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How not to do customer care online – enter eBay


I have an old eBay account which I haven’t used in some time. In an effort to make my contribution to economic stability I decided to log into my account and cancel it. Here’s the problem, it’s been some time since I used the account so need to hit the "lost my password" button. The wall I run up against first is the zip code needed to confirm my identity is not the same as my current zip code. That’s eBay’s first mistake – never use a unique identifier that changes over time or could be misunderstood if your customer’s move. Not to be beaten I looked up my old zip code and plug it in. Still wrong. Hhmm, ok, I’ll try the "still need more help?" link at the bottom of the page. This prompts me for my birth date. Guess what? Apparently I wasn’t born when I thought I was. Here we are at mistake number two – if you’re going to use people’s unique information to identify them then you need to get it right. Finally, out of frustration I click on the "Live Help" button. I’m prompted to enter in more information but when I click on "Send" to start the live chat, I get the useless ‘unavailable’ screen. Why did they ask me to fill out the information when they were unavailable. Nevermind the horrible UI of the ‘unavailable’ page which is clearly being served from a third-party.

In case you’re wondering I have also used the "forgotten" password and "forgotten username" options which apparently will email me the information I need. It’s been over an hour and still no emails. This is such a basic thing to get right from the start. It’s the little things that make people happy, or unhappy. Please don’t ever treat customer service is an after thought. With the power of online reviews you don’t have any other option than being amazingly good at every part of customer service.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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