whitman: You're referring to our "Voice of the Customer" program. Every two months, we invite about 12 eBay users to San Jose to learn firsthand about their trading experiences on eBay. The users meet with the senior managers of virtually every department, such as product marketing, customer support, policy, technology, and community outreach. During these sessions, we get a great deal of feedback about the features and services that work well and how others could be improved. Following their visit to San Jose, we reassemble the group each month for six months via conference calls to discuss emerging issues. This program provides us with invaluable, ongoing feedback from an instant "focus group" of steady, reliable, and active users.

american way: When you revamped your Collectibles category, nearly 10,000 customers gave you suggestions for changes. Isn't that overkill?
We rely on the feedback of our users for almost all changes to the site. Our users know the site really well - some are on the site up to eight hours a day. As our Collectibles team was looking to restructure the ever-expanding category, we tapped the expertise of our users on how they use the site. The result is a Collectibles page that is much like a portal tailored to the collector. The updated structure is more convenient and easy to use, while better reflecting the trading areas that are important to our users.

The immediate interaction we have with our users allows them to be part of the product-development team, so to speak. Their involvement multiplies the strength of our own management team. For example, one of our users suggested a way to speed up auctions for impatient bidders, so we introduced "Buy It Now," a feature that lets bidders end an auction at a set price. Now, 45 percent of listings use this feature, which attracts more buyers and helps close auctions much faster.