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Feedback 2.0 - A Conversation with Brian Burke

Posted by Ninad on February 27, 2007 at 09:10 AM in General , Trust & Safety Corner | Permalink

Ninad_post_41Feedback 2.0 was announced at the eCommerce forum back in January (see Bill Cobb's announcement). It's generated quite a lot of discussion on the Community forums, so I spent some time with Brian Burke, Senior Manager, Global Policy Management, and our resident Feedback guru. Brian has been involved with shaping policy and processes around the Feedback system for over 5 years. I went to meet Brian, armed with some of the questions that members have been asking.

What is Feedback 2.0?
For a concise description of Feedback 2.0, Brian pointed me to Bill Cobb's announcement from January: 

Feedback 2.0 will add a new dimension to the current system, allowing buyers to rate transactions on item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping & handling charges. The average of each of the Detailed Seller Ratings is displayed on the seller's Feedback Profile page.

Why Feedback 2.0? And why now?
Brian explained that eBay's Feedback system has remained more or less unchanged for about 11 years. (He mentioned some notable exceptions, such as removing the ability to leave non-transactional Feedback in 2001, and the introduction of Mutual Feedback Withdrawal in 2003.) Brian said that, overall, the Feedback system has been remarkably robust as an indicator of a member's reputation on eBay, and a predictor of future behavior in the marketplace.

However, it has its flaws. And as the marketplace evolves, some of these flaws are calling attention to themselves.

Fear of Retaliatory Feedback Changes Behavior
Take the fear of retaliatory Feedback, for example. Brian explained that, over time, members are leaving more and more positive Feedback, even in unsatisfactory transactions, for fear of being hit by retaliatory Feedback. "If you take this trend to its extreme," said Brian, "We'll have 100% universal positive Feedback – which would make the Feedback system valueless."

Here's Brian talking about some of the considerations for moving to Feedback 2.0:

For some time now (almost two years, in fact), Brian and the Trust and Safety and Product teams have been researching and testing a number of concepts to take Feedback to the next level. Two years may seem like a long time, but Brian emphasized that they have moved very carefully, testing and gathering copious data from the Community through several different methods before moving forward. And no wonder – the Feedback system is the heart of what establishes trust on eBay. There's a reluctance to make even the tiniest change to the system that could have unintended consequences.

Brian told me that a couple of trends are clear from the team's research. First, buyers are looking for more information about a seller's ability to "deliver" the experience they're looking for. And second, the research indicates that the vast majority of buyers' dissatisfactions with the eBay shopping experience can be attributed to aspects of the transaction that are controlled by the seller, such as item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping & handling charges.

With all the data, still important to pilot
With the research and development work nearly done, Feedback 2.0 is nearing the next cycle of testing in its pilot phase. It will debut on eight other eBay sites (eBay Australia, UK, France, Belgium, India Ireland, Italy, and Poland). We expect to introduce it globally within two months of the pilot – after ensuring it has the desired impact.

A great deal of detail is already available on FAQ page that links from Bill's announcement, but Brian emphasized the following point, which should clear up some of the misconceptions out there:

Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) do NOT affect a seller's overall Feedback Score. Only the aggregate of the Detailed Seller Ratings for each dimension will be displayed on the seller's Feedback profile page. DSRs are just another piece of information that a buyer can use to gauge the seller’s performance, and make purchase decisions accordingly. 

Blogfb1 Brian also said that DSRs are a great opportunity for sellers to demonstrate their excellence on the four dimensions of item description, communication, shipping time, and shipping & handling charges, and stand out from their competition. "We expect buyers to purchase from sellers who have high stars on the dimensions most important to them," he said. 

Well, my own research (based on the glazed look in Jeff's eyes when he reads my long-winded posts) indicates that this is a really long blog post, so I'm going to save other parts of my conversation with Brian for future blog posts in the next few days. Meanwhile, for those of you who want the bare essentials, check out this video of Brian talking about the benefits of Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR).

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