eBay Seller Dashboard: Buyer Satisfaction is Missing

Posted on May 31, 2008. Filed under: eBay, eBayInkBlog | Tags: , , , , , , , |

eBay’s Blogmaster, Richard Brewer-Hay, asked eBay sellers the question “Do You Know Where You Stand” now that eBay has given you a Seller Dashboard to help with transparency.  Other than giving me 30-day Detailed Rating Statistics (DSRs) that are viewable only by me, there is no information in the Seller Dashboard that I did not already have access to.  There is critical information missing from the Seller Dashboard.

Let’s take for example Buyer Satisfaction.  This is how the information is presented on the Seller Dashboard:

My Buyer Satisfaction Level is rated as “Good” because my Detailed Seller Ratings are within an acceptable range, my Feedback Score is above 98%, and I have no Buyer Protection Claims.  My Buyer Satisfaction is as follows:

* Feedback Percentage: 99.8%
* Item as Described DSR (30-day): 5.0
* Communication DSR (30-day): 4.9
* Shipping Time DSR (30-day): 4.9
* Shipping & Handling DSR (30-day): 4.6

Yet, my Search Standing is Standard.  What would it take to receive a raised standing?  I could have just 98.0% rather than 99.8% feedback, and I could have a lower 4.7 across the board instead of the 4.9 and 5.0 DSRs, just so long as I had 4.7 in the Shipping & Handling DSR.

It is NOT the Buyer Satisfaction Level that helps me achieve the Raised Standing in the eBay Best Match Search but rather eBay’s Satisfaction.  eBay wants to motivate sellers to include the cost of shipping in the selling price of the item because that is the measurement eBay uses to calculate final auction value fees.  When I do not do so then eBay employs the well-used eBay “Stick” to lower my search standings.

eBay’s Seller Dashboard DOES help me to see when I am not satisfying eBay in the Shipping & Handling DSR.  However, the eBay Seller Dashboard fails to give me information about how I am being judged on the Real Buyer Satisfaction Measurement.

eBay considers a buyer to be unhappy if they:

* Leave a negative or neutral feedback rating
* File a Buyer Protection Claim (for seller nonperformance)
* Leave a “1” or “2” rating on any one or more Detailed Seller Ratings

This Buyer Dissatisfaction Level is what is used to determine whether Sellers receive sanctions or suspensions. 

It is important to note that eBay does NOT in any way inform the seller how many buyers have left a low Detailed Seller Rating.  Only eBay has that information.  Without that key piece of information, sellers are left completely in the dark about why their Buyer Satisfaction Level may say “Needs Improvement” or why they are lowered in the Search Standings.

On all the eBay Community Blogs and on the eBayInkBlog itself sellers are asking the question “Why does my Buyer Satisfaction Level Say Needs Improvement and my Search Standing is lowered when my feedback percentage is above 98% and my DSRs are all 4.6 or above?”  The answer from eBay….. Silence. 

And of course there is a loud outcry of “Dolphins being caught in the net” and sellers telling their stories of being suspended because of one neutral or one negative.  eBay representatives are stating adamently that no seller would ever be suspended because of one neutral / negative.  Suspended sellers then scream even more loudly because it appears that eBay is calling them a liar.  The fact is that the truth is somewhere in between.  Sellers probably are not being suspended simply because of one neutral or negative feedback; it is likely that one or more buyer ALSO left a DSR rating that was a “1” or a “2”.  But, the question is How would the Seller know that?  The Dashboard doesn’t display that information.  And eBay is certainly not being forthcoming with the details. 

For all the claims eBay is making about wanting to improve buyer satisfaction, they sure are putting up enough pretty little charts and using smoke and mirrors to draw our attention away from the fact that they have failed to give the seller any real information to help them know when buyers are dissatisfied when the buyer doesn’t communicate directly to the seller  or speak up publicly.  If a buyer doesn’t leave unfavorable feedback and doesn’t file a dispute with the seller but rather expresses their displeasure anonymously through the Detailed Seller Rating score then how would a seller even be informed that a buyer is unhappy much less be given the opportunity to make changes?  eBay sellers keep getting whacked over the head with the eBay stick without even understanding what they are doing wrong.  Somehow the satisfaction, for both the buyer and the seller, seem to be missing from eBay.


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4 Responses to “eBay Seller Dashboard: Buyer Satisfaction is Missing”

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A very valid point well expressed.

I have over 350,000 positive feedbacks, 80,000 + in the last year – I have spent 10 hours on the phone with ebay in the last week looking for an answer to this very issue. I have been lowered in the search because Paypal failed to notify us of 109 payments in June, lowering my feedback and DSR’s – eBay refuses to take any responsibilty for this action. it is very hard to ship when you havent been paid. I have opened and started a second site, which recieves higher search standing because it has not done business in the past – somehow a 98.8 feedback standing, and all 4 of my DSR’s are over 4.7 this is good enough for the a discount, but not good enough for standard search standing. we have no open disputes. Hear is the reality – I spend $70,000 a yeaar in eBay and paypal fees, they have told me by there actions that I am not important. I cant understand why smaller sellers can even try to make money on this site when eBay never is faithful to the customer, as they forget SELLERS pay all the ebay fees.

