eBay, the online marketplace, is in a unique position: It sells billions of dollars of merchandise each year, but none of it is their own. So when customers reach out on social media, they are either buyers or sellers on the platform, and eBay stands in the middle.
"We can't be too biased on the buyer side and we can't be too heavy on the seller side," says Dallen McKee, Global Social Media Customer Care Team Leader at eBay. "We have to create a good experience for both."
In general, disagreements between buyers and sellers are not specific to eBay - they occur in many other e-commerce transactions, McKee says.
"That's what happens to e-commerce is buyers might have an expectation of exactly what a product is, and in e-commerce you don't have the luxury of seeing it, holding it, trying it on, whatever the case may be," he says.
The eBay team aims to "set both parties up for success" by "encouraging the two parties to work together," McKee adds, noting that "the vast majority of our sellers are very willing to correct the situation for a buyer."
eBay's goal is "to create experiences that make a difference" while balancing the need for a quick response. It is critical, McKee says, "to not allow social media customer care to turn into just any other channel... to really make it a different voice a different tone and to create an experience that can actually generate a positive brand perception."
eBay has done that in two big ways:
First, the company takes user feedback seriously and because the Social Media Customer Care team is integrated into the rest of the organization, it can act on that feedback. After a recent mobile app release that wasn't as well received as the company had hoped, McKee's team quickly gathered both the negative and positive feedback and helped the product and technical teams make quick adjustments in a future release.
"Once our product team specifically understands that social media is a faster avenue to generate this type of feedback, they are more prone to ask us for assistance," McKee says.
The product and technical teams now understand that social feedback is more immediate than sifting through phone call records, so they are now proactive about engaging the Social Media Customer Care team right at product launch.
"They come to us to say, 'Hey we're launching a product, can you get X amount of headcount positions to search for this feedback as it comes in, get it real-time, and we'll make changes on the fly,'" McKee says. "And that's the culture we've started to create here within eBay."
Second, the company has embarked on a new Facebook Messenger bot to simplify the experience of searching for items on the massive site.
"[It's] a feature with Facebook Messenger where you type in what exactly you're looking for and it asks additional questions to really hone in on the specifics of what you want," McKee says.
(Readers can try out the new bot, called eBay ShopBot, here.)
McKee acknowledges that messaging apps are the "wave of the future" and says the company is focused on messaging for both service and the buying experience.
Interestingly, eBay seems to be a victim of its own success in social media. The company is seeing a 20% increase in customer service inquiries year over year in both Facebook and Twitter.
"You generate your own volume," McKee says. "The more you engage, the more you respond, the more questions that come in, the more customers start to realize that they can come here first and it's not just a way to complain about not getting what you wanted out of a different channel."
McKee spent a half hour with me talking about eBay's successes in social media for Episode 47 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast.
Here are the key moments in the episode and where to find them:
1:36 Dallen shares eBay's core philosophy toward social customer care
4:40 How eBay gains product insights from social media listening
8:36 How customer feedback has become ingrained into eBay's culture
12:56 Balancing the need of eBay's buyers and sellers in social media
17:26 Dallen describes the new eBay ShopBot on Facebook Messenger
18:25 How eBay decides which platforms to be on from a social care perspective
22:13 The sales pitch to executives about increasing customer service volume in social media
27:21 Dallen's top learnings from working in social customer care