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Sunday, September 26, 2010


It will eventually happen to everyone who sells on eBay, the email from an unhappy buyer. I’ve had a few and have been able to, so far, successfully satisfy the customer. Customer service is important to eBay sellers because this is their livelihood. This is the extra money, or THE money, that helps their families. One bad mark can ruin a seller’s day as they think that it will harm future sales or impact their standing with eBay.

Recently, I had a good friend of mine who sells occasionally on eBay contact me in a panic when she received just such an email. Her customer was dissatisfied with the Coach purse she had recently purchased and used words like fraud and reporting her to eBay. Now let me say that the purse was indeed authentic and new, however the customer was stating there was dirt in the pockets and that it couldn’t possibly be new. Her customer was definitely angry and was letting her know it! Now I actually helped my friend with this listing and handled the purse myself and knew that it was new and authentic. But none of that really matters when you’re dealing with your customer, what does matter is how they perceive it.

The first thing you want to do in this situation is respond quickly as they are just waiting to hear back from you. Give yourself some time to gather your thoughts and then when you are satisfied you have a good response email them back. The customer wants to be HEARD. In this situation, she threatened harsh action because she doesn’t know her seller and doesn’t know whether she is a reputable person and is assuming the worst. You want to acknowledge, apologize, and reassure that you are going to do the right thing!

So my good friend, blindsided by this buyer calls me for help and I say let me help you draft this email. I’ve handled a few situations like this and knew I could help her. Here is what we sent to her customer:

Dear Customer:

I am sorry that you were unhappy with your purchase. I can assure you however that the bag is new, has never been used and that I would never defraud any customer. That said, I always want a happy and satisfied customer. I know the return policy states 3 days; however I am willing to extend this to 7 days to give you an opportunity to send back with delivery confirmation and insurance. Once the bag is received I will issue a complete refund.

I know making a purchase on eBay and then receiving an item that has not met your expectations, especially an expensive item can be stressful. Most sellers are willing to work towards a peaceful resolution because they value their reputation on eBay as well as their customers. Contacting eBay or leaving negative feedback should be a last resort when a buyer feels they have no other options.

I hope I have met your expectations with my service. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me anytime.

My mailing address is:

Kind regards,
Your humble seller

This letter was received well by her customer, of course this was a customized response to this particular situation but you can do the same.

What we did here was defend ourselves a little (not get defensive) but assure the customer that you are an honest person without sounding holier-than-thou. Acknowledge her concerns and even frustration with the situation. Imagine how you might feel after dropping $100 and you don’t get what you think you paid for. Apologize for the inconvenience and then move in for a solution. In this case, it was apparent from her email that she just wanted out of this transaction so we offered a complete refund. But other times the buyer may just want to keep it, but feels they spent to much and the value just isn’t there. Gauge the situation and customize it so that your customer has the power in making a decision as to a solution, don’t just make it for them!

I don’t normally mention feedback in my initial response to a customer, but in this situation she threatened to contact eBay and I wanted to explain the process a little. The process being that you should work it out together and if all else fails, THEN you contact eBay as an arbitrator.

Once you have resolved the problem, then a “thank you” is in order. You can then email back your customer and thank them for working with you, being patient and understanding and also state something like this: “I hope I have turned this into a 5 star experience for you!” Hopefully your customer is so impressed with your service that good feedback will naturally follow.

This approach will not help you against “the difficult buyer”. There are buyers out there who will not care what you do for them and may just be looking for a freebie. They are out there, and fortunately few and far between. When you run across a buyer like this you will still try to work towards a resolution, but it may not be enough to satisfy a buyer like that. In a case like that, you will have to cut your losses and move on.

Many times you can totally turn around the situation in your favor just by following these simple steps. For the record, the customer mentioned above has opted to keep the bag. I guess it wasn’t that bad after all!

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