How much communication is too much?

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With eBay sellers paying ever more attention to their DSR scores, the question of communication has come up on more than one eBay forum recently. “I’m sending out every single email that SMP will let me send,” goes the complaint, “and I’ve still only got 4.6 for communication. What am I doing wrong?” Inevitably someone else responds “you’re sending out too many emails. When I buy, I mark the seller down if I get spammed.”

It’s true: one buyer’s “good communication” is another buyer’s “spam”. What’s a seller to do? I want to take a look at how seller emails – and in particular, automated systems – might be made to work more usefully for both buyers and sellers.

You can’t please all the people all the time

Inevitably, people’s wishes about email communication differ. eBay sellers when buying are generally at one extreme end of the spectrum: we’re mostly online all the time, we get a lot of email, a lot of spam, we know how the system works and largely we trust it: we’d rather have less email, and we’ll let you know if there’s a problem.

At the other end of the spectrum is the buyer who replies to your automatic “item dispatched” email demanding to know when you’re going to dispatch their item: this buyer needs their hand holding every step of the way, they’ll write and thank you for leaving them feedback and if their item takes more than a day to arrive, you’re going to know about it. Bless: we were all there once.

It would be possible, I suppose, to individually email your buyers based on their level of feedback and how experienced they look, so that brand new buyers got more email and hand-holding, and people who were sellers themselves just got told the essential “your item is in the post”. I don’t frankly have time to email each individual buyer myself, and I’ll leave it to someone else to design an automatic system that will do it for me (Eddie? ๐Ÿ˜€ ). For now, I’m doing my best to make SMP’s automatic emails work as well as they can.

Making SMP’s automatic emails work for you

SMP offers five automatic emails you can send to buyers:

  • winning bidder/BINner notification
  • payment reminder (seller’s choice of how many days after the sale)
  • payment received
  • item dispatched
  • feedback reminder (i.e. please leave it)

Sellers have the choice to use none, some or all of these.

Before we take a look at each email in detail, let’s remember the most important fact about eBay-related email: (most) buyers have seen it before. Buyers know when they’re getting an automated email; the single most useful thing a seller can do, therefore, is change the subject lines on those SMP-generated emails. Make them yours. Make them unique. That way, you stand a halfway decent chance that buyers are going to read them.

Winning Bidder Notification

If you normally sell multiple BIN items to one buyer, then turn this one off. Little is more annoying on eBay than a dozen copies of an email beginning “Good News!” for something I already know about. If you normally run auctions, there’s more reason to use the winning bidder notification, as your buyers may be away from the computer when the auction ends. But even so, eBay send out emails to winning bidders anyway; do you want to duplicate that?

You could use this email to encourage further sales. If you have a shop, remind buyers to take a look before they pay; mention your combined shipping policies to give them an incentive to do so. And edit eBay’s default for tone: make it more appropriate for your audience. Crafty ladies like friendly and personal; I suspect computer parts buyers don’t, so much.

Payment Reminder

eBay’s standard text for this email is – frankly – bizarre. It spends a lot of time telling the buyer what they’ve won, but does not contain a “pay now” button. I’d strip out all the garbage from this, and say very simply, you won this item, we haven’t got your payment yet, here’s a button to click to pay with PayPal (or a Nochex link or whatever you use), and if there’s a problem, please let us know.

I still have misgivings about having this email automated. There are too many buyers around at the moment with “problems with their PayPal accounts”, and the last thing I want to do is rile someone by reminding them to pay when they’ve already told me I’ll have to wait til Monday. So I’m keeping this email as a manually-generated one. If you’re a massively high-volume seller who can’t keep notes on who’s told you there’ll be a delay in payment, then do at least warn tardy buyers they may get automated reminders.

Payment Received

With 99% of my eBay payments coming through PayPal, I used to think this one was completely pointless: my buyers knew when they’d paid me, and PayPal told them anyway. But this email is a perfect example of how you can highjack eBay’s original intent and use it for your own purposes.

