Chad Dickerson may get the occasional flack from his community, but the Etsy CEO makes a habit out of being as transparent as possible.
He publishes a quarterly “Note from Chad,” a sort of fireside chat for the Etsy set. On Twitter, he encourages followers to email him for one-on-one chats. And he even pops up sporadically in the Etsy forums to join the discussions.
On Wednesday, Dickerson created his own forum thread and spent an hour listening to problems and answering sellers’ questions in an Etsy version of a Reddit AMA ("ask me anything"). Here are some of the highlights, with some additional background information.
On Marketplace Integrity
Sellers were concerned with what Etsy calls “Marketplace Integrity” and the community calls an abundance of factory resellers. While sellers want Etsy to be a handmade marketplace, sometimes mass-produced goods—which are against Etsy’s rules—slip in. Etsy has ways to flag shops in violation of the rule, but sellers say their flags are not always addressed.
"We are always working on marketplace integrity. Our efforts to keep the marketplace clean are a little like police work. There will always be a certain amount of "crime" in any community (real or virtual) but our job is to keep it as low as possible. Last I checked, a small fraction of 1 percent of Etsy listings are flagged.
"Our enforcement is improving. Over the past year, I hope you've noticed how much faster we process flags, even though the volume has increased with site growth. It used to take weeks to review flags, and now we review them in about 24 hours (or less). It took adding a lot of people and smart software (we call it SCRAM, as you might know) to the mix. We have a team that works on that constantly as their only job. Like crime, the problem will never completely go away, but we will always minimize it."
On phone support
Even before Dickerson became CEO in August 2011, sellers have wanted a hotline to dial for pressing Etsy concerns and shop issues. Unfortunately, Dickerson said it’s not ready yet.
"I know how important it is to offer sellers the best customer service possible. Just over a year ago, it could take days to get responses from email support, and we've turned that around (usually within a day now). We're actively looking into providing more support options, like phone support, but I don't have specific info yet on when something like this might be available to everyone."
On category changes and eliminations
Etsy developers occasionally test the site’s front page with different visible search categories—a temporary measure that seems harmless to some and devastating for others with items in the erased categories, such as Art or Vintage. Etsy is also working on changing the appearance of some categories, most notably Etsy Weddings. Even though Etsy released a study on how the new look helped sellers, wedding sellers continue to disagree with the changes three months after the fact.
"I'm sorry to hear your sales aren't going as expected. We're definitely not running any tests with the intention of lowering anyone's income -- actually quite the opposite. It hurts everyone if sellers aren't doing well.
"One of the changes that has been controversial (which we tested before rolling out to everyone) was taking "vintage" out of the search drop-down menu. We rolled that out site-wide because after extensive testing, it caused vintage sales to go *up*. I know this is surprising to some members of the community, but that change actually made the category stronger overall. That's the way we think about testing and site features."
On answering more questions
Dickerson received more than 300 questions in the span of his hour-long conversation and promised to show up more often with more team members. Since he was only able to address a fraction of the questions, some sellers were upset he chose the forum format. However, Dickerson said this is only the beginning.
"Thanks for everyone's questions. The theme of my note and this session was communication, and this is just a start. I wanted to hear from you directly and respond to you directly. I know I wasn't able to answer all of the specific questions in this session. Thanks to those of you who participated, even with criticism. I appreciate all of your time!"
Photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid