EBay vs. Amazon: An Interesting Lesson in Customer Care - Page 2

Another area the two are distinctly different is with search. Amazon, largely because it indexes its own stuff, provides a stronger result and it lays out the results in a matrix fashion. EBay is more about line description and indexing isn't consistent, so you may find what you are looking for way back in the results.


Overall, Amazon benefits both from controlling more of its ecosystem and by having what appears to be a laser-like focus on the buying experience. EBay came up with a focus on sellers and its complexity of focus (buyers and sellers) and organizational separation (PayPal/eBay) work against it.


So right now, in a head to head, I think Amazon would roll over eBay much as Apple rolled over its competitors last decade. Better experience generally wins out if the products are similar and the products are becoming more similar.


EBay Nightmare


Now my eBay nightmare began on Sunday night while I was shopping. I tried to buy a used seat for the car and got an alert that my eBay account had been suspended for questionable activity. Given the outbreak of hacking, I immediately thought I'd been hacked and went into my account information to see what was going on. There was nothing in the account information other than a cryptic note that I'd been suspended. I then called customer support and was told that eBay didn't want to do business with me anymore and when I asked for the individual's name or to speak to a supervisor, I was told the supervisor would say the same thing. They then hung up on me. Let's just say with a massive understatement that I was upset.


It didn't help to find out that they'd sent notices to everyone I'd bought from over the last several weeks indicating I was a questionable buyer. Now what I later found out happened was there was a miscommunication between eBay and PayPal resulting from an old PayPal account that I no longer used and was restricted. It was restricted because I didn't want to provide my bank tracking information for fear that someone hacking PayPal would empty my bank account. A very real risk and one without good recourse, we typically advise that people never provide this information and it seemed foolish not to follow our own advice.


At the core of the problem was a bad information link between eBay and PayPal. As a customer, I'm still left thinking that my buyer reputation was tarnished and I'm not exactly feeling warm and fuzzy about buying from eBay, but I haven't found anything else that can provide the same service, so I'm still buying, and I deleted the offending PayPal account so this won't happen to me again.


But it could happen to someone else.


Fixing the Problem, Avoiding Another: Lessons Learned


At the core of the problem was a disconnection between PayPal and eBay. Had eBay known why my PayPal account was restricted or that the restriction wasn't an indication of bad credit, it likely wouldn't have acted. Because it didn't know, it took the most conservative path, which turned out to be incorrect. In addition, when it took the action, it documented why, so anyone else could easily remedy it if it were a mistake. The level of authority needed to ban a buyer appears to be too low given banning buyers that prepay should be a very unusual citation. Finally, there should be a formal escalation path a customer can take to resolve a problem with a customer support experience like I had. So the fix might be to provide more information to eBay, so it can make a more informed decision and require a second approval when banning a paying buyer. It should also publish an escalation path to resolve problems with staff.


However, I think a bigger problem looming is the requirement PayPal has to enter bank routing information. If it were breached, I think this would put an unusual amount of liability on the company because buyers are basically denied the choice if they want to continue purchasing from eBay or using PayPal. This would suggest an extraordinary level of security that, were it breached, would likely be found inadequate after the fact. The cumulative liability could be more than its insurance carrier would cover and, on top of the bad publicity, which would likely crater its customer base, the cost to the firm could exceed its ability to pay. In other words, it could be catastrophic. I'd recommend discontinuing this practice.


Wrapping Up: Final Thoughts


I'm still buying from eBay and using PayPal, but I also still favor Amazon for purchases. And were I to choose between the two services, I would favor Amazon on three vectors: ease of doing business, personal exposure and customer care. On this last, the one Amazon customer care incident I've had over the years was when a Kindle broke out of warranty, and given I was a power buyer, it just sent me a new one at no charge. I can't even see a way to get to that kind of an experience on eBay and as we move to dedicated hardware and apps, competitively, that likely leaves eBay exposed on every vector should Amazon, or another more customer-focused company, decide to go after eBay's turf.


Finally, in a world of social networking where one mistreated customer can have a global voice, customer care has far more importance at an individual level than it has ever had in the past. It might make sense for executives in any company to actually drill down and find out whether their remediation process scales down to address the needs of one person who has been mistreated.


Oh, and if anyone is interested, my project car is a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible. It is actually turning out to be a lot of fun.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 13, 2012 11:15 AM Wayne Balcombe Wayne Balcombe  says:

I have to agree Rob, eBay - in general - has all sorts of usability problems and  customer services issues (in fact eBay go out of their way to make contact with them a last resort). eBay have shifted their business model in the last few years and it seems to have all sorts of knock on effects - the the eBay/paypal disconnect is incredibly annoying (on two occasions I have been left out of pocket as I get ping ponged between the two) - frustrating!

Great article by the way!

Feb 20, 2012 3:39 AM Astrid Ancora Astrid Ancora  says:

I like doing online shopping and I am buying very often different things from Amazon or e-Bay. I am very satisfied of this sites and I didn't have any usability problems. I've recently bought some dog tags for dogs from e-Bay and I didn't have problems with their paypal service.

Feb 24, 2012 2:00 AM Soney Sanderson Soney Sanderson  says:

I love online shopping and I am always looking for good discounts on different websites such as San Francisco classifieds, eBay or Amazon. The truth is that I prefer Amazon as it provides an easier access and also the Amazon paypal is working good.

May 3, 2013 2:26 PM MoeLester MoeLester  says: in response to Soney Sanderson
I bought an item on eBay recently and the seller sent me the wrong 1 out of only 3. She has on her page a promise saying she will refund if she(seller) makes a mistake, regardless that she required from me to ship her item and paying for return shipping. I emailed eBay customer service her page screenshot with her promise to refund in case of seller's mistake, her wrong item's picture and business card of her online shop out of eBay to make me her customer, during telephone conversation all 3 customer supporters admitted I was right and was going to be refunded and very next minute I got the email saying they resolved this case in seller's favor, they even never explained the reason. While on amazon you are always protected with A-Z guarantee and refunded, also anytime advised by 7/24 online customer support. But just you try to contact eBay customer service ! You wait for 15 minutes them to answer, spend money on telephone conversation and are badly swindled at the end. eBay is the most insecure place for fair customers . Reply
Sep 16, 2013 11:40 AM Elisa  Henry Elisa Henry  says:
Interesting study on being able to control the customer experience. It's interesting what amazon has done though in regards to expanding to featuring 3rd party items and order fulfillment, beyond their own stocked inventory. This has allowed them to accommodate and grow to a larger scale, being able to compete with ebay. It allowed them to expand to niche products such as custom pet name tags that they may not have been able to offer before. I think being able to control the user experience has brought them to the level where people will go even for these niche products. Reply
Dec 16, 2013 4:05 PM smith smith  says: in response to MoeLester
I agree i have recently bought something on Ebay which we returned after 4 days as it was Faulty ,the seller is in china, we been told the have refunded the money to us on 29th of November but i did not receive it so i called Paypal they told me no refund was issued so i called ebay they told me the same thing that no refund is issued but they can not do anything about it. they told once you get your item and you dont do anything about after 16 days ebay will not contact the seller. Reply

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