You pride yourself on a quality product and great customer service. You make great items. You are growing an amazing online presence with your product and then out of the blue you get a message or a notification that makes your heart sink.

You have a bad review on Etsy or Amazon. Someone isn’t happy with their item.  Now, more than ever, you need to know what to do when you get negative feedback. You need an action plan for a bad review.

After you calm yourself down and before you respond to the review in any way,  you need to understand the answers to two very important questions.

Why did my item receive a bad review?

What am I going to do about it?

If you can thoroughly and objectively think about these two questions, you can figure out what to do next in a way that will strengthen you as a seller and make your business better.

Why Did I Get A Bad Review?

When you get a bad review on Etsy or Amazon it’s easy to get defensive, but really getting to the bottom of the problem is not only going to help you understand the next steps you need to take, but  also help you going forward in the future.

It’s time to put on your professional pants and not your “hurt feelings hobbyist hat.” Take a deep breath and objectively try to get to the heart of what happened in this interaction with your customer. Here are some questions to consider when you get that bad review.

Is the review or reviewer wrong?

Sometimes customers don’t read the directions. They don’t read descriptions. Or they don’t follow directions. In this instance, the customers don’t mean to be wrong, but it’s a busy world and customers are busy people.

It’s possible they made a mistake with their review. If your Etsy or Amazon listing clearly states that the item is black and white and the review is complaining that the item is black and white, then there is a good chance that the customer misread or misunderstood.

Sometimes customers send the wrong spelling or name or sizes or even home addresses.  It happens. It’s important to keep good documentation so that you can show in a non confrontational way, at least at first, that it wasn’t your mistake.

Are they just trying to scam the system?

This in our experience happens much less frequently than a customer simply making a mistake, so be careful of jumping to this conclusion. While there are people out there who look for ways to use items and then return them, or complain about items and hope that they can get a refund and still keep them,  in out experience these are few and far between.

Is it possible that someone is hoping you might refund for tiny damage and they might still get to display and use the item? Could this have been their plan all along?  But more than likely the customer bought the item with the full intent and hope that everything would work out perfectly for both of you. They are just as disappointed as you are that things haven’t gone as planned.

Did I cause the bad review?

Instead of only looking for fault with our customers, we should also be willing to look at the possibility that we are the ones that messed up and caused the bad review to happen.

Did our Etsy or Amazon listing contain misleading info? Or did it not contain the info that it should have? Is it possible that we over-edited the photos and left the colors not true to the original item? Or maybe we forgot to include key information that allowed a misunderstanding to occur.

Is it possible that we messed up? It happens. Maybe we shipped it late. Or forgot to communicate as well as we should have. Maybe we sent the wrong size or the wrong item. Instead of justifying ourselves, we need to examine our role in the unhappiness of our customer. If we don’t, we risk ruining not only this relationship but future relationships as well.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up forever for a mistake. But we need to acknowledge it and try to make it right.

Is your item or packaging or your shipping method in need of a revamp? We want to love the items that we create and the process we’ve worked so hard to refine, but we need to entertain the possibility that we may need to modify the way we create or ship our items. If you have  repeat complaints of a similar nature from customers, it’s probably not a passing thing.

When this happens, there is a real issue. And refusing to deal with it will create more unhappy people and a lasting perception that our brand is not good. You don’t want that. So really think about if there is a quality issue that lead to the unhappy customer and the bad review.

Is the bad review nobody’s fault?

Was it just an honest miscommunication that lead to a misunderstanding about the product? Maybe the customer initially told you that they wanted a certain color but accidentally checked another one on the listing.

 Sometimes things happen and neither the buyer nor the seller are really to blame. It may take some investigation to figure out what went wrong, but it’s important to know if an honest miscommunication is responsible for the problem.

Did someone else mess up and cause the bad review?

Sometimes it’s not you or the buyer that caused a bad transaction to happen. It’s possible that someone else messed up.  Did the item get damaged in shipping, delivered incorrectly, or stolen? Was the order placed for them by someone else who messed it up? Or did one of your employees make a mistake that led to the problem.  

If it was an issue with your employee, then by default it becomes your fault. If the shipping company is the problem, you may be able to reach out to deal with them to fix the issue. But remember to never make your customer have a further negative experience while you work with a third party to fix the problem.

Do they just not like the item?

Sometimes an item arrives and what looked great or sounded great to your customers on the computer screen just isn’t what they were looking for. They aren’t happy with the purchase even though it isn’t about the listing or the quality.  

Don’t take this personally unless this is consistently happening, which could indicate a problem with pictures or your listing. But usually this just means that this person isn’t the right buyer for you to be attracting. Your people are still out there. And you will find them.