“There are lies, damn lies, and then there are [eBay] statistics”.

On the night of July 17, 2008, without prior notice, eBay removed from their site all of my company’s 380 listings and sent me an email stating the reason for this action was: “seller non-performance”; this after more than nine years and tens of thousands of perfect selling (and buying) transactions on eBay!

On Friday morning July 18, 2008, after discovering that my listings had all disappeared, I immediately called my personal eBay “Gold Power Seller” representative’s phone number (only available to sellers with sales totaling more than $10,000.00 per month), and asked him how could this be? He said “this looks like a mistake” and said he would call me right back, and within ten minutes he did. He said: “I checked with the trust and safety people here and in the last “rolling” 30-day sample period it appears you had one “negative” and one “neutral” comment in “feedback”, and you dipped too low in one or more of the four categories of your DSR (Detailed Seller Ratings), so that places you in the bottom 1% of all eBay sellers for customer satisfaction, and they have restricted you from listing on the site because of seller non-performance”.

WHAT!!!! eBay made the decision to shutter my business of nine years based on their automated analysis of data from their voluntary buyer satisfaction survey, that they collected over a single 30-day sampling period, and included a total of only 42 of my transactions all of which were completed successfully. How could this be?

After eBay’s “trust and safety” department reviewed the letter (printed below) on August 6th, I received two eBay “form” emails the early morning of August 7th: one reinstating my “selling privileges” , the other warning me I would be removed again from the site if my current 95% “customer satisfaction” rating (determined from eBay’s statistics!) deteriorated in any way in the next thirty days. The odds do not look good!

Note: if the following story seems unbelievable, be assured eBay’s trust and safety department reviewed and confirmed that all details relating to the eBay site are correct, and all of my statements can be corroborated.

First a history of who I am, and what I have accomplished using eBay as my business partner:

My name is David Riddle, I have been self employed for thirty six years as an inventor / designer / manufacturer and marketer of technical products in the fields of electronics, optics and mechanical devices, and have been successfully satisfying hundreds of thousands of customers long before eBay existed.

I decided to become a selling “member” of the eBay “community” in December of 1998 under the user name: DAVIDRIDDLE, and have since sold millions of dollars of re-manufactured and fully guaranteed products and services that I call “tools of creativity and productivity” to many thousands of very satisfied individuals and corporations around the world.

With long hours of work from myself and my staff in the past nine years, we have achieved a total eBay “feedback rating” of more than 10,800 customer comments with 99.5% positive responses.

This success is even more astounding when one considers that unlike the majority of eBay sellers that offer their used items for sale “as-is” without any guarantee of any kind, all of our eBay listings and sales are comprised of fully-guaranteed and calibrated specialized high technology equipment supplied to very critical and demanding professional customers.

We not only provide a money back guarantee on every one of our products, but also, more significantly we guarantee “suitability of application”; when our customer receives our products we guarantee the items will function exactly as we described, and will accomplish the task as the customer requires.

Every one of these complex technical products that we offer and deliver in perfect operating condition, requires hours of total hands-on analysis, repair, calibration and testing prior to being expertly packaged for safe shipment through what I call the shipping companies “trail of torture”!

We achieve these results through a commitment to customer support / assistance and guaranteed satisfaction before and after each sale, by providing a toll-free telephone number in multiple places in every eBay listing, in every email and document. This toll-free line is answered by my staff and me personally, nine hours a day, five days a week, from the U.S. and Canada.

This toll-free number is very rarely offered by other eBay sellers and is a direct communication link between potential customers, customers involved in purchases and inquiries of any kind; we vigorously promote “free, expert, customer service”– a rare commodity in today’s society.

Over the last nine plus years on eBay, our phone records indicate that I have personally spoken to and advised more than 45,000 customers, potential customers, and other eBay sellers from whom I have purchased. These “one-on-one” conversations provide invaluable insight into what are my customer’s needs and how they are thinking and feeling about my business practices. In addition, these all important conversations form the basis of my business decisions as to what products and services to provide and to whom I should sell them.

After all of our hard work, unrivaled commitment to our customers and demonstrated responsibility in business dealings, one can only imagine how I might feel being deemed by eBay to be a “non-performing” seller. I can tell you how I feel: disbelief, anger, depression, and finally acceptance. Sound familiar?

These are the emotions of loss and death: the death of my business and the loss of my passion which is happily advising and encouraging my eBay customers to turn their intangible ideas into tangible products and services by providing them with these tools of creativity and productivity while enthusiastically offering free expert engineering solutions and advice, whether they purchased something from me or not.

