As I sat down to write this article, it happened. I got one of those problem buyers that makes us all cringe!
In this instance I accepted an offer on a high priced set of cookware. Now, I accepted the offer based on their location being in Germany and that shipping would be paid separately (I offer domestic free shipping on everything). Imagine my surprise when they paid and showed they were in New Jersey and would be expecting free shipping!
Now I could have handled this with some anger, and emailed them some choice words for trying to trick me. Believe me, I get those feelings inside, too! But I know as a professional business owner (yes, that’s you if you are running an eBay business) that I have to keep my cool and handle things calmly. I contacted the customer and gave them the choice of paying the additional shipping or canceling the transaction. They did neither so I refunded their money. I waited another 24 hours before submitting a request to cancel the transaction, well you can guess what happened next… they denied it!
I now have the choice of how to handle this difficult customer. I can send them a nasty email telling them what a jerk they are for screwing up my sale, or as I did, calmly call eBay with the details, item number and take care of getting my FVF returned and move on. Ok, so I’m giving you the two extremes here; there is some middle ground in emailing a customer, but my point is why force a transaction on a customer that they don’t want to carry through?
I see it time and time again in the Facebook groups that discuss eBay. It goes a little something like, “This customer bought x and now doesn’t want it. What do I do?” Well the simple answer is, you take it back graciously, offer a full refund when it is returned in the condition it was sent, and be done with it!
Did I just hear you grumble?
I know, sometimes those returns and refunds can be downright painful! But I want you to start thinking of it this way—every second of time that customer is dealt with robs you of time you could be spending listing more awesome stuff to sell. Going back and forth in emails, arguing and/or posting on Facebook groups to get others opinions and to validate yours only takes more money out of your pocket than if you just facilitate the return and move on.
The industry norm is 1-3% of your total transactions will be returns/refunds. If you factor this into your budgeting you will not be caught off guard when the occasional return happens. If your percentage is over that it may be time to take a look at your business and see how you could better prevent returns. Some categories have higher return rates, such as shoes and clothing. If you are planning to sell in these more volatile categories be sure and factor that into your annual monetary goals. You may want to consider a small restocking fee to deter frivolous returns, especially if you offer free shipping.
eBay is working on making this whole unpleasant part of doing business online much easier, both for the customer and for you. I love how they are automating returns through the new Managed Returns Process. This streamlined process will now be running in the background handling things with you still in control but not having all the headache of worrying about what method they are using for the return and all the back and forth communication. I love automation and this just looks like a no brainer to me.
And finally, here’s some food for thought. The more you sell, the more likely you will have to deal with unpleasant customers along the way. So each time you have to deal with a difficult person think of it as, “Ahhhhh my business is booming!”
Don’t cheat yourself of precious time by arguing with them; just handle it without emotion and as the awesome business owner that you are. “Just the facts ma’am,” as As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet (ooops did I just date myself?). Leave the emotions at the door when dealing with potential bad apples and you will be much less stressed and much more profitable in the long run!
What have you done to deal with difficult customers online?
Danni Ackerman is the founder of The Danni App where she’s all about fun and profits. She is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Savings by Store, Storage Lockers for Fun and Profit and organizer of the Las Vegas Online Sellers Meetup Group. Known as Udderly Good Stuff online, she’s been on eBay since 1998 and has grown up in the world of antiques and collectibles and reselling “stuff.” She hosts her own weekly show called Ask the Danni App, regularly appears on eBay Radio and is a speaker at eBay and eCommerce events and more. She is the mother of 4 including two youngsters she calls her shipping supervisors, and makes a lifestyle out of juggling business and family. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @theDanniApp.
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