Amazon.com has been shaking up the scene lately with 3rd party “Marketplace Sellers”. Just last week they announced a massive plan to begin restricting well-known brands from being sold by Marketplace Sellers. The ripples of this announcement are still sending shock waves throughout the community of Amazon sellers who practice what’s known as …
Have you ever settled in and ignored your metrics?
Friends, one of the main reasons that I started this blog was to share news and insights about e-commerce and online selling. With over a decade in e-commerce, I’ve seen plenty of things – some amazing successes and some really discouraging heartaches. I hope that my transparency and vulnerability with our readers will help save some of you from the mistakes we’ve made and at the same time, launch you into some of the success we’ve enjoyed.
We Got Sloppy and It Costs us over $10,000
Yes, you read that correctly. Today I just swallowed the intense reality that we’ve unexpectedly accrued over $10,000 worth of eBay insertion fees. How did that happen? It’s not pretty.
Because our company is a high volume seller, we qualified for a promotion a while back that enabled us to have unlimited eBay listings with zero insertion fees. Zero. It was a super promotion that we have been honored to enjoy for nearly a full year. It’s allowed us to mass list tens of thousands of products on eBay.
Despite having some employees who oversee our eBay sales and customer service, I (as the owner) happened to login to our eBay account a few weeks ago to help out with some customer service issues over the weekend. I nearly fainted when I noticed that instead of a “Top Rated Power Seller” we had red marks everywhere and were listed as “Below Standard”. Our metrics were awful and we had listing restrictions in place. Apparently we had an unusual spike in customer escalations about refunds. I spent hours investigating each of these. A few of them were legit – we just simply were sloppy and didn’t refund customers quickly enough which forced the buyers to escalate to a claim with eBay. The rest of them really weren’t our fault at all. A couple of them had to do with customers who, for whatever reason, were unable to print the PDF return labels we’d sent to them. Instead of working with us, they escalated it to eBay. There were just enough issues to barely (by less than 1% point) push us into “Below Standard” for that month.
This caused a domino effect that has proven to be one of the most painful mistakes we’ve ever made:
- As a result of the poor metrics, we dropped to “Below Standard” and lost our Power Seller status.
- All final value fee discounts were lost as a result of our poor status.
- Overall sales plummeted because everyone knows that Power Sellers with good metrics get better search placement and visibility.
- This is the real bruiser. The promotion agreement for our “zero insertion fees” had a clause that required us to maintain our performance.
Since three full weeks have passed before this came to my attention, we’d accrued over $10,000 in listing fees because our integration software is scheduled to automatically list (and relist) items.
So what happened?
We got busy and sloppy. That’s the bottom line. No one person was delegated to intentionally review metrics on our account. I suppose the Sales Manager assumed someone else was aware. The Customer Service manager probably assumed the same. And the Owner – well, I assumed that my staff had it under control and only discovered this when I happened to stumble upon it. So who is to blame? Well, we all take some responsibility but as the Owner, I take the ultimate responsibility because I should have been in tune with our marketplace metrics. Furthermore, I should have made it crystal clear that there was an expectation that our metrics be monitored daily.
This is the type of failure that could be a fatal failure if you are not prepared. How many businesses can take a $10,000 hit and keep moving? For most of us who are just starting out or selling online in smaller volume, this could be catastrophic.
The Moral Of The Story …
I believe the lesson here is clear. E-Commerce Owners: don’t go on autopilot. Don’t get sloppy. Monitor all of your performance metrics daily. Bookmark your Seller Performance pages for every venue where you sell. If you see trends, fix them. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
And that’s our painful tip for all of you!
This past week I had the privilege of attending the annual Global Leadership Summit via simulcast hosted at a location here in Georgia. It was two jam-packed days of teaching from some of the world’s greatest (and most successful) leaders in the world.
For any entrepreneur who is leading a business, whether an online e-commerce operation or any other type of organization, leadership is critical. Good leadership will help a venture soar to higher heights and poor leadership will most assuredly sink you into the lowest of lows.
One of the speakers was Horst Schulze, the CEO of Capella Hotel Group and Founding President of Ritz-Carlton Group. He discussed three simple reminders about hospitality and what customers want. I’d like to translate some of his teaching into our world of e-commerce and online business.
What Do Your Customers Want?
- Your customers want their product (or service) without defect: customers want to get what they ordered and they want to receive it without defect. That means we need to be sure we are shipping the correct product. We need to make sure that the product is in the condition described. We need to make sure that it’s packaged properly and protected in shipment.
- Your customers want timely service: This means that you ship on time. You answer customer inquiries quickly. If a customer needs to return a product for some reason, they want the return to be easy and quick.
- Your customers want to feel like you care about them: This is one of the hardest things to accomplish through an online business. The bulk of our interactions are electronic and there is very little interaction between your customer and yourself. How can you make them feel like you care? Are you shipping your own product? Do something special like tossing some candy in the box or a savings coupon for a future order. Send a courteous followup email to make sure they are happy with your service. These are just a few ideas.
I would challenge everyone to think about their online business through the lens of these three customer needs. How can you adjust your fulfillment and customer service practices to better serve your customers?