A poor customer rating is easily visible to other Amazon shoppers, and also makes it less likely a merchant will win the coveted Buy Box. Here are some tips on how to respond to negative feedback, and how to avoid it by pleasing Amazon shoppers.

Jay Lagarde, founder and president, eComEngine.com

Jay Lagarde, founder and president, eComEngine

Negative feedback from online shoppers can be devastating. That’s especially true for businesses that sell on Amazon.

Luckily, Amazon does provide a mechanism by which sellers can work with customers to resolve their concerns. When a good faith effort is made by the merchant, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to reciprocate and remove the original negative rating.

So, what steps should Amazon merchants take to minimize the impact of negative feedback on their businesses? The simple answer involves a commitment to total customer satisfaction.

Negative Feedback & the Seller Reputation

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Why is negative feedback particularly damaging to Amazon merchants? For starters, a negative rating on Amazon causes an immediate drop in the seller’s feedback score, which many shoppers use as a gauge when buying from third-party sellers. In addition, the entire feedback (including the customer’s open-ended comment) is visible on the seller’s profile page for future Amazon shoppers to see. One angry customer can do significant damage to an otherwise spotless seller reputation. To complicate matters, Amazon sorts feedback on the page based on the date of submission. The only way to push down a poor rating is by soliciting additional feedback.

Negative feedback also impacts the seller’s ability to win the Buy Box. As Amazon points out here, providing excellent customer service increases one’s chances of winning the Buy Box. Amazon closely monitors each merchant’s Order Defect Rate and Account Health, which are influenced by negative ratings. An increase in negative feedback erodes Account Health, thereby minimizing the probability of retaining the Buy Box.

In short, negative feedback—if left unchecked—leads to fewer orders and less revenue.

Negative, But Not Permanent

Here’s some good news: negative Amazon feedback isn’t necessarily permanent. In fact, Amazon encourages sellers to engage dissatisfied shoppers and work toward a resolution: “If you receive negative feedback, it’s important to quickly determine the cause of the problem and to work toward resolving it.”

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Following up within hours (rather than days) dramatically increases the likelihood of engagement.

After customer concerns have been successfully resolved, sellers are permitted to request an update (or removal) of the rating. It’s worth noting that Amazon does have specific guidelines for doing so:

  • Never pressure customers to remove or change a feedback
  • Incentives are prohibited
  • Buyers have a 60-day window to remove or update feedback (from the date of original publication)

Of course, resolving negative feedback is a two-way street. It’s impossible to work toward a positive outcome when the customer never responds. Although there’s no guarantee the customer will respond, our internal data at eComEngine indicates that following up within hours (rather than days) dramatically increases the likelihood of engagement.

Preventing Negative Feedback From Day 1

Taking steps to avoid negative feedback in the first place might be an even better approach. Although this strategy may sound overly simplistic, many sellers go to great lengths to follow Amazon’s best practices for preventing negative feedback. Specifically, sellers are encouraged to avoid:

Inventory stock-outs: Amazon shoppers assume that clicking the Buy Box will result in a fast, convenient shopping experience. The last thing they expect is the annoyance of dealing with an out-of-stock item. Maintaining tight controls over inventory levels and inbound shipments can minimize undesirable inventory situations (and feedback).

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Shipment issues: Participation in the FBA program can reduce a seller’s shipping obligations. However, many merchants still self-fulfill for a variety of reasons (i.e., private-label items, bundled items and low-competition ASINs). To truly delight the customer, self-fulfilled shipments must meet or exceed the timeliness, packaging quality and accuracy of FBA orders.

Return headaches: Not every product lives up to customer expectations. Consequentially, customers expect a pain-free return policy, regardless of who fulfilled the order. Amazon recently took steps to automate the return process for merchant-fulfilled orders, which is good news for shoppers and sellers alike. Routinely reviewing the accuracy of product listings is also a good way to set realistic upfront expectations, thereby minimizing unnecessary returns and unhappy customers.

Communication Delays: Amazon sellers are expected to acknowledge each customer inquiry within 24 hours of receiving the request. Long delays between responses can cause friction and make shoppers more likely to provide poor feedback ratings.

A robust order management workflow that avoids these blunders is a great first step toward protecting your seller reputation. In addition, the practice of requesting feedback from your other customers (the vast majority of whom are satisfied) can soften the blow of an occasional negative rating.

Don’t Dwell on the Negative 

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Smart sellers implement business processes that delight customers and minimize the impact of negative feedback. By proactively working with customers and seeking to eliminate bottlenecks, you put yourself in a better position to succeed.

So, the next time you receive negative feedback on Amazon, don’t dwell on it. Instead, view it as an invaluable opportunity to improve the service you provide.

eComEngine provides software that helps merchants manage feedback, inventory, pricing and other tasks on Amazon.

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