I now use “payment received” to give my buyers an idea of shipping times. I appreciate that for those who pay on Friday night, not hearing from me until Monday morning may be just too long to wait, and so they get an email saying “we’ll be shipping on the next working day; if it’s Friday today, that means Monday.”

Item Dispatched

This is the most important email. This is your opportunity to really control your buyers’ expectations.

Allow for postal delays: I say “your item should be with you in the next few days, but please allow a little longer because postal services are not always as speedy as we would like them to be”. It saves my buyers panicking quite as quickly; it saves me having to answer a few “where is it?” emails.

Let me know if there is a problem: I say “please contact me if there is a problem. I can resolve most things, but only if I know about them, so please don’t be shy”. You might want to go for a bit less touchy-feely, but this is the time to imprint on your buyers’ minds that if there is any problem, they should contact you, not just reach straight for the negative feedback.

Feedback Reminder

Until recently, I had never used this email and had strongly encouraged other sellers to turn it off too. Don’t tempt fate, right? But the times are achanging, and I think it could be useful for some people. The default message about “please leave us feedback” is too strong, because you might just get some feedback you didn’t bargain on. But again, highjacking eBay’s automation to say “we hope you’ve received your order safely by now and that you had a five-star service; please do let us know if there is a problem” could be a good move for many sellers.

Use the opportunity

The primary aim of all of these emails should be customer service: keeping your buyers informed and letting them know what to do if there is an issue. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use SMP’s emails as a further opportunity to promote your brand and encourage further sales.

You can include your Shop logo in SMP emails; this is a great way to start building customer loyalty to *you* rather than to eBay. You can also include your default cross-promotions so that your emails also showcase other items you’re selling.

Rather than being just the same old eBay default spam, even if they are automated, your email communications should be personal to your business, and useful to your buyers. Happy, well-informed buyers come back to shop with you again, and hopefully they give you 5/5 for communication.

7 Responses

  1. Re ‘Feedback Reminder’ – yes could be VERY important where you have or are close to a SNP sanction, Personaly, its not what you ask, its how you ask, so a fully customisable email template will help, and if you want a personalised almost ‘automated’ process then :

    https://auctionpix.co.uk/feedback_finder.html

    I am also ‘wondering’ given that Paypal is used for many transactions IF there is any ‘mileage’ in using Paypals API to trigger a customised email to be sent to buyers on payment – that email covering most if not all that is covered by multiple other emails ?

  2. Great post Sue, lots of handy tips.
    I am just waiting for a neg from a new buyer who ebay emailed no less than 7 “payment received” emails yesterday. SMP says only 2 were sent, but the date stamp on each reply from him saying “stop emailing me” tells a different story.
    He got so frustrated that he blocked my emails.

    So sellers may be being marked down, not for spamming, but for ebay sending duplicates that sellers are not even aware of.

  3. Larrylackpants – I’ve heard a couple of other eBayers complain about similar problems over the last week or so, so I tend to believe your buyer rather than SMP. How unfortunate ๐Ÿ™

  4. Yep Sue, that’s the way the (ebay) cookie crumbles. Becuase he has blocked emails he won’t receive his dispatch notice ๐Ÿ™„ unless he knows about ebay message console and that is a bit hit and miss for receiving at the best of times.

    Ebay is an exhausting fight every day. ๐Ÿ˜

  5. For me the auto email that I send via SMP when item has been sent is the strongest of those on offer. Too often I buy an item on eBay, pay instantly via PayPal and then hear nothing until the auto invoice arrives afterwards(!) and then the item arrives on my doorstep.

    Knowing that the item is in the post really helps set expectations. I know to look out for something, to be available as I can when a signature is necessary, and more importantly therefore when something is just unreasonably late compared to just late.

    Good post.

  6. Thanks Jamie. I completely agree – and a dispatch email makes me tend to blame the post rather than the seller if something is late.

  7. even if you email a buyer to tell them you have changed your socks ,or the dogs peeded on barbecue and the garden pongs of hot pee

    its a good idea they know your out there and available!

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