What Happened To eBay Customer Support?
Customer support has long been a sore spot for eBay sellers. Many sellers feel like eBay expects them to bend over backward to provide impeccable service to buyers, but doesn't hold themselves to the same high standards when it comes to the support available to sellers.
At eBay Open in August 2017, SVP Global Operations & Customer Service Wendy Jones acknowledged eBay had a lot of work to do.
Our reality today is that we don't make it easy for our customers. The rules and the systems are too complex, they are at times inconsistent, and in today's digital world of ecommerce, they're too slow.
She also said the company culture was changing when it comes to customer service starting with a new internal mission statement:
Our Unifying Purpose. We exist to help our customers and solve their problems in the quickest, simplest, easiest way possible… and make them feel great about eBay along the way.
Jones and then VP Customer Experience, North America Cathal McCarthy unveiled plans for eBay's higher tier support experience called Concierge. While it was initially promoted as an invite only program, it was made clear the plan was to make many parts of Concierge the standard support experience for all eBay sellers within 18 months.
As Richard Meldner of eSeller365 aptly noted at the time, in many ways Concierge simply brought eBay service levels up to minimum industry standard.
Concierge just brings up eBay’s CSR to industry standards. eBay thinks it is better, but key elements are common functions found at most responsible enterprises today....
Most of the new approach is part of the invite only Concierge program. However, Cathal stated he expects the program to scale within 18 months to be the standard at eBay.
Almost a year later, eBay had not made much progress toward making Concierge the standard support experience - but that didn't stop CEO Devin Wenig from awarding Wendy Jones an $11 Million bonus ($8 Million of which was specifically ear marked as a retention bonus.)
Sellers at the time questioned the wisdom of such a large bonus, given the still lagging state of customer support under her purview, and it was also seen by many as particularly insensitive given the round of layoffs the company undertook around the same time.
Wenig thanked Ms. Jones for her ongoing contributions and encouraged her to continue to deliver in 2018 and beyond - though it's not clear exactly what he meant as by most objective standards eBay under her tenure was not delivering on those promises of improving the customer support experience.
When Jones stepped down from her position in 2020 under current CEO Jamie Iannone, she collected another $11 Million+ in severance benefits, again despite perennial complaints about falling levels of service and failing to bring Concierge to the masses (also despite James Baugh, who allegedly led a scandalous cyberstalking campaign in his role as Senior Director of Safety & Security, reporting up to Ms. Jones with apparently very little oversight or accountability on her part.)
Fast forward to 2021 and Concierge service appears to be shifting yet again, with many long time sellers unceremoniously dumped from the program with no warning and no explanation back in May.
Months later, eBay still has not been transparent about what happened or what the future of Concierge support holds.
Sellers without Concierge support have fared even worse. While Wendy Jones was still in charge, eBay massively changed the customer support experience, purportedly in response to the COVID-19 shift to having staff working remotely.
In the early days of the pandemic, eBay was still offering call in support, though at times it was overwhelmed and phone lines would be shut down earlier than normal published business hours as call queues backed up. eBay did also offer the option to "have us call you" but many sellers found this to be extremely inconvenient and unproductive as the estimated time for call back was completely inaccurate in many cases.
Since that time, eBay has completely shut down the "call in" option, even going so far as to disconnect their incoming support phone number! For most situations, the only option to speak to eBay support on the phone now is to request a call back.
Even when it comes to fraud or compromised accounts, eBay support often fails - for example this Tweet from an eBay UK user pointed out it's impossible to call support if there's a digit missing from the number displayed on the site.
In addition to the inconvenience of having to wait around for a call back that may be missed because it didn't come anywhere near to time you were expecting , there have been many reports that call backs simply never happen at all. eBay support on Twitter has even acknowledged the problem, blaming it on phone carrier spam blocking options.
So if sellers can't call eBay directly and they can't reliably get eBay to call them - what other options do they have?
On site support and help pages have become a circuitous maze that offer little beyond the most basic advice and require multiple clicks just to get to a page where you can even request to speak to an agent.
First you have to search or browse for a topic - if you try to click "contact us" here, it just directs you to another page where you still have to click through at least 2 or 3 levels of selecting a topic before you are shown any actual contact options.
The route you take depends on which options you select along the way - kind of like a choose your own adventure book, without the adventure.
What was it Wendy Jones said about solving problems in the quickest, simplest, easiest way possible? This is definitely not it. Give me a phone number I can call to immediately speak to someone trained and empowered to actually help - it's that simple eBay.
What about live chat? That too requires clicking through multiple pages just to get the option and once you have initiated a chat, there are often several layers of automated AI responses to go through before ever being connected to a person.
