eBay Watch: DSR 4.3 Tips, Tactics and Seller POV

We offer strategies for keeping your Detailed Seller Rating above the new minimum set to take effect in November.

Last Wednesday when eBay announced more "bold changes" (see "eBay Finagles Fixed-Price and Final Value Fees, Cuts Paper Payments"), it introduced new policies in several areas including fees, media category shipping charge limits, checkout and Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR). Today we're going to take a more in-depth look at the new DSR minimum that was announced and provide some sellers' opinions on the policy, slated to go into effect Nov. 1.

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DSR 4.3: Some Sellers Call it eBay Scare Tactics

DSR is an area that has many sellers worried about how frequently their items will be seen in Best Match searches and how they will be viewed by a prospective buyer. A seller's DSR is made up of ratings in four areas; item as described, communication, shipping time, and shipping and handling charges. Using DSR lets buyers rate the seller on a one-to-five-star scale in these four key areas. Buyers and sellers can only access a seller's score; they cannot see the exact score or comment left by an individual buyer.

Changes to the DSR, dubbed "DSR 4.3" will require sellers to maintain a minimum 4.3 DSR rating across all four DSR categories, over the prior 30-day or 12-month period — depending on volume — to list on the site. For example, sellers with less than 10 DSRs over the past 30 days will be evaluated on their DSRs over the last 12 months.

For most sellers, the main issue is how they are rated by buyers on shipping charges and delivery time. Many eBay merchants are frustrated over shipping issues because, to some extent, they have no control over what happens to the product once it's out of their hands. In short, once the item has been shipped, and is in the hands of the carrier, a seller cannot physically get the item to the buyer any faster.

Unfortunately, in the eBay discussion forums, sellers are reporting that despite doing everything they can to boost shipping, some buyers will score them low here, even when a seller is working the shipping process in an honest and speedy fashion. There are also some sellers, even those maintaining DSR scores well above the new 4.3 minimum, who just say the DSR system is too much. Scarletslounge (who has excellent positive feedback and 4.6 to 4.8 DSR scores) is one seller who posted in the public forum, saying that anything four and above shows a good seller. Here is the forum post:

"No matter how they twist and turn it, when a buyer leaves 4 stars and a positive feedback, they consider this a "very good" experience. What more do you need? Do they need to have an ecstatic experience when they buy a razor or hair bow on eBay? Get Real! Being told that "good is just not good enough" is utterly outrageous! It is completely contradicting and unfair to honest sellers. What about sellers who have 90-100 percent positive feedback? If our DSRs should fall below 4.3 will we be banned from selling from eBay?"

Meanwhile, eBay says that right now only a small fraction of sellers fall below this threshold, but the same small percentage of sellers below a 4.3 DSR are actually responsible for a high percentage of customer complaints. So, to penalize this tiny percentage of sellers, eBay decided to implement the strict rules for all sellers. The problem with this, according to many sellers using public forums to discuss DSR, is that by enforcing a 4.3 minimum, sellers are being forced into doing things they really can't afford to do, such as offering free shipping and taking the loss simply because they are afraid a buyer will score them low enough on shipping and handling charges that they may see their DSR drop below the 4.3 minimum.

The Positive Side of a DSR Minimum

Skip McGrath, eBay Power Seller and author of seven books about eBay and Web marketing, has been following the DSR 4.3 saga on his own blog. In a public post on eBay's DSR changes, McGrath pegs the small percentage of sellers who will be affected at less than 4 percent, but with three months to work on DSR scores, McGrath says that when all is said and done, he suspects that less than 2 percent of all sellers could be affected by this policy."

Showing support for the new 4.3 DSR minimum, McGrath wrote, "This may shock some of my readers, but I happen to agree with this policy. If eBay has 700,000 active sellers, four percent of sellers who are giving buyers a poor experience works out to be 28,000 sellers. That is a lot of sellers and a lot more bad experiences. This affects all of us who are working to build a professional business. "

You can read McGrath's in-depth overview of the new DSR 4.3, plus his comments on the other policy changes announced by eBay on Skip McGrath's Auction Seller's Resource blog.

What Sellers Can Do If They Drop Below 4.3

Sellers who do not meet the minimum required DSR will be blocked from listing on eBay.com, eBay Motors Parts & Accessories and Half.com. It's important to note, however, that being blocked does not means suspended, it means you will be prevented from listing new items until the DSR goes back up. Any items you have listed at the time will remain active, and in many cases, successful completion of those listings resulting in high DSR scores being awarded by the buyer may be enough to put any DSR score back over the 4.3 threshold.

Sellers should also note that if the 12-month DSRs are above the minimum standard, you can wait for low DSRs over the last 30 days to roll off until the 30-day DSRs are above the threshold or a full 30-days have passed. If 12-month DSRs are below the threshold, you can also wait until the low DSRs expire.

Sellers have the next three months to work on their DSR scores to ensure they remain above the new 4.3 minimum. For those concerned mainly about the possibility of their shipping time and shipping and handling DSR falling, eBay suggests sellers do the following:

  • Ship as soon as possible after you receive payment.
  • Specify your shipping policies in the shipping details section of your listing; specify when you ship after receiving payment.
  • Be specific about the shipping services you offer, including delivery time for each service.
  • Offer a shipping service that provides tracking numbers.
  • Specify details such as service and cost in the shipping details section of your listing.
  • Use calculated shipping to determine actual shipping cost to your buyer's location.
  • Offer discounts for shipping multiple items in one order. Your customer will see other items you have for sale, be happy to save on shipping, and most likely leave you a great rating.
  • Provide details about any handling or packaging costs in the item description.

For more details on how to maintain top-notch DSR scores and a positive feedback rating, you can read through eBay's Seller feedback FAQ.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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