“Your ebay item sold!” If you receive messages like this, congratulations. You have successfully sold your antique lamp or treadmill or guitar on one of the most popular e-commerce marketplaces in the world. You found someone, near to you or across the world, who has looked at your item, done his/her research on the value and price, and has decided to select your item to be a part of his/her life in a few short days (depending on the shipping times). If this is your first sale or your millionth sale, it is a great accomplishment and it makes you feel HAPPY.
Ok, you get through the next few phases of the sale – determining shipping, invoicing the customer, accepting payment, preparing the item for shipping, scheduling shipping, then dropping it off at your local shipping center. Once you hand that package over to the shipping agent, the package is en route. You notify the customer that his/her purchased item is on the way. Then, you go back to your life or your office or wherever you go with a big smile on your face.
A few days later, you receive an email from ebay stating “I have a question about using my item or I want to send the seller a message.” You open the message to discover that the item you listed did not meet the expectation of the buyer. For whatever reason, whether you did not disclose a piece of information about the condition, or you may have shipped the wrong item, or the item was not properly packaged, the item is not what the customer was hoping for some 4 to 6 days prior when they purchased your item. The wheels start turning. Did I send the right item? Did I package it properly? Did I miss a detail? What did I do wrong?
Based on my 12 plus years of selling on ebay, this scenario is inevitable. You are not perfect. I am not perfect. The shipping companies are not perfect. Even a brand new, seemingly perfectly packaged item, with a less than 1% chance of getting damaged, is not 100% safe from damage or defects. Don’t panic, you are not alone in the return game on ebay. Here are a few steps to take to ensure your return goes smoothly.
First off, just breathe. Well over 90% of the customers I deal with on ebay are from outside RI, where my home base operation is. What that translates into is this. I don’t know my customers personally, I don’t know their temperament when something goes wrong, I don’t know what they perceive to be “mint condition” or “excellent shape”. All I know at the moment I get an email from ebay that the customer is not happy, is that the customer is not happy. So, don’t go on the attack and accuse the customer of any wrongdoing because that will only make the customer MORE UNHAPPY!!!
Second, get in touch with the customer immediately. Do not delay. Delays make the customer uneasy. Remember, you don’t really know this person personally. In their world, a delay may signal a problem with you, the seller. In the buyer’s eyes, you maybe stalling for some reason that they are inventing in their head because you have not returned their email. In your communication with the buyer, include an apology, even if the issue at hand is not your fault. Humble yourself so the customer knows you are on their side and that you want to resolve this problem. Again, by insinuating that this is a shipping error or someone else’s error, you are not making the customer HAPPY. The customer has all the cards in the return game, I’m sorry to tell you this, but it is true. Therefore, you must play defense and be humble and be apologetic to show your customer that you are intent on helping them become HAPPY.
Third, gather as much information as you can. If the item was damaged, ask the buyer to take photos. Ask if the item is still working or functional. Go back to the original listing. Did you take enough photos? Did you disclose important information about the item’s condition? Did you package the item properly? Did you do your part as the seller to make sure you had a successful transaction? In life and in business, it is so important to learn from mistakes. Mistakes happen and sometimes mistakes make you and your company better. So learn from your mistakes. But, do not blame the customer or the shipping agent at any junction until all of the evidence has been gathered. If it was your error, you need to take steps to correct your error. If it was a shipping error, again, think about protecting your item with more protection next time you ship. If it was a listing error, make sure you proofread your listing and look at the photos you provided for that item.
Fourth, ebay has a built in set of return policies you can select for your listings. Review the ones that make the most sense for your business. I have a 14 day return policy built into every listing. If someone receives an item that doesn’t fit their needs, they can return it no questions asked. My customers can buy with confidence knowing that if something doesn’t fit or is not quite what they were looking for, they can return it to a reputable seller. Make sure you review the various policies on ebay or create your own policy which works for you.
Fifth, resolving the problem will determine whether or not the customer will keep the item, exchange the item for another item, receive a full refund, or maybe a partial refund. This is where contacting the customer right away and making the customer feel like you care makes all the difference. If the buyer is ANGRY with you because 1) you sent them a defective item and 2) you did not get back to them when they desired, guess what??? They are not going to be HAPPY with you and this resolution is off to a bumpy start. If the customer did receive positive communication from you, the seller, and they are HAPPY, then the resolution will play out without any additional emotions. If the product can be fixed, offer to fix it. If the product is working but has some additional cosmetic marks, offer a solution, possibly a partial refund. If the item is beyond repair, offer a replacement. If the customer does not want it and appreciates your effort, offer to take the item back for a refund. In the long run, a HAPPY customer gives positive feedback, which helps your business. An UNHAPPY customer gives negative feedback which hurts your reputation as a seller.
My advice as an ebay seller for over 12 years is to make the customer HAPPY. Work with your customer on his/her return. Get in touch with them as soon as you find out there is an issue. Be a good detective. Work on the problem, don’t delay. Delays mean an UNHAPPY customer. You are in the business of making your customers HAPPY. Humble yourself and work the problem diligently. Trust me, it will pay off with a HAPPY customer in the end.