Feedback, time for a change?

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David is a new seller on eBay and has been hit with a couple of neutral feedbacks that could have been avoided if the customer had got in touch with him. Faced with this problem he contacted eBay with a proposed change that he thinks would be popular with merchants and customers alike. They sent David a reply saying that my idea had been elevated to senior management, however he suspects his idea may end up in the virtual sidings!

What do you think of David’s proposal?

Feedback HomeFeedback, time for a change?

Mention feedback fairness and it generally stirs strong emotions. In an environment where feedback is so intrinsically linked to seller performance a robust and above all fair system is paramount.

When reading sellers neutral or negative feedback comments there is a common theme that runs throughout. “The buyer did not tell me there was a problem”. How can a seller be expected to offer a great follow up service if they are unaware of the problem. Moreover once feedback has been submitted there is then little incentive for the seller to ‘go the extra mile’ for their (and Ebay’s) Customer.

In the physical world, as a customer, you have to interact with your supplier of goods and services. If something goes wrong you have no choice but to raise the issue with the supplier. Normally most issues are resolved and a negative experience is turned into a positive one by their actions.

Convert this into the feedback scenario. When the initial purchase was made and the item found to be faulty NEGATIVE. On visiting the store and receiving a replacement and an apology POSITIVE.

Feedback should be measured on the whole service experience not just the annoyed ‘knee jerk’ reaction on the day.

So how could the system be designed to offer a fair and above all better experience for all parties?

At the point a customer is invited to leave a feedback score only two options should be given.

1) Positive feedback – the transaction was to expectation, goods as described etc

2) Request Customer Service – If there is an issue preventing positive feedback this should be then treated as a customer service issue.

Once a customer has raised a customer service request sellers are given a resolution period to resolve the problem for the customer.

As soon as the resolution period has ended the customer is then allowed to leave feedback as per the current system but is encouraged to base the score on the sellers overall performance.

This simple change would address many of the avoidable neutral and negative feedbacks and provide Ebay with a more reliable measure of the sellers overall performance. Additionally the quantity of poor feedback should reduce, in turn improving overall buyer confidence and more consumer trust.

This measure would resolve some of the merchants anxiety about feedback and give them greater control of their feedback outcomes.

Tamebay comment

Whilst I agree with much of what David says, what really counts is what eBay think. After chopping and changing on whether a Neutral feedback is good, bad or indifferent, currently eBay’s point of view is that a neutral feedback can’t be classed as a positive buying experience and thus counts towards your defect score.

That’s fair enough, but the crux of David’s argument is that a customer should be encouraged to communicate with a merchant before leaving feedback as is the case in a physical store. Many times this could be a positive experience, however even then for some purchases the value of the product is so low a customer can’t be bothered and the fact they’ve had to make contact is in itself a bad buying experience and that’s what eBay want to measure.

It’s not about the final feedback score, what matters today is your order defect rate and eBay want to measure that against “Was the customer happy with the transaction” or “Was there a problem regardless of how well that problem was resolved”.

42 Responses

  1. It has long been our thought that the feedback system is completely biased especially in as much as half the buyers cannot be bothered to complete feedback anyway! When I buy on ebay I take time to ensure that all the stars beneath the feedback line measure 5, all too easily they can remain ‘off’ and a buyer is unaware that this actually affects the seller’s performance level. In the past week I have received (although I have not checked) 3 defects, one for a negative which was left by a Russian first time buyer, so he received glowing ‘welcome to ebay’ feedback from myself, his was total gobbledegook in Russian which translates ALL BAD! I tried and tried through google translate to ascertain what his problem was….never got to the bottom of it but of course the negative stays for 12 months on my dashboard….I think there is no point at all contacting Customer Service because they never THINK like sellers!!! My 2nd and 3rd defects are because customers wanted to ask me questions but were directed instead to open cases……… was for delivery to Israel..a case opened against me after 7 days!!!! it took 18 days for my item to arrive in Israel….I received positive feedback BUT also blocked ISRAEL because I know in my heart of hearts, my same day despatch matters not when overseas postal authorities take ‘time’ to deliver. My 3rd defect from a customer who ‘says’ he received the wrong item………..instantly I sent a replacement even knowing that I had not made an error, again positive feedback followed BUT I guess these ‘defects’ will remain………….I personally believe that it is ebay who are DEFECTIVE………..not the excellent sellers who have been using their selling platform for over a dozen years or more. My husband’s suggestion for feedback is that it is marked at 100% UNTIL a buyer wants to reduce it down…………so all the stars are ‘lit’ (avoiding the careless fingers) and only those buyers who genuinely feel agrieved can unmark the stars and leave appropriate feedback. Furthermore the order of contact seller should start with OTHER/General Question NOT ‘open case’ which then automatically triggers a defect which cannot be reversed no matter the outcome of the contact!! In other spheres of business this entire DEFECT debacle might be construed as constructive dismissal!

