Feedback has always been a way for buyers to differentiate between sellers. Do they want to buy from the seller with 87-percent positive feedback or the seller with 100-percent positive feedback? While this example may be an obvious choice, in reality, the numbers are usually much closer than that.
On Amazon, feedback is generally in the range of 90 percent to 100 percent for good sellers. Most Amazon buyers do not seem as impressed (some might say obsessed) with feedback numbers as eBay buyers. But feedback does matter—and it can be the tipping point when a buyer chooses between sellers from whom to purchase.
Maintaining a good feedback rating should be a priority for anyone selling on Amazon, but it can’t be your main priority or a place to spend too much time.
What’s a good seller to do?
The best way to deal with negative feedback is to avoid it, so let’s talk about some best practices for selling on Amazon that will directly tie into lowering that percentage of negative ratings and comments.
The first suggestion I have is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) seller. When you utilize all the benefits of the FBA program, you will minimize a lot of the reasons buyers leave negative feedback, such as slow delivery or mis-delivery.Amazon buyers are mostly used to brand-spanking new, fresh-from-the-factory items. Because of that, I always grade condition down one level
Another plan is to choose the categories in which you sell very carefully. Some categories are just more prone to fraud and picky (one might say cranky) buyers. Talk to other sellers and do some investigating to check this out.
The place to start is in your grading of inventory. While you can sell used items on Amazon, buyers on this marketplace are mostly used to brand-spanking new, sealed and fresh-from-the-factory items. Because of that, I strongly recommend that you always grade condition down one level.
For instance, let’s look at the book category on Amazon. It has five condition grades: new, like new, very good, good and acceptable. For the most part, I don’t recommend selling items in acceptable condition, simply because Amazon buyers have such high standards they may not have reasonable expectations about the item, even after they have read the description and notes. So I avoid acceptable-condition items, with the rare exception of a high-value book.
That said, if, after your examination of the book, you feel it qualifies as like new, grade it as very good. If you feel very good is the correct grading, give it a good rating.
Expectations and things beyond your control
Why do I recommend this? Because exceeding expectations is what it is all about.
Ratings, above all, are subjective. You want your buyer to receive their item and be pleasantly surprised that it is in better-than-expected condition—not to receive the book and feel it was misrepresented as better than it actually is.
The next important component in avoiding negative feedback applies to FBA sellers only, and that is to pack well. You are going to put your items into a large box and ship them off to Amazon. They will be travelling hundreds of miles or more in hot UPS trucks and planes, and loaded and unloaded numerous times—and not gently. They will then land at an Amazon warehouse that is the size of five to 10 football fields, and will be unpacked and carried to their final location on golf carts, conveyor belts and more.
After all that, when an item is ordered by a customer, it will be pulled and placed into a cart, go through more conveyor belts and finally be packed to head out via another UPS journey to its ultimate destination. Remember this journey when you are getting your items ready. Do whatever is needed to help them arrive at the customer’s home in the same condition as when you sent them off to Amazon. It won’t do you any good to grade conservatively if the items are insufficiently packed and damaged on the way.
Remember that presentation matters, especially when you are selling on Amazon. Even though the customer ordered your product for themselves, and paid for it themselves, when it arrives at their home, it is treated as a present. I’m not suggesting that you should gift wrap every item and use tissue paper, but I do mean an item should arrive as described, and if that requires using a poly bag, bubble wrap, or even a lightweight box to protect it in transit, then you take those precautions.
The inevitable negative feedback
But even if you follow all my recommendations above—if you sell for longer than a few months on Amazon—you will, at some point, receive a negative feedback.
Now what? Is all hope of maintaining your perfect rating gone? No! While you can’t remove a customer’s feedback, Amazon or the customer can.
Because most buyers who purchase from you actually think they are buying from Amazon, it can help to point out that their purchase was from you, and that you are a small business
If you receive a negative rating, the first place to go is to the customer. My friend Bob Willey of SellerCoaching.com recommends the “Grovel then Guilt Trip” method. I know that sounds too cute and funny to be effective, but let me explain. Willey has maintained a 100-percent positive rating on Amazon after selling there for several years, so when he talks, I recommend you listen.
The first step of Willey’s method is the “grovel” email. In this email, you are writing to the customer and it is all about the customer. This is not the email to request feedback removal, this is the email to apologize and grovel, and promise to make it all better. Willey says that only after you have heard back from the customer and corrected the situation with a refund replacement or whatever you can do to make them happy, should you even broach the request for them to remove the feedback. This is the “guilt trip” email.
I got some great input on this one from another friend, Denny Basham, who points out that, because most buyers who purchase from you actually think they are buying from Amazon, it can really help to point out that their purchase was from you, and that you are a small business.
This approach—coupled with your comments about how much you care about your customer satisfaction, an invitation to view your other feedback, and a mention of how negative feedback can have a serious impact on your business and other comments—can encourage the customer to remove the negative feedback. Always make it easy for your customer to do what you ask by including a link to the page for them to modify or remove the feedback they left.
In some cases, Amazon can help
There is another approach you can use if you are an FBA seller. That approach is to contact Amazon. In the past, practically every time an FBA seller contacted Amazon support and requested a feedback be removed, it was. Recently, however, Amazon has become more selective about what it will remove.
There are two ways Amazon can help with negative feedback. In certain instances it will completely remove the feedback. In other cases, it will “strikethrough” a feedback, which means the feedback will not be counted in your seller metrics. In these instances, Amazon will post this message under the feedback: “This transaction was handled by FBA, and we take responsibility for the customer experience.”
Amazon’s feedback rules state that Amazon will remove feedback when:
- The feedback includes obscene language.
- The feedback includes seller-specific, personally identifiable information.
- The entire feedback comment is a product review.
- The entire feedback comment is regarding fulfillment or customer service for an order fulfilled by Amazon.
Always, my motto is that it never hurts to ask. So, not only do I pursue the customer with the “grovel” email, I will also open a case with Amazon customer support to ask them to remove it. If denied, I will wait a week and ask again. You never know. The rules for selling on Amazon are complicated and they may be interpreted in different ways by different employees. If denied again, then I’ll send the “guilt trip” email to the customer.
In summary, let me remind you of what I said at the beginning: Maintaining a good feedback record should be a priority for your business, but not the top priority. Always focus on the tasks closest to the money first and don’t obsess over your feedback.