Hey everyone. We deeply apologize in the time it took to get this to everyone. Righteous was kind enough to spend time tonight to get r done.
Here it is....
EB: How are you guys going to improve your customer service?
Rokali: Yeah, that’s really important to me too and something I think we’ve done at best a good job with so far, and that’s at best, so there’s a lot of room to improve. Offering phone support is a huge one. And so we actually have three little phone booths here, I’m in one of them right now and we’re setting them up so you know we’re setting up the calling system and we’re hiring a couple people who have experience with that. We have a couple people here who have experience with that so phone support to me is gonna, in terms of the responsiveness of support, trump everything. We’re experimenting, this happened while I wasn’t here, they started using a system called Right Now which helps with issue tracking and things like that. I mean the other side of it is Etsy members help each other more than we help Etsy probably. You know the way that, it’s with different sets of issues, but the people in the forums helping each other is a huge help for us so being able to facilitate that better would..
EB: Yeah that’s true, but when you have a billing issue or there’s something…
Rokali: Oh, sure, yeah for private issues, yeah that’s…
EB: …a billing issue and all you’re getting is the form letter back or you have someone who is, like happened last week, somebody bought out somebody’s entire shop and plastered them with nasty, just completely nasty retaliatory feedback for, which nobody really has any clue why…
Rokali: Right, so that’s also pointing to the feedback system not working the way it needs to. There’s a lot of stuff, I mean you know in my year away from Etsy I got to take a good long look at it from a distance too and you know it’s, it’s clunky and there’s a lot of stuff that just doesn’t work like the way it should, and that’s not just the feedback system being not designed properly. It’s the fact that we, you know, we don’t have enough systems in place to catch that type of behavior like an entire shop being bought out and then a lot of negative feedback being left in a short time period. You know we can write software that flags that. Again, people are probably going to be able to flag it faster than we can. But you know having someone on call to deal with that. People at Etsy here are, you know, we’re always around, so, you know, we have an internal IRC chat room, and there’s a customer support on-call list and people have pagers, although it’s not technically pagers anymore so I mean there’s a system inside Etsy to deal with this stuff it’s just going to be a matter of ramping it up and offering phone support.
Summary of further discussion: After discussing with Rokali specific instances of a lack of support, including an inability to contact admin through the Etsy system and having to resort to Twittering a forum moderator about privacy issues in forum threads to get offending threads fixed or closed, Rokali said that 24-hr phone support would not be immediate or the first implementation. He emphasizes that it will be a gradual ramp-up of the support system to that aim because he admits that, in some instances, a “red phone for emergencies” is beneficial and that it’s a responsibility Etsy needs to embrace as a priority.
EB: What are we going to do about the supposed, whether real or imaginary, favoritism?
Rokali: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about that internally and so I think some of the favoritism that people see is a natural result of constrained resources and doing things wrong. And I’ll explain that. So the constrained resources are if we have 2 or 3 here curating the home page from a limited pool of treasury lists made by a limited pool of people the same stuff is going to keep popping up over and over again. That I don’t think is the right system to be curating the home page in the first place….so I don’t want to be doing that at all.
After explaining front page bingo to Rokali and how some choose favorites for their treasuries simply to end up on the front page (transcription not done to avoid mentioning names given as examples), he elaborated on the changes planned for both front page curation and treasuries.
Rokali: We’re actually building tools now to start keeping track of all that stuff [number of times a seller is featured in a given period]. And we’re also rebuilding the treasury from the ground up, not in flash, so that there can be thousands of treasury lists to curate from. And then the way they get picked for the home page, we’re gonna try, I want to minimize admin involvement with that. So we’re playing with some different ideas.
We did ask him about Etsy employee conflicts of interest. He said he was previously unaware of DanielleXOs gift impropriety on Twitter. Also, he has no plans to change admin’s abilities to have stores because he feels it helps them understand what sellers experience, but he’s going to discuss internally account disclosure, admin shop promotion, and inappropriate personal/business interactions with sellers.
We had a good discussion with Rokali about the semblance of professionalism of admin and disciplinary response hierarchy. It was mostly him listening to concerns we’ve heard from other Etsians so that he could integrate them into later internal discussions and procedures. This first discussion on these issues was the beginning of helping him understand our point of view and what those outside of Etsy see and experience. It appears that some of these issues will be addressed when the customer services changes are implemented (form letter and slow responses be gone).
EB: What tools do you want to see happen at Etsy, seller tools for us to use, to create an easier experience for us as sellers?