  2. I totally agree with this idea,all the negative or neutrals I have ever recieved during my 5 years on Ebay have been because customer has not even told me of problems. Mostly non-arrivals. Those who do contact me, I resolve problem with have NEVER left me neutrals or negatives.Ebay really should look into this as it seems to appease buyers & sellers alike.

  3. Ive been talking about this for some time and have mentioned it to customer services on a number of occasions. My thoughts are if a buyer is unhappy with any aspect of the transaction, they should be encouraged to contact the seller to rectify and not allowed to leave neutral or negative until such time that it is rectified. Surely if something goes wrong, were all human and things do go a bit pear shaped every so often , and the buyer gets a resolution then surely this will create a good experience for everyone and what Ebay is trying to strive for.

    Ebay have said numerous times about offering the best service, sense would dictate that if a buyer has had a problem resolved, then it leaves a good impression not only on the seller but Ebay too and encourages repeat business.

    For me, at the moment, i do get the new TRS changes etc but id like to see it flipped around and instead of us having to jump though more and more hoops, Ebay should be taking strong action against the moody sellers and halfwits who don’t give two hoots and kick them off for good. Surely these people have contributed to the reason we are all in this position in the first place. However, i fear they won’t do this as they are missing out on revenue.

    And breath……..

  4. Hell ain’t gonna freeze over anytime soon!

    eBay are struggling for consistency in talking about the ‘allocation’ of defects for cases and refunds.

    Those (defects) that arise from negative and neutral feedback are nailed on.

  5. couldn’t agree more ,this defect system is a complete joke, case opened this morning ITNR , first I had known about it , item had been sent day after purchase by city link courier , checked tracking ,premises closed both delivery attempts and carded. Please tell me how I am to blame for this? A simple seller enquiry I could sort it out ,a case opened really puts me in the mood to open up communication with courier,customer and sort it out as I am already defected. All the defect system is doing is making great sellers defect to somewhere else to sell

  6. I’ve had in the past Neutral Feedback with a comment of “excellent”.

    i honestly cant be bothered anymore to follow up this stupid feedback system by grovelling to have the feedback amended which was probably a mistake.

    i used to call in the past, but now i just block.

    Much quicker and cant be dealing with a spasticated system which always punishes sellers regardless of fault.

  7. Chris,
    I see your point about the defect rate and I understand what eBay are after with this. But eBay have not implemented ANY flexibility at all in the system.

    Some examples:

    – There are products that, by their nature -because they are hand-made and therefore there are small differences between different units of the same item; because the colour is very, very difficult to photograph, etc, etc, that are always going to arise a small number of “defects” , no matter how many disclaimers we include in the listing.

    – There are also price ranges that are more susceptible to “defects” than others -as you say, for low priced items the customer may not be bothered to even contact the seller, but will still leave a neutral or negative feedback.

    From my end I can think of those instances, but each of us sellers know their product, their market and their customers. We are the specialists. Ebay do not know our specific products, market and customers, much as they may claim that they do.

