Best Practices

Professionalism and courtesy make a wicked combination

eBay Top-rated seller Nielsen's Billiards have cornered the billiards supply market by combining their passion for the game with top-notch personalized service. In fact, they're fanatic about delivering exceptional customer service—and they're legion of loyal customers proves it.

From a young age, Nielsen's Billiards owner and founder Joe Nielsen has had a great appreciation for the game of billiards and is taken aback by the stigma casted on "shooting stick." Nielsen is an accomplished player as well with two Illinois State Championship titles in recent years.

"Over the years, pool has taken a bad rap. It's an excellent game of skill and has a worldwide following as a sport. Yet when you switch on the TV, sometimes you'll find the game associated with dimly lit bars, gambling and an occasional brawl. We (Nielsen's Billiards) are here for the true fans of the game."
"I'd rather sacrifice profits than jeopardize our reputation."
-Nielsen's Billiards

Nielsen's Billiards is headquartered in Springfield, Illinois. Out of their sizeable brick-and-mortar store, they provide local (commercial and residential) service for new table installs, moving, maintenance and repairs. Joe explains why he sells cues and other pool accessories on eBay and not tables.

"We made the decision to not sell tables online for a couple reasons. Installation of the table is as important as the table purchase. For one, complete table shipments have a high probability of damage during shipping, which creates a nightmare for the consumer. Any slight misalignment of parts during installation can throw off the table's balance. Also, assembling a pool table correctly is not an easy task. It requires a professional touch, and do-it-yourself instructions won't cut it. The risk of having unsatisfied buyers is too great. I'd rather sacrifice profits than jeopardize our reputation. A good table mechanic can almost always make a table right."

From transaction to post-sale communications, buyer satisfaction permeates every aspect of Nielsen's Billiards. Each buyer gets a customized response email with a tracking number, an estimate delivery time and frequently asked questions. Also, buyers can subscribe to their eBay Store newsletter, which helps generate repeat buyers. Needless to say, they place a high value on buyer feedback and detailed seller ratings (DSRs).

"We take feedback very seriously. I know firsthand how neutral feedback alone can cost you thousands of dollars in sales. About six years ago, we sold high quality balls to a customer who sent me an email saying "The balls were so beautiful, I was afraid to use them." About a month later, he left a neutral feedback saying the balls were "Ok, other than a few blemishes." Surprised, I contacted the buyer and still offered to replace the product and cover shipping both ways. Turns out, without the buyers knowledge, one of his children had used the set without Dad's permission and put them back in the box. The father realized this after the feedback was left and that the chalk marks on a couple balls were from normal use. Of course, the damage to a seller's reputation had already been done. The buyer apologized and eventually changed the feedback to positive. During the time it took to change it, however, our sales for these high quality balls dropped dramatically."

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by trade, Joe owned a campus bar pool room shortly out of college. It wasn't until 1996 that he began selling new tables from his home. This came about because the other local billiards store selling new tables was doing poor quality installations. Initially, Joe wanted to sell 15 to 20 tables to supplement his CPA income, but the number of tables he sold had swollen to 75 per year. Nielsen's Billiards was no longer a hobby, but a full time business. In 1998, a competitor opened a neighborhood store with intentions to put Joe out of business. To replenish sales lost to competition, Joe started selling on eBay in 1999. And in just one year, his eBay business outdid his local sales, and the competition soon went out of business. Today, Joe and his partner Kathy, run Nielsen's Billiards from their commercial store purchased in 2004 in Springfield, Illinois.

Right on cue for success
Joe plans to add new product lines throughout the year. Regarding the changes coming to eBay this summer, he welcomes the additional values coming for item conditions. However, he plans to test his current customer relationship management system under the changes coming to member-to-member communications to ensure there isn't a drop in the professional quality of his emails to buyers.