Rokali: Good question. I’ll answer it two ways. First is, I think, what we’ve just been talking about, one of the most important tools we need to help sellers is the right internal content management system and customer support system. So that’s something that we’re looking at. The system we have now is two different systems and they’re not integrated and it’s nowhere near good enough. There’s not enough people using it and they don’t have enough time and so it puts this time constraint on people having to deal with stuff. And I think that’s leading to some of the issues. I’m not making an excuse for why it’s all happening [seller problems with admin communication] but that’s definitely not working well enough. In terms of seller tools, wow, where to start. First, one thing would be having an API with proper authentication. Like, if you guys use Twitter, you know that there are like a thousand applications out there you can use to post to Twitter. And on eBay even, other companies, outside companies, have built desktop applications for managing inventory on eBay. There’s a company called ChannelAdvisor, and so if you look, all of these seller tools are empowered by eBay having a robust enough API with authentication to support this kind of stuff being built. So I think one of the most helpful things we can do for sellers is to just get that done, which is being worked on right now. Then the other stuff are the features that we would actually make into the site itself. Which I can talk about too.
EB: API is nice, but the fact is that most of your sellers are going to use your site, and most of the tools they want are not really overly complicated and a lot of your competitors have already beaten you to the punch months ago.
Rokali: If not years ago. What are some of the tools that you…can you name some?
EB: There’s seller notes, there’s global editor, etsy importer, coupon, automatic posting to (facebook and twitter), tweet my listings automatically, Google upload my listings automatically, gift certificates, sale mode, vacation mode and vacation mode where you get the choice to leave your stuff up for sale but people get a message saying you’re gone and you get a couple different ways on that. The global editor is really pretty amazing, you can change the prices, change the discount, add a promo label you know like free shipping or something that sticks on top of your picture. If you really want to see what you’re up against go get a little account over at (competitor) and pay the whatever it is now…for a month and see all the features they’ve got. They’ve really, while you guys have been sleeping the last year, essentially, I know you guys have been doing things, but you haven’t been doing the things that the sellers have been wanting. You know, you did give them rearrange pictures, they like that. But there are so many other things. Even… 1000Markets has some tools that Etsy isn’t even anywhere close to getting on. And the thing is, the sad part is, they’re things that people have been asking for on Etsy in the forums for, some of them for, 4 years?
Rokali: Yeah, sure, I mean it, I don’t enjoy having to see those requests over and over anymore than you guys enjoy not having the tools. I was, I mean that was one of the growing pains with Etsy too was, you know we, we hit these issues, I don’t know, about 3 years ago. I don’t know if you guys remember, the V2 ridiculousness…So that was this issue of adding new features versus keeping the site up and then that was a wall that we hit as a company. And I think we’re probably just now fully recovering from that. And that’s why I’m really excited to be back cause I want to show what we can do with this incredible engineering team that we have. And so, yeah, we have a lot to live up to and it’s one of those things where I can talk on and on about this but the only thing that’s really going to matter here is getting you guys the tools and so that’s what I’m here to do.
In further discussion about the dragging amount of time Etsy seems to take to roll out anything, Rokali elaborated that they are actively attempting to adjust this system by avoiding large sitewide code changes that have disrupted the site in the past and by gradually tweaking the site code to keep up with planned changes as well as working on major changes to build into the site. There will be a team of about 5 people working on seller tools. This list will be published so members can contact and interact with them directly. He doesn’t feel Etsy is transparent enough at the moment in regards to who is working on what site features. He also said that one of the top three projects for Etsy right now is giving Teams the tools they’ve needed for 5 years and haven’t gotten yet, which included discussion of groups/forums.
We told Rokali that Etsy needs a dedicated moderator for the Bugs forum and Ideas forum, one that actually provides feedback about what’s going on. Rokali said there is currently someone who monitors the Bugs forum, but he couldn’t remember who it was off the top of his head but will find out and discuss with them better responses with the community. We discussed the concept of a new form of bug tracking (an application or contact form) within Etsy.
EB: What are your ideas on changing the front page, we had briefly touched on that, but what would you like to see happen to the front page. What’s your vision?
Rokali: So, there’s, I mean from a product perspective, we’re about to make a simple change where you’ll be able to stay logged in for a full day without having to log back in all the time and we’re going to work on extending that. Once we split off the more secure things, like changing your password and looking at your bill will require you to re-authenticate, but otherwise you can be cookied for a couple weeks. So once we do that, I think something like, so if we know who you are more often when you come to the home page, something like an activity feed. So showing you, similar to, if you use Flickr, this person commented, this person favorited this, this item sold. So at the very least you can get an activity feed there. As far as the other content, the curated content, on the home page, I’d like that to be much more personalized. Again I don’t want it to be a couple admin at Etsy deciding what goes in Etsy’s home page. I think we should be building software that is, I don’t know, there’s a couple different ways to do it. You know, one would be we could use personalization algorithms to get a sense of what you’re interested in, similar to how Netflix recommends movies to you and then recommend treasury lists to you by showing them on the home page. Things like that, so the general direction I want to go in there is less of a monoculture more personalized. So that’s the system we’re gonna focus on building. And again, we should be building software that empowers other people to curate their own home page, we shouldn’t be curating their home page for them. That’s my general approach.
