In a crowded marketplace, is it eBay’s time to shine?


If there’s one organisation that knows about rapid online growth, it’s eBay.

Founded in 1995, eBay Inc. connects hundreds of millions of people around the world every day, empowering them to explore new opportunities and innovate together. eBay’s entire business model is about helping Australian businesses succeed – enabling commerce wherever that may be. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, eBay Inc works in partnership with retailers to help them stay relevant to their customers in the new retail environment.

Unlike Zappos, whose core business was built on customer service, and Amazon, where shoppers can log on and find virtually anything at a clear, set price. At eBay, customer service was at the mercy of sellers.

The giant online marketplace has quickly stepped up to the mark, re-shaping its core business to evolve the customer experience by aligning it directly to the overall business goals.

eBay.com.au offers brands, retailers and sellers of all sizes a complementary channel to reach more customers and drive sales. “We are focussed on providing retailers with a high traffic sales channel to complement existing stores, websites, social and mobile channels. eBay is a marketplace – and we do not compete with sellers on our platform – rather we are committed to developing innovative solutions that help merchants turbo charge their online and mobile presence.” Explained Cathal Murphy, Director of Customer Experience at eBay Australia and New Zealand.

According to Roy Morgan research, 7.3 million unique visitors come to eBay.com.au in an average one month period. Reaching this vast audience has become an important part of many Australian retailers’ multichannel sales strategy.

“The business grew and expanded rapidly. As a result, customer experience wasn’t our biggest strength in the beginning. Over the last couple of years, the company is more aligned throughout the organisation to the customer experience. It’s part of our whole evolution cycle,”

I recently caught up with Cathal to find out exactly how this is working in practice.

Overall strategy

As a company matures, there’s more focus on the customer experience and retaining existing customers. The key thing is to put the customer in all decisions made within the business.

We’re ensuring that everybody, across the whole organisation, has some shared goals and objectives. Everything we do needs to be on brand, ensuring that the customer has a voice at the table when the decisions are being made. Product, marketing, PR – all decisions made will be based around that customer voice.

Finding the silent sufferers

The ownership is on the people that look after the customer experience side, to bring the customer to life in the business.

We’ll do that through the stories that we tell, bringing customers in, using our online network, and organising customer events. It’s the on-going communication around customer experience and the customer journey.

We get a lot of input from the customers that contact us, but that’s a very low percentage of our overall user base. One of the things we’ve been working on is expanding our listening posts, so that we’re not just making decisions on the customers that do contact us. It’s starting to look at how we can understand and interact with those customers that never contact us – could they be silent sufferers?

It’s those customers who might encounter a problem, give up and never use eBay again. We want to hear about those experiences. Customer visits, going to where our customers are, running focus groups, monitoring our social coverage and really putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer by using the product ourselves – it all helps.

We’re trying to really look at our organisation to find those pain points and challenges, and leverage that information to see if there’s anything we can learn. Overlay that intelligence with the data we have and we can start to identify weak spots and areas requiring our focus.

Acting in the middle ground

The nature of our business is quite unique. Our buyers and sellers communicate with each other and we’re often not privy to that. Our role, particularly with our sellers, is to ensure they’re communicating effectively and delivering a standard of customer service that matches our values.

If we see that a seller has low communication ratings on their feedback, we’ll work with them to really analyse and identify what they’re doing wrong. At the end of the day, even though that communication isn’t directly with us, it’s a reflection on our brand so we want to improve that where possible.

Engage early for business growth

Another focus for us is early engagement to truly understand who our customers are – how can we support them and how can we enable them to be successful?

With our sellers, we’re trying to move away from just being reactive and responding to an issue when they get in contact. Instead we’re going to put triggers in place to help identify potential issues or opportunities earlier.

We can then reach out, educate, coach and mentor our sellers, helping them to grow and scale their business.  In turn, that’s going to create better experiences for our consumers. It’s one of the areas where we’ve invested a lot.

Consumer expectations are constantly changing. Many sellers need somebody to mentor them and coach them about how they need to adapt to remain competitive.

Sometimes, the service they were offering two or three years ago might just not be competitive any more and they’ll need to change their business model. That’s where we have a large role to play, being a mentor and coach for them.

If at first you don’t succeed…

The root of excellent customer experience is in your employees. I’m always pushing my team to look at how we can be bolder and more creative around the customer experience. Let’s do the experiments, let’s do tests, let’s measure the ROI. But ultimately, let’s not be afraid to push the boundaries and try new things.

Several organisations just don’t take enough risks. It’s something I really encourage in my team – it’s ok to fail.

I think the question that we need to ask ourselves is: Are we failing enough? If we’re not, it probably means we’re not being bold enough or being creative enough.

It’s absolutely fine to fail.

Next level customer experience

We’re going to keep evolving and working to better understand our customer’s needs. Segmentation is going to be key in offering a differentiated customer experience.

It’s really understanding who our customers are and what their needs are, and then providing them with an experience that matches those needs

It’s also about how we move faster and how we move quicker, because competition is heating up. We need to be very agile around decision making, and be able to debate, decide, and deliver.  And we need to be able to really create an environment where it’s okay to fail.

Interested in more case studies around customer experience? Check out our 7th annual event

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