    Bottom line, a thousand times repeated: eBay does not listen to sellers. It is all very well to change their software, algorithms, search engine, etc, to try and see what works best. But making us sellers continuously review our listings and working procedures to try and see if it may increase sales without listening to us is treating us as machines. Our time and resources cost money too, but not to eBay, only to us. We do not have any decision making power, though.

    Is it not time for online sellers to get organised and form associations, unions, etc. in order to have weight to negotiate with the giants? This is the UK, after all. Is there already an association like this that has any relevance?

  8. eBay really don’t give a monkeys about small sellers; indeed, they seem determined to drive as many off the site as possible with constant price rises and endless stupid and pointless changes to the feedback / ratings systems, all of which take weeks of work to adapt to. 99 out of 100 sellers I speak to would leave eBay immediately if there were a viable alternative. I will always do my best to provide an excellent experience for buyers (and I still have 100% feedback over 40,000+ transactions), but frankly, I no longer care one iota about DSRs, defects, top rated rubbish or any of the other silly hoops eBay invent for me to jump through.

  9. Agreed that ebay don’t listen to sellers however the “positive/contact seller” idea would be a positive for ebay as the buyer experience would improve and fewer negs/neuts would be issued raising performance averages. Can ebay see that though?

  10. God I hate the current feedback system, it is so damn unfair. The amount of idiots that leave unfair neutral or negative feedbacks such as item not arrived, no comms, bad Is ridiculous.

    All of my listings explicitly inform customers to contact us before leaving neutral/negative or opening a damn case but these buyers just ignore it.

    The new dashboard is so damn strict it’s really depressing. Neutrals and even Positive feedbacks that have a low DSR affect our metrics and especially in August when its rolled out across the board many sellers will suffer. eBay are choking sellers, no wonder so many are leaving to go to Amazon etc.

    The proposed feedback idea would be great if it were implemented or if eBay gave two shits about their sellers.

  11. The feedback system is a joke. A buyer can waste your time and refuse to pay for something and days later the worst that happens is they get a non payment strike which is worth nothing.

    The second a buyer feels aggrieved (even before they have received the item) they can really screw you over without a chance to rectify it.

    A buyer bought an item from us and then returned it. It was damaged when we received as the buyer did not pack it as carefully as we did. As 1st we refused to refund the person. This was a mistake in hindsight; can we refuse to accept damaged goods back in Ebay? I don’t think that is possible now.

    The instant we refused the buyer gave a us a negative and some very bad critique. We did relent and give them a full refund but the person no longer replied to messages and Ebay do not care.

    I truly hate the broken and messed up feedback system, and I would sell elsewhere if another platform developed the market.

    If Ebay feels it can continue to treat honest sellers in the way they do, then I just hope something else comes along.

    Bring on the revolution.


    just had this conversation with live help trying to get them to remove a defect after the seller reported the INR was at his neighbours all along, the last part of the chat is particularly interesting and potentially very good news

    You will get the defect if there is caes opened but pleaes note that the defects system has not been live yet so that if will not affect yur ebay account now. Defect will be live from 20 august and then you xcan contact us for its removal.
    Because there are some changes which has not been live yet
    So rest assured it is for your education about the new seller standards.
    It is not affecting your account now.
    so defects between now and then won’t count?
    We will consider thse cases will be resolved and you can also appeal us for its removal when the defect system will be live from 20 august.
    I hope that ebay are listening to their customers(us sellers) about this defect system because it is crazy. Most cases I have opened against me are from people just asking a question
    how is someone asking has this been posted yet worthy of a defect against a decent hard working seller?
    Let me explain this.
    From 20th august, we have also increased the seller protection and we will be having the dedicated defect team who will only review these kind of cases. The changes may be done if the case will be resolved without escalating then the sellers will not recieve the defect. But it has not been confirmed yet.
    So there are many changes which will take place after 20 august.
    oh that’s interesting, that is how it should have been all along
    a case is fine as long as it allows the seller to sort things out , we have hardly ever had a case that hasn’t been sorted out amicably
    I am please ebay are listening and making changes to the system
    ok thanks for your help
    have a nice evening
    I appreciate your hardwork. And rest assured, our ebay sellers like you are protected under ebay seller protection and ebay is with you.
    You will not get any irrelevant defect.
    thank you for your re-assurance
    You are most welcome
    ******eBay staff name removed by moderator******

  13. I don’t know how many times I’ve raised this with eBay – how can I put it right if no-one contacts me. And yes I’ve suggested to them that a customer has to contact you for a resolution before leaving negative feedback to give you the opportunity to resolve (not just a resolution centre thing).

