From the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

It doesn't matter what you sell; people truly buy only two things from you: security and confidence. If you can't provide those two things through your customer service, your buyers will simply move on to your competitors.and on eBay, they have many to choose from.

If you treat eBay like a garage sale, you shouldn't be surprised when your products fetch garage-sale prices. By treating it like a real business--using research, advanced marketing tools and gold-star customer service--you will outsell your competition. To develop your gold-star customer service policies, stop thinking like a seller, and start thinking like a buyer. Your buyer wants:

  • A Return Policy: "100 percent money-back guarantee"--eBay has found that those five confidence-filled words will garner you 6 percent higher bids, yet only 1 percent of the eBay buying community uses that guarantee.
  • Access: Provide your buyer with additional security by including your contact information in the listing--an e-mail address as well as a phone number. Use Skype'sphone and voice-mail system to easily incorporate a business number into your listings.
  • A Professional Salesperson: You might be the nicest person in the world, but your customers only know you by what they see online. If your listing is full of grammatical and spelling mistakes, they'll wonder if you're going to be that careless with their item as well.

Also, the "must hear from you in three days, payment must be received in 10 days or negative feedback will be left" type of listing will only drive the bidder away to the friendlier competition.

  • Honesty:Nathan Sanelknows honesty is a large part of his success. "The most important thing we do in my company is tell the truth," says this detail-oriented Titanium PowerSeller (eBay User ID: thecollectabletrader), who mainly sells used motorcycles. After all, if Sanel, 37, ships a product without disclosing any problems it may have, the customer will discover them soon enough.
  • Extras: Make it easier for buyers to buy from you than from your competitors. State that you'll ship items within 24 hours of receiving payment. Offer to ship the item to someone on their gift list, and include gift wrap if they desire. Accept all forms of payment. Offer three shipping speeds, both domestically and internationally.
  • Reasonable Shipping: You might think you're being creative by putting that $25 shipping and handling charge on your $5 item and not getting charged eBay fees on it, but it's illegal to do that on eBay (it's considered fee avoidance) and eBay may remove your listings from the site. Plus, your buyers don't trust you when they see that. Even if the retail price of the same item is $50, your $30 doesn't seem like a deal to them--it seems suspicious.

Outsmart your competition, and give your buyers what they want: security and confidence through top-notch customer service.

Janelle Elms, eBay University instructor and online business consultant, specializes in coaching individuals and companies to build successful eBay businesses. She is the bestselling author of eBay Your Business.