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Excellent customer service during busy seasons

During periods of increased seasonal demand, many eBay sellers feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially if they’re running their small business on their own. Despite higher profits, the skyrocketing volume of orders may lead to handling and shipping issues, customer disappointment, negative feedback and declining service metrics. However, it’s totally within your power to avoid these pitfalls. We have prepared a brief guide that will help you deliver excellent customer service during the busiest time of the year.

Avoid unrealistic expectations

In many cases, customer disappointment is caused by unrealistic expectations. Buyers can be misguided by vague item descriptions, low-resolution photos, lack of item specifics, and other factors. To prevent “Item not as described” issues, add high quality pictures from all angles, so that the item’s condition could be clearly visible. You should also make sure that your listing contains all the necessary information (about the product, its shipping time, your return rules, etc.) and can’t be misread. That way, you are likely to prevent a lot of customer issues.

Example: You’re selling kitchen accessories made of plastic with a metallic paint finish. If you don’t include “plastic” into the listing title, some buyers may skip the description and expect to get an item made of metal. Even though it’s not your fault, they will be disappointed and may choose to return the item or leave a negative review.

Always meet your handling time

Always meet your handling time

During the peak season, the shipping time becomes a crucial factor for holiday shoppers. They want to be sure that their gifts, decor, and fancy apparel will arrive before the celebration. To help buyers feel more confident about their purchases, eBay calculates the estimated delivery time and shows it on every listing page. The calculation is based on a variety of factors:

  • your handling time 
  • the carrier services you use
  • the item location and the buyer’s address
  • your past delivery performance
  • the performance of the chosen shipping service
  • seasonal delays and disruptions

Your handling time is the number of business days between when you get the payment for an order and when your parcel is scanned for shipping at the carrier’s office.

Why is it important to meet your handling time? If you ship your orders without delays, they are more likely to arrive within the estimated time and make your customers happy. If a buyer doesn’t get their order within the estimated time period, they can open an Item not received case. As a result, your seller performance and Item Not Received rate may be impacted.

However, your performance won’t be undermined if late delivery is not your fault. You just need to provide valid tracking information and an acceptance scan proving that you shipped the order within the specified handling time period. If you regularly fail to meet the deadline, consider increasing your handling time or hiring seasonal assistants.

For more information about handling time and how to set it on eBay, please read the Handling time & estimated delivery dates article.

Respond to customer inquiries promptly

Respond to customer inquiries promptly

Even during the busiest time, do your best to allocate time for answering your buyers’ messages. Regularly check your inbox, respond promptly, and provide accurate information. Consider using eBay mobile app to check your inbox and write answers on the go.

If you are snowed under with orders that keep coming in, find an extra pair of hands to help you — whether a hired worker or just a relative. After setting up a multi-user account, you will be able to delegate routine tasks and maintain a high level of service.

Another way to answer customer inquiries as quickly as possible is to create message templates beforehand. Compose polite and professional-looking answers to typical inquiries and keep them close at hand. These templates will come in handy when you are feeling overwhelmed with tasks and emotions: you just need to copy-paste the template and insert the relevant information about a certain item or shipment. If you have assistants, they can use the templates as well. As a result, your communication will be streamlined, consistent and professional.

eBay was created with individual sellers in mind, and its messaging interface isn’t convenient for large support teams. If you’re running a big company that uses eBay as one of its sales channels, then your best option is to implement a third-party solution that meets your needs. Have a look at the eBay Partners page and use the filters to find the right tool.

Adopt the proactive approach

Adopt the proactive approach

Proactivity means that you don’t wait until an upset customer sends you an angry message. If you know that a certain order will be shipped with a delay, let the buyer know about that immediately and send them a coded discount coupon as an apology. In most cases, that will be enough to prevent frustration. And if the delivery date is crucial, such a buyer will still have time to cancel the order and purchase the desired item elsewhere, with a faster shipping option.

Proactive approach includes:

  • anticipating your buyers’ needs 
  • promptly informing them about any delays or issues
  • addressing concerns before they escalate
  • quickly offering solutions to unexpected problems
  • monitoring feedback and reviews to identify what can be improved

If you consistently adopt this approach, it will help you improve your service metrics, build trust with your buyers, and turn them into repeat customers. Going the extra mile during peak seasons will make a favorable impression lasting well beyond the holidays.

