain in the neck for me as a seller. But while I think a lot of how eBay rolled them out was very stupid and the verbiage is terrible (If your shipping costs are reasonable, your shipping time quick, and your description accurate, you are restricted from selling which, of course, makes perfect sense. On Mars.), I am starting to think that maybe it’s not all bad. Before you e-stone me, hear me out with one more example.

My own mother, who started my eBay business with me and has a PowerSeller for a daughter, won’t use eBay because she is scared of it (she makes me buy things for her which is annoying as heck). Imagine my mom finally decides to buy something on eBay. Pre-DSRs it was really a crap shoot whether she got one of the good sellers or one of the bad ones (and don’t pretend there weren’t bad ones because, hoooweee, yes there were) and if she got a bad seller, she would likely have never touched eBay again. But on a post DSR eBay, the chances that her very first sale is a good one are much greater and, if that one is good, she is much more likely to buy there in the future. For a timid buyer, that first sale is key to turning them into a more confident and frequent buyer in the future and an increased likelihood that each sale will be good, increases the chances that she will be along for the long haul.

I might be willing to buy on eBay again after a bad sale if I have had hundreds of successful transactions already but if I have limited experience, the first bad sale would send me running for the hills. I kinda like the fact that DSRs decrease my chances of running into a seller that most people think are bad.

And to the sellers that couldn’t keep their DSRs high enough and had to leave? I’m sorry, but, good riddance! Every time you ticked off a customer, that’s a sale that I lost. Yes, you and I know that eBay is a collection of individual sellers but the average buyer doesn’t. If you give them bad service and I give them great service they are only seeing the “eBay” banner over both our heads and making their decision to use the site again based on that. I wish that wasn’t the case and you can work to brand and distinguish yourself but, in the end, that is how most people see it. My friend didn’t tell me what seller she got this item from, only that she got it on eBay. Heck, I am informed about this issue and if someone asks me where I got something, I still say eBay and not the name of the seller.

So I guess what I am saying is that, while they may not be doing in the best way possible, having minimum standards of quality in customer service (which, in the end, is what DSRs really are) is a good thing for everyone in terms of getting more buyers for the site and, if you want to be broader, internet selling in general. If it means us good sellers need to work a little harder to prove that we are good and that the bad sellers need to step up their game or go home, I think I might have to be for it.

But, as always, feel free to disagree below. . .