In addition to ending my business partnership, eBay’s decision has also stopped, something very dear to my heart, my altruistic program of offering a free school for primary and secondary “at risk” students (as I was in school) where I along with other volunteers will demonstrate and guide these students through the real-world process of “Invention and Entrepreneurship”.

The basis of this program depended on using eBay as a pivotal component in test-marketing student’s product ideas at low cost all over the world, then manufacturing only their successful creations and using the EBay site to sell these products, allowing these young entrepreneurs to personally profit from their ideas.

The facility plans included a fully outfitted “model shop” for prototype product fabrication, graphic arts / photo studio, video and audio production studio and computer business center all housed in a 2500 square foot portion of my building.

The students were to have used this facility at no charge, and, with the direction of myself and other volunteer mentors, were to experience the hands-on work of: “conception to execution to marketing to sale”– the process that I and every successful inventor and entrepreneur uses. Now this dream may never be realized.

Now, a description of how eBay uses statistics to determine “buyer satisfaction”

eBay’s original method since 1995 for keeping track of satisfactory transactions on the site is called “feedback” where both the buyer and seller could voluntarily assign a “feedback rating” to each other for every individual “ended” auction listing or “buy-it-now” listing on the site; this feedback is normally non-revocable and accumulates for each buyer and seller from their first transaction to date. The available options are as follow: “Positive” (add one point to feedback score), “Neutral” (no score change), or “Negative” (subtract one point from feedback score)

In 2007, eBay added an additional component to the buyers voluntary feedback reporting; called the “Detailed seller Rating”or DSR. eBay promoted DSR as a way to provide sellers with a more detailed report of their buyers satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) in four categories, each with a 0 to 5 “star” rating selection as shown below in the exact wording the buyer sees if they bother filling out the DSR ratings (remember, there is no requirement or reciprocal benefit for the buyer to fill out this section, as there is for regular feedback):

“Click on the stars to rate more details of the transaction. These ratings will not be seen by the seller.

How accurate was the item description?
* Very inaccurate, ** Inaccurate, *** Neither inaccurate nor accurate, **** Accurate, ***** Very accurate

How satisfied were you with the seller’s communication?
* Very unsatisfied, ** Unsatisfied, *** Neither unsatisfied nor satisfied, **** Satisfied, ***** Very satisfied

How quickly did the seller ship the item?
* Very slowly, ** Slowly, *** neither slowly or Quickly, **** Quickly, ***** Very Quickly

How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges?
* Very unreasonable, ** Unreasonable, *** neither unreasonable nor reasonable, **** reasonable,
***** Very reasonable

Remember – these detailed seller ratings are anonymous, so please feel free to leave honest ratings about your buying experience.”

I suggest you should carefully note what phrases and words eBay has chosen to use in the DSR survey shown above: “These ratings will not be seen by the seller”, (and again): “Remember – these detailed ratings are anonymous”, (and the five stars rating choice): “Very accurate”, “Very satisfied”, “Very quickly” (and) “Very reasonable”: I will comment on this in the following text.
My DSR ratings slowly began accumulating, and we were always showing “4+ stars” in all four categories along with our regular feedback running at its usual 99.5%. I naively didn’t pay much attention to this new rating system; I saw this as yet another one of eBay management’s many demonstrations of: “Look were doing our job by improving the eBay experience”– an exercise I’ve seen many times in the past nine years. Why would I care, knowing that our entire focus is on customer satisfaction and the feedback we receive every day is directly from the “customer’s mouth” in those one-on-one conversations through our toll-free help line? In addition, I personally called almost every customer that left a negative feedback to find out why they did?

Then, in May of 2008, eBay announced that they were changing the feedback system in the following ways: sellers and buyers feedback rating (positives divided by total feedback = %) would now be calculated with the data from only the past “rolling” year to date, eBay threw out more than 8-1/2 years of my satisfied customers!

More significantly, now only buyers could leave negative or neutral feedback for sellers, meaning sellers no longer had any means to note unsatisfactory buyers’ actions on the site; the reciprocal component of the original feedback system was lost (eBay claimed this change was to prevent sellers from threatening buyers with “retaliatory feedback” if the buyer decided to give the seller a negative feedback comment). Personally I have never given “non-performing” buyers negative feedback, I just simply called them and asked; what’s wrong?

If none of this seems to make any sense, then eBay’s other change to the feedback system will astound you. eBay decided that the “neutral” choice buyers and sellers typically had used in the past to denote an “average” transaction, not worthy of a positive, but not so bad as to give the seller a negative (and not counted in the feedback score in any way), would now be counted as a “negative”, subtracted from the sellers overall positive score, and without informing the person leaving the neutral it was actually a negative!

