No matter how great your products are, there will be people who are simply not happy with their purchase.

10-tips-for-dealing-with-negative-feedbackWhen those unhappy customers leave negative reviews on your shop, it can do real damage to your confidence, reputation and revenue – unless you know how to deal with them.

Here are some tips to remember when dealing with negative feedback.

1. Focus On Solutions

When someone doesn’t like your product or company, it’s not “mean” or “wrong”, but their experience didn’t match their expectations. As business owners, it truly doesn’t pay to get upset. It pays to solve the issue for the customer and correct expectations for future buyers. The faster we slip out of The-World-Is-Ending Mode and into Solve Mode, the better service we give our customers.

2. Create Realistic Expectations

Lots of things we do create customer expectations such as your products, listings, communication style, photos, policies, etc. Unsatisfied buyers have expectations. It’s our job to figure out what the customer expected, what your shop did or didn’t do to create that expectation, how to correct this customer’s experience, and correct potential confusion for customers who follow.

3. Humility

I cannot emphasize this enough. The first thing I typically do is APOLOGIZE for the customer’s negative experience with my business. I don’t care if he expected an item to arrive in two days or didn’t read the product details, apologizing goes a long way toward pacifying unhappy customers and owning my role in the customer’s experience.

“I’m so sorry the card was smaller than you expected.”
“I’m so sorry it didn’t arrive in time for your anniversary.”
– NOT –
“I’m so sorry you didn’t read the product details.”
“I’m so sorry you expected it to arrive so fast.”

If you follow any apology with a “but”, you negate the apology. Don’t but your way to a pissed off customer. Just apologize for his experience. Because I know I feel bad for unhappy customers, whatever the reason.

4. Don’t Make Excuses

The customer doesn’t care why their experience didn’t match your intent. They just don’t like the outcome. So, as a business, focus on their experience, not your interpretation of their experience. Don’t explain why in more than ten words. Excuses make the customer feel you’re not going to right his wrong.

5. Follow Up

Give the customer time to respond. Maybe 2-3 days, sometimes a week. People don’t check their email every day. And while you might be freaking out over having that red mark on your feedback and panicking about all the sales you’re losing because of it (probably not many), trust in yourself, your business, and this process to correct the customer experience of you and your business.

“Hi, there! I didn’t hear back from you so I wanted to follow up. Again, I’m so sorry for the experience you had with my business and I’m going to fix it for you.” (Then copy the negotiation, apologize again, and wait some more. I wouldn’t hit a customer more than 2-3 times, though.)

If you don’t hear back from the customer in a few days, you can send another email.

Don’t ask the customer to change his review. In fact, don’t refer to the review in any way. Yet. Ideally, the customer will want to adjust his review and this will protect your score long term.

Realize that one ding isn’t going to ruin your life – even if the customer doesn’t change his review.

6. Going Above And Beyond

Deliver the customer’s choice. Negotiate any details that might have changed (for instance, if they got back to you after a week instead of a day, the delivery date may have changed) and apologize again at the end of these negotiations.

If the customer said regular mail was okay, opt for Priority. If the customer wanted a replacement item, send a bonus item along with it. Especially if you’re a new business with fewer than 30 reviews, going above and beyond may help restore his faith in your business and the experience.

7. Follow Up Post-Repair

Touch base to make sure the customer is happy, has what he needed, and his expectations about your business have been resolved.

“Did you get what you needed? Was it more satisfactory this time around?”
“Is there anything else I can do to create a better experience for you with [Your Business]?”

If there are still issues, consider going through the process again. Shorten it and simplify, but do what you need to do to resolve the issue. It will depend on the magnitude of the error, the cost of your products, and the general relationship with the customer at this point.

8. Learn From It

Here’s where you do your business a favor from what this customer has told you. For instance, if the customer didn’t read the full listing or policies and ran into problems because of it, it’s your job to fix your presentation. Other marketplaces such as Etsy’s mobile platform discourages customers from reading item details, create a photo for anything that’s important. You can add measurements to the photo itself (or a ruler, hand, or other object to convey size).

Check in the forums for ideas to resolve these confusions in the future if you need to. They’re a veritable cornucopia of genius ideas.

9. When To Ask Customer To Change His Review

This can be a tricky situation. Ideally, you won’t need to ask the customer to change the review. Quite often, customers do it without any prompting. And besides, the point is to create a better customer experience, not worry over the customer’s reviews.

If your shop is new with fewer than 30 reviews or you already have some negative reviews and cannot afford or tolerate more, follow these steps.

ONLY AFTER the customer has expressed his satisfaction with the experience. Otherwise, you’re focusing too much on the review itself and not the customer experience.

  1. Thank the customer for his patience and understanding throughout the process.
  2. Apologize again for the trouble.
  3. Say: “I hate to trouble you with this, but as a new store that is always trying to improve the customer experience, I wonder if you’d be willing to help me out. Assuming you’re happy with the end result of this problem, would you mind changing your review to a more positive one?”

Then shut up. Don’t go on about how needy you are. Just see how the customer responds.

He Says No: If he’s all “I’m not comfortable with that.”, tell him you understand and still appreciate his business and how he worked with you so patiently.
He Says Okay: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Here are the instructions.
He Says Okay But Forgets: Forget about it unless you’re really desperate. If so, send one reminder and call it a day.

10. If The Customer Is Still Unhappy And Won’t Change His Review

On Etsy, you have the luxury of leaving a comment after a customer’s 3-stars-or-fewer review. If you choose to do this, do it after you’ve exhausted all of your emotions. Because you don’t want to leave a comment that makes you look like a jerk to prospective buyers.

  1. First, apologize once more (and publicly) for failing to meet customer expectations.
  2. If you choose to offer an explanation, keep it brief. “The USPS sometimes loses packages and it’s unfortunate that yours was delayed. I’m so sorry.”
  3. Apologize once more, because Communication Sandwich rules. “Again, my apologies. Thank you for shopping with [Company].”

Done. No need to point the finger or get all pissy with a customer who didn’t read the measurements or the quantity or whatever detail was squirreled away in your product details. Details are really hard to see on mobile phones, which is where a lot of people shop on Etsy.

So be kind, be apologetic, and be gracious.

If you start having a problem with bad reviews and / or customers taking advantage of your flexibility, it’s easy enough to adapt your policies and make it more difficult for people to leave negative reviews.

For instance, require signatures for packages and improve your overall presentation for more accuracy. This way, if a customer wants to leave a negative review for shits and giggles, you have some recourse with Etsy and the law.

You may download this free Etsy Store Policy Template to help you get started.

Remember, it assumes that you want to run a customer-centric company and are flexible in your policies. Not all companies want to operate this way, nor should they. Only you can decide what level of service you want to offer.

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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