It’s hard for me to get into the gripe party about the new Top-Rated Seller program because we qualified so while I completely understand that some people are totally upset about not qualifying, let’s talk for a moment about the program in general without playing the “but I should totally have qualified because. . . ” game.

I’m not poo-pooing the people who didn’t get the badges (I fully expect any new eBay service to be buggy as all heck) and I am confident your concerns are valid. I just want to talk about this program at face value for a moment instead of the back and forth.

Technical glitches and conspiracy theories aside, I have to really hand this one to eBay. While previous service rewards were good, this one really raises the stakes. What I like about this program is that they made it a huge selling advantage so it’s really something that is worth your effort to qualify for. Even if the PowerSeller discounts of before weren’t enough to tempt, this really upped the ante and should really make sellers step up their game to try to reach this level which should make the marketplace as a whole better for everyone. It’s easy to see why people who were excluded are so upset, the advantages to being a Top-Rated seller blow the PowerSeller program out of the water.

The fundamental problem with the PowerSeller program was that it was a mixed blessing. While it did mean that you were a serious seller, in many cases, it also meant you did too great a volume to give buyers individual attention. There were many PowerSellers that had terrible customer service but they stayed in the program because of their sheer volume in both sales and feedback. I know quite a few people were turned off by the PowerSeller logo because they wanted a more individualized experience and PowerSeller basically meant big box. Walmart vs the local store, as silly as that is.

Top-Rated, to me, is a much better program. With this program, you can be a small time seller (as long as you still meet the sales minimums) or a big seller and you still get the same advantages. But instead of being indicative of the fact that you do a lot of business (as PowerSeller was) it is a mark that you provide consistently good customer service which is more important to a buyer. I would rather buy from someone who does only a few sales a year but gives me great service than a seller that sends out thousands of items a day but will give me crummy service. It’s an important difference from a buyer’s standpoint. PowerSeller was something that was more a game sellers played with eBay rather than a selling point. The Top-rated seller badge is a huge selling point for buyers and I have to applaud that change. It is a subtle one but it’s an important move towards selling more inventory rather than just a brag button.

Also, increased sales placement is a much bigger deal than a measly discount.

The biggest selling point is the prominent logo in search. Before a buyer even knows a thing about the listing or the seller, they know the seller is designated good and that is a huge advantage which has to translate to more clicks on your listings.

The prominence that this new badge gets over the old PowerSeller logo is amazing and the ribbon design is very slick. Even as a buyer I find myself willing to  pay a little extra to go with a “badged” seller and I am aware of this situation so I know it has to be working it’s sales magic on newbies and beyond.

The other advantage is the new search option where buyers can opt to only buy from Top-Rated sellers. As a buyer, I would never use this but as a seller, this is amazing. From instance, a lot of the collectibles sellers didn’t make the cut on this so in many categories that we typically sell in, we are either the only Top-rated seller or one of a handful. On many items we went from being one of dozens of sellers selling an item to (if the buyer has that option checked off) the only Top-rated seller offering it. For many sellers this is going to give them a big edge over the competition.

I have to tell you, I think the brilliance of this new program is this seemingly ridiculous advantage Top-Rated Sellers have over other sellers. Having acquired these benefits, I can tell you right now, I am going to do everything in my power to hold onto it. Will it make me more likely to offer free shipping, free insurance, give refunds or make deals with buyers than ever before? You bet! It’s worth the extra costs of giving benefits like that just to keep the advanced placement.

What I am trying to say is, the sellers who aren’t in the program are furious that sellers who are in the program got such a huge list of advantages over them. But, to me, that is actually what makes this program such a good thing for the marketplace. The advantages needed to be ridiculously sweet to make then worth sweating over. That is what is going to improve customer service marketplace-wide.

It’s hard to get in. It’s hard to stay in. That’s a good thing because it’s going to make all of us bust our butts that much more to try to get into and stay in this program for the very reason that the advantages of being in this program are so above and beyond a help with sales. I am saying this with the understanding that I may lose my place in this program at any time, I think they did a great job of creating a program that is going to make sellers really want to improve their service to get in.

Positivity on The Whine Seller? Crazy right?

OK, I’m done. You can go ahead and complain about this program again now. 🙂