Finding the balance between excellent customer service and losing efficency
One of the challenges that faces eBay sellers is customer service. This is going to become even more of an issue once Feedback 2.0 rolls out because there is a specific option for communication. If you run an eBay business you might think, "Sure, answering emails immediately is great, but I have too many coming in to do that." The trick is to find a balance between answering every email personally as soon as it comes in and not responding as politely as you should (or worse, not responding at all).
I have found, no matter how many times I put it in the auction description, there are certain questions buyers ask time and time again. They are:
- What is the shipping cost?
- When will my item ship?
- Have you received my payment?
- Has my item shipped/When will I receive my item?
I’m sure most eBay sellers are nodding in agreement with these questions. So rather than typing an answer every time, have a pre-written template ready to go. You can use text edit, MS Word, or even have a draft email written and saved in your drafts folder. Of course you can (and should) modify the email to make it more personal to the buyer, but don’t waste your precious time typing the same thing over and over.
Another technique I like is to preempt the buyer’s question. Certain questions like When will my item ship, have you received payment, etc., usually come at a specific point in the transaction. So, my end of auction email (which you should always have automated) states the delivery time from when I receive payment. As soon as I receive payment, I send an email letting the buyer know I got it and giving them the tracking number and delivery time estimation to their location. That usually prevents me getting two questions (payment received and delivery time).
So, you see, a little planning can save you some time, but it also makes you look good in the customer service department because you are giving the answers before the buyer asks the questions. This way they don’t feel like they are chasing you down for answers.
One other point I want to make is to always make your emails personal. Don’t let them look like a form email. It always amazes me how many people send emails to "Dear Buyer."
Yes, huge volume sellers (usually titanium sellers) don’t have time to be personal, and their customer service does slip a bit sometimes. But this is a good thing for the little guy because it gives you a reason for buyers to purchase from you even though your price might be slightly higher. I know many buyers who prefer to buy from a smaller seller than a very big one because they know the customer service will be better from the smaller seller.
Another word of warning, if you work a full-time job as well as eBay, mention that in your first email correspondence. If a buyer understands that you can’t get access to your email until after 6pm, they won’t be so concerned about waiting on an email response. Still, all emails should be responded to within 24 hours. 12 hours is preferable, and shorter if possible. If you wait too long, the buyer will go elsewhere for their item (if they are emailing you while the auction is active) or you risk getting not very good feedback.