Article

Building your Reputation Online

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Chesney - Also by this author

Dealers who sell on eBay Motors find it’s easy to build a reputation for honesty, value and quality in the online marketplace. Everyone in the online community witnesses consumer interactions daily, making it easier to build genuine customer relationships and greater customer loyalty.
Initially it may seem to be a strange twist to discover that the Internet, where anonymity and skepticism supposedly reign, can be used to build a unique personality and a positive reputation for a company. eBay Motors allows dealers to build trust and significant repeat business within a huge community of 10 million potential buyers per month. Here are some tips on how dealers can build a stellar reputation on the site.
 
Create an identity
 
A great way to start the relationship is to provide as much information as possible at the onset. On eBay Motors, sellers can accomplish this by creating an “About Me” page. This page allows an eBay Motors seller to present the dealership and it's history, display feedback, and provide links to dealership homepages and other Web sites. Creating this page is quite simple, dealers need only select a layout, insert their information and save the page. After an “About Me” page is completed, a graphic will appear next to the dealer’s eBay ID that allows users to click on the icon and view the “About Me” page.
Feedback is fundamental
 
eBay’s feedback rating system provides tremendous credibility for trustworthy dealers through customer testimonials that really count in the eBay community. Moreover, the auction format employed by eBay Motors allows numerous opportunities for the dealership to demonstrate its customer-service orientation.
 
The feedback ratings from eBay Motors customers can make—or break—a dealership’s reputation in a matter of seconds. Prospects considering a vehicle listed by a dealer immediately view simple statistics on the proportion of satisfied customers for that particular seller. If your dealership is honest, responsive and straightforward in its online sales process, your reputation will stand out on the eBay Motors site.
 
Each eBay user has a feedback profile that literally builds his or her reputation by displaying a feedback score. Profiles of sellers are composed of comments from buyers. Buyers also have their own profiles where sellers can leave comments. These brief testimonials describe the nature of the buyer’s experience with the seller during the transaction. Each comment is rated as positive, negative or neutral. For each positive comment, the user receives +1 point. Each negative comment counts as -1 point. Neutral comments are rated 0. Each buyer can leave as many comments as he or she desires, but the total positive ratings from any one member count only once, as do the total negative ratings. For example, if a particular buyer conducts five transactions with a dealer and rates them all positive, the seller receives +1 point. If the buyer rates two of the transactions positive and three negative, the buyer receives +1 and -1.
 
When dealers list a product on eBay Motors, their total feedback scores appear next to the user IDs. By clicking on the ID or the score, a buyer can retrieve dealers' complete feedback profiles, with all the comments other buyers have left. The profile includes the overall percentage of positive comments the seller recieved.
 
Knowledgeable eBay users can quickly determine the reputation of the seller by looking at the “star” rating for the seller. A yellow star appears next to the seller’s ID if that seller has earned at least 10 feedback points. The star color changes to blue after 50 points, turquoise after 100. The higher the point total, the more positive the feedback that seller has recieved.
 
eBay Motors’ most prodigious dealers can become members of the PowerSellers group. PowerSellers are those who have maintained a consistently high volume of sales as well as a high level of feedback, which must be at least 98 percent positive. The PowerSeller designation is a sign of sellers who are focused on both customer satisfaction and online sales. The PowerSeller graphic next to a dealer’s user ID is another signal to prospective customers that they can trust the seller to be responsive and to meet all of eBay’s requirements.
 
The seller has the ability to respond to any feedback, and his or her comments are displayed in the feedback profile. Sellers should take care when posting responses because these comments, like the original comments, are permanently posted.
 
Building trust during the sale
 
The content of the listing, the degree of dealer involvement and the assurances offered to online customers all contribute to a smooth and satisfying transaction.
 
A key step in any listing is to include a number of photos that show the vehicle or product from multiple angles, so the customer knows exactly what to expect, including any signs of wear. Many dealers start with a dozen or so photos featuring specific areas of the vehicle including: exterior left side, right side, front, rear, top, close-up of wheel, interior front seats, back seats, trunk, dashboard and an odometer close-up.
 
A complete description of the vehicle also helps the customer understand its condition and the terms of sale. It should include a general description of the vehicle, a list of its features, information on its history, and specific terms of sale (such as deposit amount and timing, balance payment timing and shipping details). Dealers generally run a vehicle history report to ensure they know everything about the vehicle, and providing the VIN will let customers do their own research on the car, thereby attracting more legitimate bids. The buyer will need the VIN as well to arrange financing.
 
To cover problems that are not so obvious, eBay Motors offers a free short-term service agreement on most used vehicles less than nine model years old and with less than 125,000 miles. The agreement, which covers parts and labor for major powertrain components, expires after one month or 1,000 miles. This service allows the buyer to consider the car with much more confidence and may help the dealer close the sale more easily. When a dealer uses eBay’s “Sell Your Item” form to prepare a listing, eBay automatically displays confirmation of coverage if the vehicle qualifies.
 
The dealer’s active participation in the online sales process is important to building the customer’s trust. Dealers should keep their phone number(s) and e-mail addresses up to date on their eBay accounts. The dealer should be ready to receive questions from potential buyers and respond while the listing is still active and after the sale, when details of the transaction are being arranged.
 
When a bid is received, it’s a good idea for the dealer to check the prospective buyer’s feedback rating and comments. If questions arise, the dealer should contact the buyer via e-mail or phone and resolve any potential issues so they don’t hinder the sale. Moreover, initiating contact with a bidder can draw out any questions the prospect may have about the vehicle or the terms of sale, clearing the way for a smooth sales process from the start. By communicating with every serious bidder, the dealer earns trust, which leads to more bids and reduces miscommunication that could otherwise result in unpaid billings.
 
Conducting business through eBay Motors in an open, communicative and straightforward fashion can quickly build a dealer’s reputation for service, quality and customer care. With millions of potential buyers, eBay Motors is a vehicle that every dealer can use to drive sales.
 
Vol. 2, Issue 1

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