My personal feedback score went from 99.5% to 98.6% because of the truncated data points and the “neutrals as negatives”change. Apparently eBay received so much uproar from sellers about all of these changes, and especially this last one, they elected to rescind only the “neutral as negative”component and promised to make any negatives that sellers had received in this manner be removed retroactively “sometime in August”.

I am busy seven days a week meeting my customers needs; I don’t have time to spend perusing the voluminous eBay site for changes and announcements. Because my eBay power seller representative didn’t tell me, I missed the fact that to be a power seller, I would now be required to maintain a minimum DSR rating of 4.5 stars (90%) in all four stated categories. And most importantly; I would be barred from selling on the eBay site if my combined feedback and DSR scores dipped below eBay’s arbitrary threshold now determined from a single rolling 30-day sample period (not the newly announced 12-month period I assumed).

The following is where eBay’s statistics and the vagaries of the human condition (what I call “the ultimate variable”) collide:

Does eBay truly believe that their volunteer feedback and DSR survey can provide a highly accurate assessment of seller performance?

Are they confident enough to terminate long term power sellers using this feedback and DSR data based on so incredibly few samples?

Does eBay not understand that the repeated statements: “….will not be seen by the seller”, and ….”these detailed seller ratings are anonymous” will encourage more severe negative ratings?

Do they believe that people will voluntarily give sellers an all ”A” (5-stars) every time?

Do the buyers know an all “B” (4-stars) score in every category gives the power seller a failing grade?

Will most buyers who were clearly told there would be a two-week delivery time on a custom-made product order remember and give the seller 5-stars (“Very quickly”) on “shipping time”?

How can any eBay buyer possibly have any knowledge of what it costs in materials and labor to properly prepare and package products for safe shipment, or keep track of the always increasing actual freight and fuel surcharges and then expect them to select “Very reasonable” for “Shipping and handling charges”?

Did you get all A’s in school? Have you ever filled out a business satisfaction survey, or any survey for that matter, and given all top scores? How many warrantee card surveys did you not fill out when all you wanted to do was use and enjoy the product?

Are you human? Aren’t you more likely to fill out a survey if you are upset and then want to make sure “they” know just how upset you are by filling it out in the most negative way possible?

It’s very hard to imagine that eBay’s management could be so ignorant of basic statistical methods and the guaranteed inaccuracies of voluntary surveys conducted in the manner eBay is doing (for proof, Google “survey accuracy”). eBay’s methodology completely ignores the human condition, assuming that all buyers will behave like a computer, applying a fixed metric to each question. Are they expecting people to always be rational in a society where many of our citizens function mainly on an emotional basis!

Could eBay management possibly be this ignorant of reality and at the same time have such incredible hubris? Or, could this be eBay’s agenda to rid the site of all of the unique individual sellers who have been supporting them all these years, allowing eBay to profit by using its brand-name recognition to help push electronic shopping carts filled with new consumer products supplied by large corporations around the internet?

When I first discovered eBay, I immediately recognized this gathering of individual sellers and buyers as an historic shift for marketing and commerce; “cottage industry can now be global”. I jumped in with both feet, and as my success grew, I became a huge eBay booster, encouraging and helping hundreds of other business people I met to “get on eBay and take advantage of this huge opportunity to expand their market reach”. Many of those people I encouraged are now successful eBay Power Sellers using the site as their sole means of marketing and sales. What do I tell these people now? Many have called to offer support but also to voice their anger about the injustice and absurdity of what eBay has done to me, my employees and my business…

They also voice their fear that it will happen to them, as I am not alone in this: there are thousands of eBay sellers who have recently suffered from eBay’s current managements’ travesty of un-tested “improvement ideas” that produced only misjudgement and unjust actions; further damaging our beloved eBay community.

Is this anyway to treat your business partner? I certainly don’t think so, do you?
Call me toll-free @ 800-544-3746, 9AM-6PM, M-F, PST. Tell me what you think, David Riddle

I have been checking out other options like http://www.onlineauctions.com, I have listed a few things but it is slow because I have to start over with my score.

I have also described on my e-bay auctions how the sellers can display all the items. E-bay has already deleted 11 of my items because I mentioned onlineauctions, so be very careful on how you list your item. It is my responsibility to know all the rules but that on slipped by me.

I might be wrong, but it seems like they have no way to punish me so my search standing has been lowered and it does not make any sense to me because I check my feedback daily and I have never had lower then 4.6 in the shipping fields, but not on the dashboard screen.

I tried to resolve this but they do not read the e-mail you mail and I did not get anywhere with the live help, other then, he did state that I had a good rating for a long time as fare as he could see. Nothing was resolved.

My e-bay name is silver*lining2003 if you want to see how you can educate the buyers about seeing all the items up for bid (along with yours if your search standing has been lowered).

Thanks for giving me this time to express my frustration.

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