Misleading Customer Service Kills Your Business

Image by libraryman via Flickr

Back on February 15, I was on eBay Radio to do a segment with the same name as this blog post. Because I wrote up some notes before I actually went on the show, I thought I may as well clean up those notes and give them to you as an actual written blog post if you missed the show. Because this talk was for eBay radio, most of the advice below is catered to the eBay seller. However, I think you’ll find it easily adaptable to any marketplace.

I define drama as four things: Making threats, excuses, demands or complaining in any of your written word related to your business: be it in your listing text, emails to customers, company blog or twitter posts etc. Anything that purports to be directly from your company that lets your personal issues or hang-ups bleed through, to me, is drama.

Some examples:

  • Threats: “If I don’t get payment within 7 days I will file a NPB on you so fast…”
  • Excuses: “We have to charge such high shipping because of unfair eBay fees”
  • Demands: “You better leave me five stars!
  • Complaining: “The USPS keeps raising their rates so I can’t keep offering free shipping”

Drama can do a lot of damage in your business. It turns buyers off and can cost you both initial sales and repeat buyers but, most of all, it looks unprofessional. Imagine seeing threats, demands, excuses or complaints from a major company like Amazon. It would never happen.

You know the expression “Never let them see you sweat”? I think that really applies here. When you let drama creep into your listings, you’re letting the cracks show and unintentionally showing your buyers the less than ideal side of your business.

I like to think of it this way: Imagine that you have some important financial work to do and you walk into your bank and walk up to the window and the cashier behind the desk is crying, absolutely sobbing. Maybe you feel bad for her, maybe not, but some part of you is going to be really annoyed. You came in to do one thing and get out and not only are you now caught up in her drama but you aren’t feeling confident that she can even do your work correctly. She comes off as not having her act together. You would rather do your transaction with any cashier other than her.

When you let drama creep into your listings and your business verbiage, you’re that crying cashier. The buyer just wants to get in and get out… buy their item and move on with their lives. As soon as they start feeling awkward about what they are reading, most either walk away and buy from someone else or get angry and lash out which is where you get some of these nightmare transactions. There simply is no place for it.

It can be hard to be objective about your own listings. Try to take a critical eye to all of your text and see ways that it could be improved. When in doubt, simple, truthful statements are your best bet.

Let me give you an example that I see in a lot of different listings. The seller will have a message, such as “If you’re going to be impatient about shipping time, don’t bother bidding. I’ve got a bad back and my car doesn’t always start so I can’t be running to the post office every day . I try to ship on Wednesdays.” Obviously, that’s an extreme case, but even a simpler version, such as “I don’t have time to go to the post office more than once a week” has a hint of drama to it.

Instead, the seller could simply say, “Your item will ship within 5 business days of payment.” That statement means the exact same thing as, “I only ship once a week.” But it sounds more professional and takes out the drama.

For those that caught the interview live, what did I forget to mention? I know my notes are incomplete so if there’s something else I touched on in the segment and didn’t mention above, please let me know.