Can ebay fix the feedback system to make it fair for both buyers and sellers? Yes I believe so.
The feedback system on ebay is one of the big drawcards of the site. Buyers love the idea of being able to check the feedback of sellers to see how past buyers have rated their trading experience with that seller. Theoretically it sounds like a great idea, but anyone who has sold items on ebay for any period of time would know exactly how compromised the ebay feedback system has become.
The problem with negative and neutral feedback is that everyone loses. The buyer who leaves the feedback does not get their problem resolved so they go away unhappy and complain to everyone about problems buying on ebay. The seller gets a mark against their account that may in many cases not be deserved so the seller then complains to everyone about how unfair the system on ebay is to sellers. Ebay is lowered in the opinion of both the buyer and the seller, either or both of which may choose to no longer use this trading platform.
An improved feedback system would encourage buyers and sellers to resolve problems before feedback is left without removing the right for buyers to leave the feedback that they feel the seller deserves.
Lets start with the solution to the problem
In my opinion the ebay feedback system should work as follows:
1. A buyer leaves a feedback comment just as they do now.
2. If the buyer has left positive feedback then their feedback comment goes live immeadiately just as it does under the current system.
3. If the buyer has elected to leave either neutral or negative feedback then their feedback comment is saved by the system but does not go live for a period of time, lets say 72 hours.
4. The system then automatically opens up a dispute resolution between the buyer and the seller.
5. The seller receives notification that there is a pending neutral or negative comment being left for them. The seller is then given an opportunity to see if they can resolve the problem with the buyer via the dispute resolution console. This console would be a simple message center with the ability of both parties to upload photos, files etc for the other party and ebay to see.
6. At the end of the 72 hours the buyer receives a prompt from ebay regarding the pending feedback that they have left. They can then either submit the feedback as it is or change the feedback rating and/or comment in light of the resolution process.
7. Importantly the system should alert ebay if there are more than a certain percentage of pending negative or neutral feedbacks for a seller. This would enable the system to temporarily suspend a seller that has received an inordinate number of negatives or neutrals in order to put a stop to scammers without the need to wait the 72 hours for the feedback to go live.
Under the above system buyers maintain their right to leave the feedback that they want to leave but it gives sellers a warning about what feedback is going to be left for them and gives the seller an opportunity to resolve problems.
What advantages does the above system have over the current system?
In order to replace one feedback system with another there would need to be some genuine advantages to doing so. I believe that all of the following problems would be resolved by a resolution dialogue within the feedback process:
Feedback left in error - it is suprising how often buyers make the wrong feedback selection when leaving feedback for sellers. Ebay has tried to counter this with a recent change which prompts buyers to confirm that they want to leave neutral or negative feedback for a transaction, yet this has not solved this problem. In fact the problem seems to be getting worse as more buyers access ebay via mobile phones. By having a dispute resolution process after the selection of neutral or negative feedback the buyer would be made fully aware of their mistake and they could easily change to the positive feedback they had intended to choose.
Feedback left in anger - the cooling off period provided by the 72 hour resolution process may help to avoid emotive feedback as buyers would have a chance to think about the feedback before finalising it on the system. Emotive feedback is rarely accurate nor informative feedback and as such generally has little to no value to other users.
Feedback left as the result of a misunderstanding - sometimes buyers will be disappointed by a product received because they have overlooked part of the item description or assumed that they were getting something that was not in fact part of the transaction. The dispute resolution console would give sellers an opportunity to point this out the buyer by way of the item description and the buyer could then ammend their feedback accordingly. Feedback that is not accurate has little value to other users on ebay and does not meet ebays suggestion that fedback is available to help protect and inform other users.
Feedback left without contacting the seller - the dispute resolution process would put an end to feedback left without the sellers knowledge. Buyers would know when they attempt to leave feedback that the seller is going to be informed about the feedback and given the ability to contact the buyer about that feedback. This may help to put an end to 'hit and run' style feedback that some buyers leave for sellers without notifying sellers of any problems. It is only fair that a seller should be given a chance to resolve problems when they arise and the current system lets legitimate sellers down in this regard.