    In the real world you generally have to go through a series of stages before you can properly redress poor service, you have to give your supplier a chance to resolve. Ok, here I am meaning the ombudsmen type route but in happy old ebay land anything goes. I wonder how they stand, as a point of law, allowing people to hammer us without the opportunity to resolve.

    And yes, sometimes buyers just miss the stars, or don’t understand the star system. Sometimes they’re just plain weird, like the lady who neg’d me because her skirt didn’t fit, did she contact me, no, did she ask to return the item, no. She just left negative feedback, which I know have to live with. Or the lady who openly admitted that she neg’d me because she’d left it to late to open an INR case (I emailed her to ascertain the problem, resolved it, and the feedback was removed but still appears on my dashboard) – however both these buyers could’ve contacted me for a resolution, even just by email. I can’t solve it if you don’t ask for my help.

    It would be really nice if I just had an opportunity to solve these problems first, like you would in the real world.

  14. Amazon doesn’t allow feedback to be left for them. Ever wonder why? Because they know negative comments puts buyers off buying form the seller. On the other hand eBay wants buyers to come on the site but at the same time they are scaring them away with feedbacks. I have seen sellers with multiple negs and if you spare few minutes to read them you feel sorry for them. Yet in the name of fairness ebay allows it saying that’s how customer feels.

    Dan i remember what you said addressing us mob at EBay University in Glasgow and i held onto that suggestion and idea and turned many bad experiences into positive one. It was a longgg time ago -)

    You said, “see the customer with an issue as your potential best regular customer. If his issue is dealt in a professional and courteous manner, he will back”.

    I didn’t forget that and did just that and turned many bad experiences into positives ones. In fact we had one three weeks ago and buyer received a damaged item and opened a dispute which was an instant defect but we still dealt with it with usual courtesy and resolved it to her satisfaction. Her reply was that this was the best service she had on eBay. I posted that on eBay forum for eBay to see but who cares.

    I have never felt so disappointed in eBay. Defect and new policies to beat the seller up and treating good and bad sellers as the same, we are rapidly losing will and hope. We are concentrating on other channels for the last 4 weeks and seeing results, on eBay due to managed returns scams and no TRS, prices has to go up. If eBay shares are dropping then just wait and see after August when all sellers wake up. Use to love eBay, will still trade on it as long as we can but will also support any channel competing with eBay. EBay no longer has our loyalty.

  15. Ebay’s feedback system is entirely useless.

    A feedback system should enable both buyers and sellers to assess whether or not the other party in the transaction has a good or bad track record.

    As it is impossible for sellers to award negative feedback to a bad buyer, the system is not fit for purpose.

  16. thing is, david’s proposal would only take care of a small minority of buyers mostly newbies/infrequent buyers..

    Any decent normal buyer contacts the seller to resolve any issues. Sometimes they do not get the answer they want so they defect the seller.

    The real problem of the matter is buyer education. Some buyers expect far too much.

    The feedback system just like the the search system is not fit for purpose.

    A buyer can be refunded on an item and get to keep the item and still can neg. A buyer can neg without contact. A buyer can make demands of a seller, the seller can bow down to the demands or refuse and the seller can still neg. Even a neutral has been re-defined as a negative.

    the feedback system and the search system is destructive.

    Best match – BEST for Who! …not the seller and not the buyer. Best for ebay

  17. Hands down the best idea I have ever heard regarding eBay feedback. It makes perfect sense. Would be absolutely superb to see it implemented.

