Interpreting buyer reviews and ratings

Each review consists of a description of the experience the seller had with that buyer, and also a risk level (rating) assigned by the seller.  If a buyer has been reviewed by more than one seller, a summary review is generated and shown in addition to the individual reviews.  Bear in mind that a review reflects only a unique seller's experience and may not be a conclusive argument for the buyer's risk profile. 

Reporting bad buyers with confidence

Our success is built on sellers’ willingness to share experiences with each other.  Reporting a bad buyer is about protecting fellow sellers, not seeking justice.  It is also a warning sign to that buyer, whose risk profile will raise a red flag to other sellers.  Don’t be afraid to report buyers.  Thousands of sellers will be grateful to you. 

Screening your buyers

Stop “blind selling” on the Internet! Screening your buyers before shipping should become a routine.  Most likely you are dealing with an honest person and your transaction will go smoothly.  However, there is always a chance your buyer is "trouble" and has already been reported by another seller.  Read that review and act accordingly to protect your business. Screen your buyer before it is too late.

When you screen a buyer, make sure to use the buyer's billing name and address. If the billing address is different from the shipping address, screen both.  To conceal a pattern, fraudulent buyers often request a delivery to a relative, friend, office, etc.  When in doubt, ask your buyers for a confirmation of the shipping address and the name of the recipient.

Increasing your chances of receiving positive feedback

Positive feedback is a strong asset to your online business.  You should encourage buyers to leave their feedback by directly contacting them within a week of the delivery.  You can send a simple, but to-the-point message.

Feedback extortion and how to avoid it

Feedback extortion happens when a bad buyer threatens to leave bad feedback for the seller unless the seller does something else, such as give a partial or full refund for an imaginary problem.  As buyers have been increasingly aware of their power to negatively affect a seller's performance, feedback extortion has become a big and growing threat to Internet retailing. 

You should immediately contact the site’s customer service and request a cancellation of the transaction and/or removal of feedback.  Keep a track record of your emails with the problematic buyer. Bear in mind that taking legal action is often impractical, time consuming and costly. You should submit your report on that buyer with eBR, and may even inform him/her of you doing so. Reporting has proven to be an excellent way to teach buyers self-awareness and accountability. 

Beefing up your customer rating

Asking close friends and family to buy a small-ticket item from your online store and leave positive feedback for you and your products can do wonders to your business.  Particularly with beginner sellers, we have found that one positive feedback followed by another one within a week, everything else being equal, can increase sales by as much as 20% in the following month.  Don’t be shy—ask your loved ones to give you a "thumbs up.”  

Focus on your product reviews

Selling online is very different from selling in a brick-and-mortar store.  Your items need to have impeccable visual display, detailed description, accurate sizing information and, most importantly, lots of positive buyer reviews.  Without the latter you may end up sitting on the sideline, biting your nails and wondering what went wrong.  Get proactive now and ask your buyers for positive reviews instead of waiting for them to come to you.  Send "thank you" messages to your buyers and ask them to give their "thumbs-up" to the items they bought.   It is best to start with those buyers who have already indicated to you that they have received their purchase and are satisfied.  You would be surprised what a difference this could make to your business.

Dealing with dissatisfied customers

As a seller on the Internet, you may often be in a situation where your customer is unhappy.  It may not be your fault at all, but a delayed delivery, misread or misinterpreted product details, sizing issues, visual misinterpretation, etc.  All of these could result in the buyer leaving you negative feedback.  Buyers have become sophisticated and realize their power to impact a business at the snap of a finger.  If you feel that there is a signal of customer dissatisfaction it is best that you:

  • Understand the signal and classify it as “innocent” or “extortionist”.  Innocent buyers would most likely explain their dissatisfaction and ask for some sort of arrangement without posing a threat to the seller.  Extortionists would immediately ask for a large financial compensation while being unreasonable or unconvincing in their claims.
  • Be proactive.  If you sense customer dissatisfaction due to sizing or product functionality, immediately offer an unconditional exchange with free shipping or a full refund.  If it is a functionality problem, you may take the time to clarify the issue by referring to the product description of the listed item.  Always be ready to take the item back with a “no questions asked” policy and always show understanding and courtesy.  By doing so, you might be surprised how quickly a potential buyer threat could turn into an asset and generate a positive feedback.  
  • Stand your ground.  When it is clear that you are dealing with a fraudulent buyer, do not hesitate to explain in a straight forward language your position and why you believe that his/her requests are unreasonable.  Refer to other positive feedback you have received in the past and explain your policies as a seller. Do not hesitate to report the buyer to the third party intermediary if you do not sell on your own website.  You may tell the buyer of your intent to report him on eBR, thus affecting his credibility to other on-line sellers.
Dealing with unfair feedback

Negative feedback can have a detrimental impact on your sales.  Small volume sellers receiving negative feedback reportedly experience a 20-30% decrease in revenue.  If you believe that you have received unfair feedback, do not hesitate to act immediately:

  • Directly contact the buyer, explaining in a logical and polite way why you disagree with the feedback for your service. You may quote your company policies as well as other rules which support your disagreement.
  • Contact the customer service of the sale intermediary: Amazon, eBay, or whomever you are using, and explain the issue.  Be short and constructive in your case presentation.  Again, try to control your emotions and be a good listener.
  • Inform the buyer that failure to remove the feedback by a certain time would result in your reporting him/her to eBR.  Try to have a conversation with the buyer on the phone.  Be reasonable, professional and nonthreatening.   Be decisive and report this buyer on eBR if the issue is not resolved.  You will have done the right thing and other sellers will be grateful to you.
Cancelling a sales order

As a seller, you should always try to complete a sale.  Even if you find that your buyer has been reported on eBR, try to convey your concerns to the buyer and manage your risk so that the sale goes through smoothly.  Typically sizing issues, address errors, or the buyer's unavailability for delivery are easy to deal with.  However, if your buyer has been reported to be a high-risk buyer in more than one report, you should consider cancelling the transaction.  It is your right to do so, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.  You can explain the reason for your decision to the buyer as well as to the third party online intermediary if there is one.  For your peace of mind, bear in mind that most online stores do not allow buyers to leave feedback on cancelled transactions.


News headlines
How eBay is trying to combat people stealing sellers' items

at http://home.bt.com (May 23, 2016)

E-commerce market to touch $16 billion in India this year

at timesofindia.indiatimes.com (Apr 09, 2015)

Online fraud costs e-retailers $3.5 billion in 2012

at www.internetretailer.com (Mar 28, 2015)

Common eBay scams and how to avoid them

at www.welivesecurity.com (Feb 09, 2015)

Online orders originating in Indonesia, Pakistan and Romania have high fraud rates

at Internetretailer (Jan 22, 2015)