Feedback left as communication - some buyers actually try to use the feedback system to communicate with sellers. It seems ludicrous but true that a buyer who has not received an item yet can leave a neutral or negative feedback for a seller along the lines of 'My item has not arrived yet where is it?' when that really should have been a question that was communicated to a seller rather than left as feedback. Ebay policies do state that feedback is NOT a form of communication between buyers and sellers yet some buyers just dont get this.
Feedback accuracy would be improved - under the current system buyers are able to leave pretty much whatever feedback they choose to leave even if the seller can prove that the feedback left is factually incorrect. One common example of this may be items sent by registered post in order to satisfy Paypal buyer protection. So the seller may have charged a postage amount of $7.70 for a small parcel (postage cost $4.75 plus $2.95 for the registered postage component). The buyer receives the parcel and notices that the seller has only paid $4.75 for postage but overlooks the registered postage costs. The buyer then leaves negative or neutral feedback about the seller overcharging on postage when in fact the seller has only charged the exact costs of shipping. The feedback resolution process would give sellers the chance to explain this sort of thing to the buyer before the buyers feedback goes live.
Truth in feedback - There is no value in feedback that is based upon a lie and the feedback resolution would give sellers a chance to seek 'truth in feedback'. Some buyers use the feedback system to punish sellers and sometimes their comments are an inaccurate representation of the actual transaction made with the sole intention of damaging the sellers reputation. Occassionally this is done by competitor sellers. The resolution center may give sellers the opportunity to draw these types of feedback out into the open and ebay could then review the information in the dispute console to determine whether a feedback removal is warranted.
If a seller does not take the opportunity to resolve a problem then they will still get the negative or neutral feedback that has been pending for them, but at least it will be more likely that the feedback is deserved. Most sellers however would likely take the opportunity to resolve the problem which would make the buyer happy and perhaps encourage that buyer to revise their feedback. Both parties go away happy that ebay has helped them resolve a potential problem and both continue to use ebay so ebay continues to collect their fees. Everybody wins!
So what is the problem with negative and neutral feedback?
Most buyers do not understand the feedback system and in fact the idea behind the meaning of the feedback selections has changed over the years.
Initially neutral feedback was intended for a normal transaction, positive feedback for a better than expected transaction, and negative feedback for a worse than expected transaction. Nowadays though the expectation of ebay and its buyers and sellers is that a transaction will be given positive feedback unless there is a problem. Negative feedback would be left where a buyer perceives the problems to be severe, whereas neutral feedback would be left where there was a problem but perhaps the seller resolved the problem so the buyer is not as concerned with the problem with the transaction.
The problem here is that everyone has different ideas about what the various feedback choices mean, and ebay uses the information to the detriment of sellers by way of lowered placement in search results etc. Many buyers do not realise that they feedback they leave can have a severe affect upon sellers.
In making feedback more and more important for sellers surely ebay has a responsibility to sellers to ensure that the feedback system is both robust and fair.
Personally, I would never leave negative feedback for a seller unless I had been outright ripped off i.e. paid money but did not receive product. I would reserve neutral feedback for situations where a seller was not honest in the transaction, was perhaps rude or very tardy, or where the product received was clearly and perhaps intentionally not as described. Positive feedback would be for everything else including situations where a problem had arisen but where the seller had resolved the problem. I may also exercise my right not to leave feedback at all.
So what do I care?
I enjoy selling on ebay. I do my best as a seller to ensure that I accurately describe products, that I pack products appropriately, and that I send them quickly. If problems occur or mistakes are made I appreciate the opportunity to resolve these problems as I want all customers to be repeat customers. Buyers that do not show me the respect of contacting me with concerns and instead leave unwarranted or unfair feedback without first contacting me end up on my blocked buyers list. A simple contact from buyers can help avoid a lot of angst for both parties and if buyers are not going to do this voluntarily then perhaps ebay could put in place a system that encourages them to do so.
I would like to see a feedback system that is fair to both buyers and sellers and that gives both parties the opportunity to resolve problems. I really dont like the current system which is rather punitive and enables buyers to leave negative or neutral feedback for sellers that may either be not true or unwarranted. I dont see a point to a system that contains comments that are not an accurate representation of a seller but instead made to punish sellers.
If you agree that something needs to be done about the feedback system on ebay then please vote 'Yes' that this guide was helpful for you and hopefully someone at ebay may just take notice.