Respond to a bad review with a professional attitude.

What To Do Next When You Get A Bad Review?

Now that you have a better idea about what happened to cause the negative review, it’s time to figure out what to do about it.

Depending on which platform you are selling on, there is a process to follow to make sure you allow for the chance that a consumer might change the review. But, it all starts with communication.

If you aren’t sure that you can be objective in responding, you might want to reach out to a business community or mentor to help you craft or edit the perfect response. If you are looking for a community of fellow sellers, feel free to request to join our free business group The Creative Business Entreprenuer.  

If you need help evaluating your first draft you can make a post or send an email to a fellow seller to help you make sure you are striking the right tone. This first response to a bad review will likely set the stage for how the interaction will proceed. Consider these points.

How apologetic you are will likely depend on who is or isn’t at fault.

But you should ALWAYS be sad and apologetic that the transaction hasn’t made your customer extremely satisfied and happy…even if you are not at all to blame. It’s sad when an interaction doesn’t result in an ecstatic customer. And it’s okay to express that.

Get as much information as you can.

If you need more information from them it is okay to request it, but make sure that you frame that request in a way that lets them understand that you are all about solving the problem. Not “Send a picture to prove your claim.” but “Oh, no! Can you please send me some pics of the damage so I can try to figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it.”

Know your policies.

But also know that each situation can call for different responses. You customer is an individual. Be willing to see that.

A woman responds professionally to a bad review.

Steps To Fix A Bad Review 

1. Respond Privately

The first response should be to the customer directly and not to the online visible review. Sometimes it’s possible for a customer to choose to change their bad review to a more positive one based on how this private interaction goes. Always respond promptly and professionally.

Acknowledge if there were errors on your part and what you’ve done to correct them not only for that customer but for future customers. “I feel terrible that the color wasn’t what you were expecting, and I’ve updated the listing with more close ups of the colors to make sure it is as correct as possible.”  

It’s also possible to respond with an offer of a discount on a future purchase. This is a nice touch that many sellers consider when they want to let the customer know that they really do want them to be happy.

“I know the length on the necklace wasn’t what you had hoped it would be, so I’d like to send you/offer you a (free or discounted) extender so that you will be able to wear it and love it.”

Or “I’m so glad that we were able to send a new shirt out to you after the first one arrived damaged. We are so sorry for the inconvenience and we wanted to offer you 20% off your next shirt that you order from us.”

2. Refund

If you are the one that messed up, often a refund is your best option. You want your customer to know that they are being cared for and it is happening as quickly as possible and with as little additional inconvenience to them.

Even if the problem wasn’t your fault if you want to provide exemplary customer service, want to try to  avoid a permanent bad review from a customer or bad word of mouth, a refund is probably the way to go. Most customers are at least partially satisfied if the money shows back up in their account super quickly.

It’s probably the fastest way to make most people at least satisfied with the outcome even if they still aren’t ecstatic with how it all ended up.

3. Return

If they customer is the one that messed up and you can resell the item you might consider offering to let them return it for a refund minus shipping costs. Again, this is exemplary customer service if the fault is really theirs.

You can also require this even if the fault was yours, but you run the enormous risk of leaving an extra bad taste in the customer’s mouth when they have to jump through hoops to get their money back.

4. Respond to the Public Review

Sometimes a reviewer doesn’t want a refund or a return, but they just want to vent in a public review.  After you’ve attempted to reach out to them privately, and waited to see if they changed their review, your response on a public online review needs to be professional.  And, if you want to lessen the outcome of the bad review, you need to respond.

Remember that the response on a public online review is more for future customers than the person that left the review. Write your response with a future potential customer in mind. What do they need to know about this interaction to make them more comfortable purchasing from you?  

But make sure you do not attack the reviewer in your response, even if you feel they deserve it. Be a professional. State the facts in a kind and collected impartial manner.

5. Reflect

What could you do differently in the future? Maybe the answer is nothing. But think about it. What, if anything, could you improve on to make this bad review situation less likely to happen? Change the listing. Change the process. Change whatever needs to change, if anything does. But realize that the more you sell, the more likely you are to have occasional bad reviews that need to be dealt with. It goes with the territory for online selling.

6. Reset

Shake it off. It’s time to move on. It is one item in a long list of experiences you have as a seller. You’ve done all you can do. Now make more products. Make more sales. And keep growing your business.

A bad review on Etsy or Amazon does not define your business or you as a seller. It’s something that happens. And by asking ourselves the questions of why and what to do about it, we actually grow as a business and learn to create an amazing customer experience.

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What to do when you get a bad review on Etsy or Amazon.
The First 2 Things to Do After a Bad Review