Talking to Buyers: The ABCs of Good eBay Communication

Honest-to-goodness talk, comprehensive descriptions, and efficient messages are worth their weight in gold and good feedback — especially on eBay. Sometimes not talking is costly.

A smooth exchange of money and merchandise starts with you (the seller) and your attitude toward the transaction. Your listing description and then your first contact — soon after the sale is made — set the transaction in motion and the tone for that transaction. If all goes well, no more than a day should elapse between getting paid and sending the item.

Contact the buyer and sending an invoice even before you get eBay's e-mail. Here's how:

  1. Start at your My eBay Summary, Sold: Selling.

    Locate your newly sold item. Hint: It should be at the top of the listings.

  2. Click the down arrow at the right end of the listing's line and select Send Invoice.

    You are presented with a page that summarizes the transaction with a “working version” of the invoice.

  3. Examine the invoice displayed on this page. Make any changes if necessary.

    If the buyer has purchased more than one item from you and hasn't used the shopping cart, click the link to combine purchases.

  4. Double-check that the shipping amount is correct (be sure alternatives are offered if you have some). When you're satisfied, click the Send Invoice button.

    If you select the Copy Me check box on this invoice, you'll receive a copy of the invoice. The buyer's copy has a link in the invoice, enabling the buyer to pay directly to PayPal (if you accept PayPal for payment).

    Signing in first puts a temporary cookie (a computer file that makes it easier to get around a website) in your computer so you don't have to go through this process again. Be sure to select the Stay Signed In check box when you sign in to eBay; your password is saved even if you cut off your Internet connection. Your login is saved until you click the Sign Out link.

Another way to contact your buyers, should you have an additional message for them, is to go to your My eBay page, scroll down to the Items I've Sold area, find the transaction, and click the drop-down menu in the Actions column. From there, click the Contact Buyer link.

Thank you — and mean it

What do all the successful big-name department stores have in common? Yes, great prices, good merchandise, and nice displays. But with all things being equal, customer service always wins hands down.

One department store in the United States, Nordstrom, has such a great reputation that the store happily took back a set of snow tires because a customer wasn't happy with them. No big deal, maybe — until you notice that Nordstrom doesn't even sell snow tires! (A word to the wise: They did that exactly once.)

A friend of mine who owns restaurants calls this level of customer satisfaction the Wow! factor. If customers (no matter what they're buying) say, “Wow!” during or after the transaction — admiringly or happily — you've satisfied the customer. A good rule to go by: Give people the same level of service you expect when you're on the buying end. The best eBay sellers are regular eBay buyers.

The best way to start satisfying the buyer is with an introductory e-mail — the buyer's e-mail can be found in the PayPal record. Congratulate the person on buying the item — making him or her feel good about the purchase — by saying thanks. A comprehensive e-mail provides these important details:

  • Item name.

  • Winning bid (or purchase) amount.

  • Cost of shipping.

  • Payment options.

  • The shipping timetable.

You should also include a few vital details in the first e-mail:

  • If you're using an online payment service such as PayPal, be sure to give buyers instructions on how they can pay for the item online.

  • Include your “customer service” phone number and social media contacts (such as Twitter or Facebook).

  • Suggest that if all goes well, you'll be looking forward to receiving their feedback.

Most customers pay immediately upon purchase. Others, as in the case of an auction win, may need a little prodding to complete Checkout. Just click the Send Invoice link, verify all the information, and click Send Invoice.

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Note that there is an e-mail reference ID at the bottom of all eBay correspondence (It looks something like Email reference id: [#d1f086e14987c9452d8c16c86e2295a452#].) This reference number, or one like it, appears on all official eBay e-mails. eBay uses them as a reference number to prove authenticity should you have to call them with an issue on your transaction.

Keep e-mailing

If you have a good transaction going (and the majority of them are good), the buyer will reply to your e-mail or pay the invoice within a business day. If your buyer has questions regarding anything about your item, you'll get those inquiries now. Most of the time, the only e-mail you get back is something like, “Thanks. I'll send the PayPal payment when I get paid on Thursday.”

If any last-minute details need to be worked out, usually the buyer asks to set up a time to call or request further instructions about the transaction. Respond to this communication as soon as possible. If you can't deal with it at the moment, let the buyer know that you're working on it and will shoot those answers back ASAP. Never let an e-mail or eBay message go unanswered.

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