If this hasn't happened to you yet, it probably will. Maybe you were in a rush doing your shipping. Maybe your child interrupted you. Or the phone rang. Or your computer went down. What ever the reason, it is not an uncommon occurrence for an eBay seller to ship the wrong item. I did it last week.
I received an email from my customer stating that although the shipping time was excellent, I had shipped the wrong item. Here is a tip for you: When this happens to you, remain calm. We are all just people here. Things happen, and you can work it out.
I have learned over 6 years and 18,000 items, the best way to handle this situation is NOT to immediately offer a refund. Here is what I do:
1) Email the customer ASAP and apologize for the error. Don't make excuses. Just apologize for the inconvenience. You made the error, plain and simple. Own it. What is done is done and now you need to fix it.
2) Ask the customer how he would like to resolve the situation - don't give any suggestions. By asking an open-ended questions, you empower the customer in this situation. In many cases, the customer's solution is less costly than a full refund. I have had customers decide that they like the "wrong" item and say they will just keep it. Others only want a partial refund. Of course if the customer's solution is completely ridiculous, you will have to continue to negotiate. Here is an example of the email I send (feel free to copy it):
"Dear Mr. Customer,
Thank you for contacting us about your eBay item. We apologize for the error in processing your order. How would you like to resolve this situation? We are dedicated to 100% customer satisfaction. Please let us know your thoughts on how we can make this transaction acceptable to you."
3) Continue to negotiate a fair solution to the customer's satisfaction.
4) One a resolution is reached, act quickly. If you both agree to a refund, process it immediately. If you agree to send a replacement item, ship it quickly. Don't let these situations linger on. The customer has already been inconvenienced. Just take care of it.
5) There will be cases where you cannot win. The customer will be mad and NOTHING will satisfy him. Accept that mistakes are a part of doing business and resolve it to the best of your ability and move on. If he leaves you a negative, there isn't anything you can do. One negative never put an eBay seller out of business. The more you sell, the more likely you are to have this happen. It is part of doing business.
If you are in this business long enough, mistakes are not a matter of if but a matter of when. The key to success on eBay is how you handle a mistake and the damage control afterward. Have you ever shipped the wrong item to a customer, and what was the outcome?