The use of automated AI support has been frustrating for many sellers, for example when accounts are suspended without explanation and the appeal process is completely automated with no clear path to speak to a human being.
I'm not sure if eBay is currently using Genesys for these services, but interestingly back in 2019 they were touting using Google Cloud to provide automated AI customer service and used eBay for the example video.
Side note: Genesys offers all kinds of virtual call center/support solutions as well, including the ability to have a main support number for customers to call that can route calls to 100s of agents all safely working remotely (I know, I've seen it in action personally.)
eBay's Twitter support often tells users they can no longer offer the call in option because it's not possible to have a direct number due to pandemic remote work - which is extremely disingenuous in my opinion.
The technology exists, if not in house, at least easily accessible from partners that eBay has worked with in the past and may even still have a relationship with, as well as other 3rd parties. There is no excuse not to use it.
Speaking of Twitter support - when call backs and live chat fail, the next option available for support is often social media either through eBay's official @askeBay Twitter page or the eBay For Business Facebook page.
However, not every seller has a Facebook or Twitter account, some for very specific personal reasons. Why should they be forced to join social networks they may not trust with their private data just to access eBay support?
Also, response times through social media channels can sometimes be 2-3 days, the information they give is sometimes inaccurate, and/or they simply try to move the conversation to a private message even when it's not an account specific question and they could just provide a clear, direct simple public answer instead.
It's not uncommon for both live chat and social support agents to provide a scripted answer, then completely refuse to discuss the situation any further if the customer has additional questions or concerns, once again leaving users with no other options to get the assistance they need.
In early 2021, eBay announced they were expanding their Experts program which had been piloted in the UK. This partnership with Limitless Tech leverages the knowledge and experience of eBay’s existing seller base with a gig economy pitch.
eBay sellers can sign up to be "experts" with the opportunity to be paid up to $1.20 per answer to provide support to other sellers through the Limitless app.
Many sellers were skeptical of the program at the time, seeing it as just another effort for eBay to cut customer service costs. The program appears to still be up and running, but is limited to providing support on general topics like "how to create a listing" and does not offer any account specific or more advanced support options.
And that brings us to the only real support many sellers find - the extremely dedicated unpaid volunteers that can be found on eBay's community forum.
Th community is not considered an official support channel by eBay, despite the presence of eBay staff including a weekly chat hosted by them. The community is a member to member network of eBay users and eBay leans heavily on the good nature and good will of users to lend a helping hand.
It's wonderful that the community exists and I've enjoyed helping other users and in turn being helped by them over the years - but this is no substitute for highly trained and empowered official support from eBay themselves.
It may seem like sellers have been complaining about customer service forever and it all just kind of gets lost in the "noise", but it's a serious issue eBay has had for many years and has failed at almost every turn to proactively and successfully address.
Ex-CEO Devin Wenig gave Wendy Jones a pat on the back, a huge bonus and said "keep up the good work" instead of facing the reality that for all of the talk about reinventing the eBay customer service experience, there had been very few concrete results.
Current CEO Jamie by all appearances seems at least tacitly accepting of the current state of customer service at eBay, as shown by the lack of any clear vision or positive action on the subject since he took the helm. In fact, in many ways customer service has deteriorated under his leadership, but that has mostly been covered up by the story of challenges of pandemic fueled growth and managing a remote workforce.
After Ms. Jones departed, eBay announced Julie Loeger would be stepping into a newly created role as Chief Growth Officer, bringing together Global Marketing & Global Customer Experience. Unfortunately, this new role seems to be much more focused on the marketing side of customer acquisition and much less on providing best in class service and support to eBay's existing seller customer base - clearly showing where eBay's priorities lie.
Sellers I talk to on a regular basis, including the ones I've featured in the seller spotlight, all say the number one thing they need from eBay is better support that is easily accessible, well trained to give accurate and helpful answers, and empowered to actually take action to assist them - especially when they face business impacting situations like buyer fraud or technical issues with eBay's site.
In his closing remarks at eBay Open Online this year, Jordan Sweetnam put the emphasis squarely on the seller experience saying eBay knows they need to do more to win our trust.
eBay is at its best when we're selling the things that make eBay truly unique...but eBay buyers are going to have the best experience when you our sellers are having the best experience.
Is it fun to run a business on eBay? Is it easy to run a business on eBay? Do you have the tools you need? Can you make money selling transactions? Do you feel you're treated fairly?....
Many of the issues that stand in the way of that "best experience" as well as many of the issues I raised in my open letter to CEO Jamie Iannone about seller trust could be resolved if eBay would just commit to investing in creating the customer service experience they've been promising for years, whatever it takes.
I know sellers have a lot to say on this topic - drop a comment 👇about what you'd like to see eBay improve about the customer service experience!
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