How eBay Combines Social Media Customer Care With Marketing

By August 30, 2016Social Media

More and more people are starting to recognize social media as a customer care platform. A few years ago, a report came out from Nielsen stating that close to 33% of all customers would prefer to use a social media channel as opposed to calling over the phone. They prefer a quicker, more personal interaction, instead of waiting on a phone call for who knows how long.

We recently interviewed Dallen McKee, Global Social Customer Care Leader for a little company called eBay. Dallen shared how a wildly successful company like eBay uses social media to protect its brand and empower its customers.

You can imagine the challenge for Dallen and his team: they have to be on top of making sure their customers know their values and where they stand on recent subjects. They also have to facilitate conversation among a vast network of buyers and sellers.

The cool thing is, this customer care isn’t separate from marketing—it’s wrapped up together with it. We learned that and more from hearing how eBay manages its social media.

Here are some questions we gave Dallen, and a summary of his answers.

There Are an Ungodly Amount of Transactions on eBay Every Day. Undoubtedly, People Are Going to Be Unhappy at Times. How Do You Stay on Top of That Volume, Preserving the eBay Brand Positively?


Agents at eBay (or “teammates,” as they call them) have touched just over six million contacts this year alone. Some contact doesn’t warrant a response, but that’s still a ton of contacts for their teammates to respond to.

The team at eBay has the opportunity to network with Google, Zappos, and some other major brands, and with social growing so much they pick each other’s brains all the time.

The main thing they’ve learned through talking with other major brands? There are three ways to handle high volume:

  1. They have to work together as units.
  2. They need a high headcount.
  3. Processes have to be spot on.

Having the right tool for your own company to bring that volume in is also crucial. There are a lot of options for tools: some are focused on listening, some on responding, and some on proactive posting. But you have to have the right tool in place that allows your team to respond successfully, so doing the proper research should be a priority.

Ebay also gets a lot of insights from their customers: how to make the site better, etc. They put an emphasis on empowering teammates to bottle that wisdom up and bring it to the top of the company to drive change for customers.

Empowering your own team in a similar way is crucial for making an impact on your customers on social media. You have to be highly engaged in what your customers need.

Why Are Some Companies Slower to Adopt the Mentality That Customer Care on Social Media Is a Marketing Function?


Not everyone thinks of customer care as a marketing function, even though it’s certainly a way to increase brand awareness and loyalty.


It’s still a new concept. A lot of people don’t know how to make that ideological transition.

Think about when phones were first adopted: at one point executives and business owners just had to pull the trigger on a new-fangled channel. That’s a scary move to make, because if you open up an environment to a new channel to handle customers, you really can’t step back and pull that away, or you risk a negative impact on your brand.

If you make the transition to open a new channel such as social media, and later you say you weren’t ready for the volume coming in and try to scale it back, it will have a definite impact on your brand. Hence the hesitation.

But the reality is that customers expect more through social media today than they ever have. Customers are no longer satisfied by little friendly pictures and promotional-type posts. They want a personalized approach, to know that the brand recognizes them.

In fact, research from Twitter found that 77% of customers are more likely to recommend your brand when they feel they have a personalized interaction.

Customers want to know that brands know who they are.

That’s why social media is becoming the new marketing tool. Customers want to be part of an environment where they are recognized.

How Do You Manage Tone and Make Sure You Come Across as Friendly and Solution-Oriented?


Dallen thinks about that question night and day. In the end, he says, “We can’t ever be satisfied with where we are today as a major brand.” They always have to

  1. Consider what their customers want and match their customers’ tone.
  2. Figure out what their brand stands for. They want to be fun, yet professional, innovative and courageous, a brand that knows what their customers utilize them for.

As you bring those two together, that’s how you define your tone.

Tone is also a highly individualized thing. Some companies can just send a new product, make a funny joke, and make their customers happy. But a brand like eBay, they sell billions of products every quarter, yet they don’t own a single item.

To be able to balance buyer and seller without swaying their own opinions to one party or the other, they can’t stick completely on the funny or the professional side. They have to be conscious to display both.

You have to have a community where customers can share best practices in relation to your product or service. Your role isn’t so much to take over interactions as much as to helpfully share best practices and facilitate conversation among customers.


Despite how closely he works with social media, we asked Dallen, “Would you steer clear of the phone altogether if you were a growing online retailer today?”

It was a hard question to answer, he admitted. You really have to understand your customer base.

It’s an individual decision. He might consider going those traditional routes in the beginning, but he would be on his toes ready to transition if need be. The product you are representing should have a big impact on your customers wherever they are. More and more, “where they are” is on social.

You have to think of the financial aspect as well. It costs somewhere around $6 per call with phones, whereas on something like Twitter it’s closer to about $1 per contact.

If nothing else, social has to be a part of the conversation so you can control the tone of your brand as far as possible. You probably don’t have the luxury of avoiding it altogether.

This episode is based on an interview with Dallen McKee from eBay. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Hawke Media Podcast.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.


© 2018 | All rights reserved Hawke Media.