  18. I have been suggesting the same thing to Ebay as David for years. Why has this not been implemented yet? We are top-rated sellers with nearly 40,000 feedbacks at100% positive. I had a negative feedback this week with the comment ‘item not received refund given though’. Since this comment was made we’ve had on average of 2 x ‘non receipt’ claims per day and rising!! It virtually tells dishonest buyers ‘roll up, roll up, get your free handmade organic goods here’. We can’t afford this…there’s only so many price rises we can make to cover these costs before people will stop buying and only so long I can go on doing this depressing stuff every day!! Please at least listen to your honest top rated sellers Ebay, we are struggling!!

  19. You may find this interesting.

    My brother in law is a doctor. He held a birthday party for his son and invited his fellow doctor colleagues. After the party when sitting chatting away, one of them asked about my business and during the discussion online buying popped up.

    I asked if they buy online and if so then from where? All seven said Amazon, only two bought bits from eBay. I was surprised and asked why not eBay? Not that i was worried as we also sell on Amazon and are now trying to expand there. One explained his experience and the rest agreed with him.

    He said he once ended up on eBay when searching for an item, But he was a bit worried with messages assuring him of refund if it doesn’t arrive or not as described etc..he was not used to this and jokingly said that it kind of reminded him of his stay in New York where he was told where to go and what not to do etc.., these messages may have been there to make him comfortable but he got worried and then checked sellers feedback.

    Seller only had few negs but feedback comments and these eBay massages just did not give him confidence to buy so went back on Amazon and bought it there. Others all nodded and agreed with him.

    Personally i don’t mind now. After eBay’s “beat the seller policies” we are now concentrating on Amazon and our own sites. Also trying to invite buyers to buy direct so if eBay is scaring buyers away, we are waiting for them on the other side -)

  20. A few things occur to me.

    1) I like the OP David’s idea and agree it would be a good to include some delay into the Feedback process when buyers are making a “knee-jerk” reaction and leaving neutral or negative. Clearly a seller should be informed of an issue and be given the right and time to make good. I have noticed that whilst rare, when I do get a poor comment or rating it is usually timed at about when the buyer has returned home from work (bad day in the office!) or around midnight (after the pub!). Upon receiving these I always contact the buyer (never immediately, let them calm down first!) and on most occasions the issue is quickly resolved to their complete satisfaction. So, what then to do about the Feedback rating or snotty comment…..

    2) Well, having resolved the issue and pleased the buyer, one problem with the current system is a seller can not submit a Feedback Revision Request for a neutral rating or positive rating with a snotty comment (aka false positive). Well, depending on who you speak with at Customer Service, some will agree to remove false positives, others will say it’s the buyers opinion and is valid, whilst some say will refer it to someone else for review (this never seems to work). Here is a big issue: CS staff obviously have different understandings of Feedback Policy and Removal Criteria and whilst some are proactive and deal with it promptly, others either don’t understand policy or are not prepared to make a judgement call. When asked if they have ever sold anything on eBay most say never (surely being a seller should be a requirement? Sadly, calling CS is basically a lottery so that only leaves one other option…..

    3) Ask the buyer to phone eBay and request removal. You have to spell out that you want BOTH the rating AND the comment removed, otherwise you may end up with the comment removed but the DSR remains. And that’s if they actually bother taking the time to call eBay. In my experience, they all promise to call but few ever do. I think it’s a case of “I have my item and now all is fine, and I don’t care about the seller” type attitude. This leaves the seller with a choice: leave the Feedback as is and suck up the DSR, or call eBay to request removal (see above). It sucks.

    4) I also like Andrea Grimmett many points and ideas especially for all stars to be lit unless the buyer decides to mark down. This would mean Feedback on all transactions and eliminate the mis-scores caused by small screens like mobiles. Happy buyers may, or all to often not, leave Feedback. Unhappy buyers nearly always do. The buyers with the most unreasonable expectations tend to be newbies so what about making it so they can’t leave neutral or negative until they have received 10 Feedbacks themselves. People who generally don’t sell are another likely cause of poor Feedback. It would seem sensible, given the damage poor Feedback can cause, the leaving neutral or negative should be a privilege that has to be earned.