Do your best to resolve customer issues

Do your best to resolve customer issues

If a customer is frustrated by their order and sends you an angry message or opens a dispute, don’t take it personally. Such situations arise from time to time in any online business. However, you should do your best to set everything right — be that a lost parcel, an item damaged on its way to the buyer, delayed handling, or any other cause.

Here are our recommendations:

  • Work with your buyer to resolve issues without involving eBay
  • Acknowledge the problem and show empathy 
  • Always keep calm and patient
  • Don’t blame the buyer or yourself, but concentrate on resolving the issue
  • Be ready to accept a small loss if it can build trust and loyalty
  • Try to find a solution that will work for both you and the buyer

If you are suffering from an abusive buyer, report their behavior and use eBay Seller Protection. You can also block certain buyers from purchasing your items or placing bids on your auctions.

Manage returns and refunds effectively

Manage returns and refunds effectively

Though every online seller strives to keep returns to a minimum, the average e-commerce return rate in the US market comprises about 16% [1]. At the same time, not accepting returns is bad for conversion because holiday shoppers feel less confident about their purchases. In other words, returns and refunds are a necessary evil that can’t be avoided, but you still can (and should) minimize their impact on your business workflow.

What you can do:

  • Learn how returns work on eBay
  • Set up a clear return policy that states what items can be returned within what period of time
  • Create rules to automate returns and refunds for certain products and circumstances (e.g. for clothes that don’t fit)
  • Offer replacements and exchanges if you’re unwilling to issue refunds for returned items

For more useful tips, please read the Seasonal tips practical tools for the peak sales season article.

Partial refund

Top Rated and Above Standard sellers can take advantage of an enhanced selection of protections and refund options. For example, you can issue a partial refund if a returned item comes back used or damaged by the buyer, or with missing parts. You can retain up to 50% of the refund value to cover the issue. 

If you issue a partial refund. eBay will protect you from any chargebacks. Besides, it will automatically remove negative or neutral feedback, defects, and open cases in your service metrics relating to that claim.

Guidelines for how much to deduct from the refund

To help you determine how much to deduct from the buyer's refund

Condition of returnRefund deduction guidance
Excellent condition:
  • Unused, undamaged, or unaltered
  • All items included in the original package
  • Factory or vacuum seal must not be broken/opened (if applicable)
  • Original tags included & attached (where applicable)
  • Must include provided certificates of authenticity, grading or appraisal
No deductions
Good condition:
  • Missing original packaging
  • Factory or vacuum seal is broken/opened but the item is still in its original condition
  • Original tags included but unattached
5%–10% deduction
Fair condition:
  • Missing parts
  • Some signs of wear or use
  • Item has been installed
  • Item has been registered or user has not logged out of the device's account, and cannot easily be set back to factory settings
  • Original tags missing
15%–30% deduction
Poor condition:
  • Significant signs of wear, or significantly different than how it was shipped to the buyer
  • Missing essential parts
  • Item is damaged, scratched, defective, or requires service or repair
  • Missing provided certificates of authenticity, grading or appraisal
  • Opened items that cannot be resold (perishables, liquor, makeup)
  • Sold multiple items but the buyer didn't return all of them
35%–50% deduction

You may only deduct an amount from the buyer's refund to recover lost value when the returned item is not in the same condition as when you shipped it (damaged, used, or altered). This protection may not be used to compensate for return postage, restocking costs, or market losses on items returned in the same condition.

Customer service checklist

Customer service checklist

✔️ Communicate in a friendly and understanding tone to build trust, even if the situation is challenging

✔️ Respond promptly to customers’ messages and inquiries, providing useful and accurate information

✔️ Always be honest with buyers and avoid unrealistic expectations

✔️ Streamline communication with the help of FAQ templates

✔️ Consider using eBay mobile app to check your inbox on the go

✔️ Create a Returns Policy to automate most returns and refunds

✔️ Use multi-user access or a third-party platform if you have a large support team

✔️ Remember that your goal is not to win a dispute but to build trust and loyalty

Amid the festive hustle, providing excellent customer service might seem a daunting task. Consider it your opportunity to foster loyalty, expand your audience, and thus ensure the long-term success of your eBay business. Our recommendations will help you navigate the challenges of the busy holiday season and pave the way for lots of repeat buyers. Good luck!