We discussed the problem of items being removed from shops before payment is received and Rokali said that they are running beta tests of two different ways for Etsy to implement Paypal that will eliminate the issue for items purchased with Paypal. We also discussed approaches to delayed feedback to avoid immediate retaliatory feedback for items that aren’t really purchased. There is nothing definite planned at this time. They are working on an integrated flag system to avoid admin from featuring items or sellers that have been flagged until the flag is resolved as a way to avoid featuring resellers in the Storque.
We made sure that he was aware of the collective problems with a certain admin starting with D, so we’ll see how they go internally with that. That’s the best we could do. We’re not in control of Etsy. If we were, she woulda been canned after the reign of forum terror. He was diplomatic and silent, listening, but not commenting. We also made him aware of willy nilly forum thread closure by a certain forum moderator. Again, silent and listening. He did suggest instituting non-solo moderation to help clear up some issues with admin behavior and mistakes.
EB: What is going to be done about the Etsy brand? Right now the way that, and I totally get that the Indie thing is hot right now, but for the average person who has money…doesn’t like being stuck with this kitschy do-it-yourself and indie label. I mean is there going to be something more inclusive coming? I know the tagline is changing.
Rokali: It hasn’t changed yet, but yeah, I think the owls, cowls, and moustache problem will be addressed with the, what we were talking about, with how the home pages are gonna be, the content is going to be curated in a different way. It’s not going to be admin’s curating it…On the outside it can look a lot more deliberate than it is. I think, right now, it’s unfortunate for sure. It’s a side effect of having too few people using not good enough tools to do something. So being able to personalize that content would mean that people are going to get views into the site as they want to see it. And we have a larger issue with that as we try to internationalize, right, because it’s not just, I mean at least another person in another state in the United States is speaking the same language. We’re going to have issues with what’s called localization. Not just across content, but across different languages. So that’s something we’re really thinking about now for sure….There should never be one aesthetic ruling the site. That to me is the wrong way to do it.
EB: How are you guys going to handle marketing now? I know you guys are about viral marketing, word of mouth, grassroots, and now it seems we’ve kind of reached our limit with what we can do as sellers. We’re out there in the community, we’re pushing Etsy, and there’s never been a doubt that a lot of the sellers boast about Etsy at almost every craft show that they go to. It seems that now we’ve reached the end of that and it’s time to go larger. (interjection : TV commercials?) Are you guys planning to do anything a little bit larger?
Rokali: Yeah, for sure. I mean, first, I can speak off the cuff about this but we haven’t made any conclusions about that stuff. TV commercials I’d have to see a lot of data and would take some convincing to do a TV commercial because you can’t click on a TV commercial, and there are plenty of stories of internet companies spending a lot of money on TV commercials and going out of business a year later.
We mentioned seeing ads for CafePress on late night network TV.
Rokali: Yeah, so, the other part with that would be, let’s say we want to get the message out there and if we’re going to do it on TV we can either go on TV as part of some programming or we could put an ad on in between programming. Just from looking at Etsy’s own past, if we buy, we’ve bought ads on websites where we’ve had articles run on us on that site. And the articles generate dozens of times more traffic than the ads do. I mean it could just be the quality of the ads, but the discrepancies are huge. [interjection: people don’t click on ads in magazines either ] Right so, Etsy has had pretty good press. We were just in Reader’s Digest, if you wanted to buy an ad in Reader’s, so one approach there would be, Etsy has a pretty good story and sellers on Etsy have such great stories and if we can empower that, I think in some ways that can get us a lot more ink than we could ever get trying to get ads. And Etsy does get a lot of press in that respect. And I’m not saying we’re going to do that in lieu of marketing but I’m saying there’s a lot of that that’s working.
We discussed the style and placement of current magazine press and how Etsy could follow stories on individual Etsy shops with a real Etsy ad in order to bolster the advertising potential of the free press. As well as advertising in new venues, outside of the standard “get new seller” craft mags. He was receptive to ideas. Etsy has tried Google ads in the past year, but spent a lot for few clicks and had poor conversion. They are currently working on a strategy for the next year. However, any new, large advertising push will be prioritized to occur after the site has been fixed.
Addressing drops in sales, Rokali said that the buyer to seller ratio is increasing, but if the number of items is increasing faster, the number sold per seller will drop. So he chalks up the drops to marketplace dynamics. He’s hoping that personalization and new ways of sorting search results will help keep buyers interesting. But it will take a lot of planning and interaction with the community because it could drastically change the marketplace dynamics even further. He’s also hoping to setup something similar to Gmail labs, where members can turn on features being tested, a way to integrate Etsyhacks into the site.
We did ask about the role of the Community Council, but Rokali was not part of the implementation of the first sessions and is only starting to get up to speed with the plans for the second incarnation. He agreed though that until the changes actually occur, it’s lip service. A lot has been said and little has been done, but he’s aware of it.
He elaborated on “people over products”. What he meant is no more retail site stuff like gift guides and weekend sales emails. For him it’s about the marketplace and the people who sell the items, so the focus is shifting to customer service and seller tools.
He’s left the door open for further discussions.