    The current system is flawed but the new Defect system is even worse. But why would eBay change it? After all, if people get lots of low DSR’s, Defects, cases opened, etc, then eBay remove TRS and make more money. I’m not saying this is a hidden agenda but I am certain this point was not missed by eBay.

  21. .
    I haven’t read much about the automatic feedback system mentioned in the seller release earlier this year.
    The one where ebay will assume a transaction is positive if no complaint is lodged.

  22. its all so complicated,
    ebay needs to grasp the nettle,realise not all buyers and sellers are good for business , stop trying to squeeze the lemon dry , just get rid of the bad ones rather than slow death by a thousand cuts

  23. what annoys most is ebay attempts to justify the idiotic situation where if a buyer asks an innocent question the seller is penalised
    with no incentive to provide customer service thereafter

  24. I much preferred the old fairer system where it was possible for a seller to leave negative feedback for a buyer.

    I no longer bother leaving feedback on Ebay, mostly because it takes time which I could be using to list/ do other things not related to Ebay.

    Mind you I no longer use Ebay for selling either so I cant say I mind if sellers dont bother with feedback either.

  25. Really interesting to read all the comments left in response.

    There seems to be a significant, ingrained dogma within Ebay that I think has been born out of past experience. Historically Ebay harbored some dubious sellers that did real damage to their reputation. Ebay responded with a series of measures to protect their customers (and their business) and create trust on the platform. This I think has been largely successful. However, the perversity of the current / new system is that it is in real danger of destroying the very thing it is there to safeguard, TRUST!

    Ebay seem to be of the mind that they need to ‘wield the big stick’ to keep their sellers in line. Is this now an outdated requirement? Business sellers need to be professional to prosper in the fiercely competitive ‘Amazon jungle’. They cannot set out with a mind set of offering anything less than great service to ensure their long term survival. Ebay guarantee the success of the transaction so the consumer is already well protected. So why layer on more and more complex performance measures? Who does it benefit?

    There is a massive contradiction in the system. Top Rated Sellers should be the most trusted places to buy items from, right? Yet in the new system a small amount of innocuous minor problems can see this ‘badge of trust’ being removed. A more common sense approach needs to be deployed in which these minor issues can be cleared up by the great customer service of the seller without any negative repercussions to them. This will grow Ebay GMS and be instrumental in future customer retention and trust which should be their primary motivation.

  26. The new system of defects, is stressful, even if there may be no overall effect on ones standing as a top seller. I have had many buyers ask a simple Q, which has automatically opened a case. Many have then wrote to me to say “sorry” that a case was open, as it was not there intention. There have been many a cases (opened), that the item has not arrived, when the expected delivery time on the order has not come to fruition yet, most have just asked what the expected delivery time is ( I know is on the order, but Mobile users find it to hard to find.) The “Money back guarantee”, is a Red Flag warning to buyers that most seller can’t be trusted. One needs to be in the buyers shoes “Why would I buy from eBay if that is the case” . I want an item, not a chance that I may get it, and if I don’t, I will get my money back – as if getting the item is neither here or there. It is just sending the wrong message to buyers.

  27. Any seller with a few years trading on eBay will be able to recount horrendous sales where the buyer was so awkward that the sale went on for ever . . . and some will wince at receiving neutral feedback with the words added . . . “acceptable transaction”!

    I wondered if there was a way feedback could be turned off temporarily so that, if a large number of sellers did so for a period, eBay would have to sit up and take action . . . well, we can dream, can’t we?

    They’ve thought of this and, if you do, not only can you not sell but it’s only the comments and DSR that gets “hidden”.

    Come on somebody, how could this be achieved?

    A mass action from big and small sellers alike in this way may be the only way to get eBay to listen.


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