During the Sale

Providing Good Customer Service

If at first the sale succeeds, they'll buy and buy again.

Stellar customer service is the key to succeeding on eBay. Simply put: The more customer-friendly your policies are, the more likely your first-time buyers will become your regular customers. That means answering e-mails as soon as possible-within 24 to 48 hours-and shipping items promptly.

Max Wasserman, co-founder of Wasserman Partners (eBay User ID: xyzxyz) in Las Vegas, which sells on average about 200 VHS tapes and DVDs per week on eBay and projects sales of $225,000 this year, responds to e-mails in less than one day and ships at least every other day.

"Some people put in their listings that they ship every Tuesday, for example," says Wasserman, 70. "But for me, shipping every day is an important [part] of our business, and if we didn't [ship every day], it would have a big impact on our business."

The best customer service offers a variety of payment methods and clearly spells out shipping costs and policies. It's also a good idea to embed eBay's shipping calculator directly in the listing, especially if shipping costs are variable based on the buyer's location (or you could offer a flat rate to a specified area). Make sure return policies are clearly stated in your listing. And, if possible, offer guarantees that allow customers to return anything they order.

"We'll replace anything that is defective, without any questions, and we'll accept the return," says Wasserman, clarifying that he can do this because his products have a low price point of $10 to $15. More expensive items could make such a policy cost-prohibitive.

Accepting Payment on eBay

How will your customers pay you? Here's a closer look at the most popular ways of accepting payment:

  • PayPal: This service, which lets the seller accept a credit card or bank-account-funded online payment, is the most popular way to accept payment on eBay. "PayPal is accepted in over 90 percent of listings [in the United States], and 3 out of 4 eBay buyers prefer to pay with PayPal," says Bill Onderdonk, director of U.S. eBay Business for PayPal in San Jose, California. One reason it's popular with sellers is because it offers a PayPal Seller Protection Policy that protects against chargebacks. (PayPal also offers a PayPal Buyer Protection Program, covering buyers for up to $500 on a transaction.)

PayPal, which has a limit of $10,000 per transaction, has two fees: the standard rate, which is 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, and the merchant rate, which is 2.2 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. The qualification for the merchant rate is $1,000 per month in payment volume.

  • Credit cards: eBay sellers with merchant bank accounts can accept credit cards from buyers. "But there are very few sellers who only offer a merchant account," says Onderdonk, who adds that setting up a PayPal account is easier than setting up a merchant account with a bank. "You can be up and running, selling on eBay using PayPal, in five minutes, whereas it could take you hours, if not days, to put a merchant account together."
  • Alternative payment options: Most eBay sellers let buyers pay with a check, a money order, a cashier's check or a direct wire transfer. Checks do have drawbacks: Sellers must wait for the check to clear before sending the item, leading to transaction delays. Additionally, when you send someone a check, you are also sending that person your bank account number, which makes many customers uncomfortable.

Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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