Wednesday, February 21, 2007

eBay Sellers and the Email Counundrum!

This topic may not apply to sellers who sell someplace other than eBay but hopefully you can get something from this post. Also, for a great many small volume sellers eMail is not a problem. But, for many medium to high volume eBay sellers, just the mere mention of answering email sometimes causes loss of bodily function. Customer Service (answering emails) is possibly the most frustrating aspect of doing business on eBay (followed closely by the constant changes made on the platform and fees -- but that subject is for another day).

When I started to grow my business I brought on my first employees to package and ship product. I still answered all of the email and I remember being on vacation with my family for 1 week and still taking at least 2 hours a day to answer email. You should have seen the looks I got from family members.

You see, with eBay the number of emails can be overwhelming. Before you actually even sell an item you will receive numerous ASQ (Ask Seller a Question) emails that range from “Is this New? to “I saw this at Wal-Mart for $10 can you beat that and ship it for free?” Most sellers start out answering every email because they want to provide the best service possible but many quickly decide not to answer any questions submitted through the ASQ form because, to put it bluntly, many of those emails are Stupid! How many times can you answer the question “is this sealed” when you have the words ”new sealed” in the title of your listing. Remember you are answering these emails before you sell a single item and you will get an additional 2 – 3 emails for every item you sell. I always saved the ASQ emails for last and then depending on how frustrated I was I either deleted them in mass or browsed for legitimate questions.

So what do you do about all the emails? If you want to stay in business and keep your feedback pristine then you have to answer them. You can hire employees to do this and transfer the frustration onto them but that can be expensive not to mention burnout those employees. You can setup auto-responders that only seem to frustrate the buyer or you can change your thought process. Instead of saying to yourself, “I hate answering email” get used to saying “email makes me money and the more emails I answer the more money I make” Now, step away from the computer and say those words as if you mean them “email makes me money and the more emails I answer the more money I make” It’s amazing how this change in thinking changes your perspective.

So, how do emails make me money? Let’s take the ASQ emails first: you are probably not the only seller who received the same email. Many times, potential buyers will ask the same question of you and your competitor. The first seller to give them a satisfactory answer almost always gets the sale. Often customers are testing your communication skills so if you don’t answer their question they will just find a seller who will.

Consider each time you receive an email as another dollars worth of exposure and don’t be afraid to up sell them on other items in your store, give them the url to your store with the referral ID, alert them to any sales you are running (now that Markdown Manager is available) and assure them you are the seller to take care of their needs. This builds return business and may even reduce the amount of additional emails they send you. Some customers just want to feel comfortable and they don’t need to have their hand held through the rest of the process.

Remember each email you send or respond to is an exposure to your marketing message. It should contain the information the customer was asking for as well as encourage them to come back and purchase again.

Here are some key email rules:

  • Answer all emails as if you made money on each (the exposure is very valuable). You may also take business away from a competitor or encourage a future purchase
  • Answer the customers question joyfully even if it was stupid. (Change your perspective; don’t ask them why they can’t read).
  • Up sell and alert them of promotions also encourage return visits to your store for future purchases, do this in every email you respond to or send. Remember they are going to read your email because you are responding to a question they asked, take advantage of that.
  • Send “we received your payment” emails (This can be automated, just make it as personal as possible and sign a name not “customer service”) .
  • Send an email to let them know you left positive feedback. Again, this can be automated.
  • Mark the item as shipped in My eBay and send them notification along with any tracking information.
  • Send a follow-up email approximately 2 weeks after you shipped the product just to make sure it has arrived. (If transit time is longer; then adjust when you send the follow-up email) BTW nobody else does this so be the first. You may get customers for life.

Now when you see 50 – 100 emails in your in-box don’t despair just see dollar signs. When you change your way of thinking you will reap the rewards.


Mountie said...

This is an interesting one but a friend of mine ran an experiment.

For several months he answered no ASQ's and simply deleted each and every one. The only emails he answered were post sales on shipping or for returns/breakages. He stated it made no difference to sales whatsoever.

In fact from his history of questions anyone that asked more than one was trouble, and he preferred not to deal with them anyway. Further down the line people that asked two or more questions were much more likely either not to buy at all, or to be unhappy when the goods arrived.

Interesting, possibly works better in some categories than other, not what I'd recommend for most sellers.... but definately interesting!

Randy Smythe said...

I'm sure you are correct, I'm sure it works better in some categories. We had several eBay Stores selling the same product. We answered the ASQ's in one ID and not in the others. We saw the store that answered the ASQ's did slightly better.

A high percentage of customers that use ASQ are a waste of time but you can still learn from the questions. We would often find we had an errors in our listing this way. They made contact with you so take the opportunity to sell them on your company and its products.

Joey said...

I answer them all. I usually have around 225-240 listings going at a time. For example I have had two questions today. One was an easy shipping question, I answered it and posted it. The other I will have to wait to answer when I get home from work.

Most of the time the person asking the question has not bid yet. Therefore, I think it is important to answer them. I have had times when I couldn't answer before the item ended but I went ahead and answered them when I returned just in case they may want to consider something else I have.