Argh, My Craft Shop Got a Bad Review!
Welcome to Episode 19 of the Craft Seller Success podcast.
If you sell crafts online for long enough, sooner or later you are bound to get a bad review – and it may not be because of anything you did, either. In this episode of the Craft Seller Success Podcast I am discussing how to lessen the chances of bad reviews, how to handle them and why they needn’t be as scary as you may think.
Listen to the Argh, My Craft Shop Got a Bad Review! podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number nineteen – Argh, My Craft Shop Got a Bad Review!
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
Getting a negative review in your craft shop can be very upsetting. If you sell products online for long enough you are bound to eventually have this happen to you, it is rather inevitable. There are many reasons people might leave a negative review, not all of them are actually anything to do with you or your products.
In this episode of the Craft Seller Success Podcast, I will be looking at how to prevent negative reviews and how to handle it when you do get one. I will be discussing some of the reasons you may get a bad review, ways to fix them and why a bad review can end up being good for your shop in the long run.
There are so many reasons why someone might leave a negative review that we craft sellers can never guarantee we can prevent it happening to us. However, we can certainly take steps to try to lessen the chances as much as we can.
Good clear listings
A very common cause of customer dissatisfaction is product listings that have not made it clear what the customer will receive.
Be sure your products are described in detail.
Product dimensions are a particular common area for potential problems. Make sure you have included all relevant dimensions, ideally in both centimetres and inches. Also be sure to have at least one of your product photos including something to show the scale of the item. This can be a ruler, someone holding the item, the item in use or in a setting.
Use plenty of photos to really show the potential customer all around the item.
Keep the Communication lines open
If a customer does not know how to contact you or thinks you are not open to contact, they may just go straight to leaving a negative review, even though their issue would have been easy to sort out had they spoken to you first.
Be sure you have supplied your customers with clear information on how to contact you and made it clear you welcome such communication.
Ideally, offer multiple ways to contact you. A bare minimum is your business email address.
If using a marketplace like Etsy, you can give a link to their internal messaging system.
Whilst I know that not all craft sellers are comfortable with it, you may want to have a phone number for your customers to reach you with. You could use a cheap mobile phone for this, or a Skype or other online type of number. Consider your target market. For some niches, your customers may prefer to speak to you on the phone than via writing.
Include a contact form on your standalone website. These are usually very quick and easy for visitors to use.
Include your contact details on the receipt with your products.
Have clear links to your social networks too – they might prefer to get in touch with you privately via Facebook or Twitter.
Make it easy for your customers to contact you and hopefully you will be able to sort out any potential issues before a review is ever left.
Accept Returns if you can
One of the downsides of not accepting returns is you may very well have a higher chance of getting negative feedback.
If you, yourself, bought something, especially if it was quite expensive, and when it arrived it wasn’t really suitable, let’s say it was clothing and it doesn’t fit you. If you then realise you can’t return it, you will inevitably feel upset, won’t you? You have wasted money on something you cannot use. You will be an unhappy customer. And unhappy customers are inclined to leave negative reviews.
Had the option of returning been available, you could have gotten all (or at least most) of your money back and wouldn’t feel so bad about the transaction.
So, if you don’t already, is there something you can do to accept returns?
There are some products that are much harder to accept returns for. But if you can, you will not only decrease your chance of negative reviews but also get one-up on your competition!
If you sell products that would have a hygiene issue with returns, such as earrings, you could sell them in sealed plastic bags. The customer can return them as long as the seal isn’t broken
Digital products obviously cannot be returned for a refund. With many digital product delivery systems, including the one used by Etsy, you can see whether a customer has downloaded the digital item or not. In my own Etsy digital shop, I have a policy that the customer is welcome to a full refund as long as they have not downloaded the item yet. It is very, very rare, but if a customer buys “the wrong thing” I can refund and neither of us has lost anything.
Custom items are usually excluded from returns because they can not be sold to someone else. Many custom and made-to-order sellers send out a photo of the item first to ensure the customer is happy with the product. This can at least save you the postage if there is an issue.
If you think that you could actually resell the custom item, then perhaps you could consider a return. Or, if you could reuse all or parts of the item then you might be able to offer a partial refund. Either could placate an otherwise very angry customer.
If you do not offer returns on clothing because of the concern that the customer will wear the item they want to return it, consider adding large tags or labels. The customer can then still return as long as the tags are in place, and therefore you know the item is unworn.
Reasons Customers may leave a bad review
There are many reasons why someone may leave a bad review in your shop. Some are preventable, some are fixable, some are totally out of your control in every way.
Genuine Issue you could potentially fix
This includes common issues like “Where is my stuff!” and “My product arrived broken”. Contact the customer as soon as possible and follow your usual policies on dealing with such problems.
A genuine issue you couldn’t fix
Here the customer is upset with a good reason. They may have already contacted you but you have been unable to help them to their satisfaction. The customer is clearly not going to change their review. Leave a public response to this review and then move on.
You made a mistake with the listing
Here the customer has a genuine grievance. The item they received was not as described in your listing. Perhaps you made a mistake, perhaps you omitted something or perhaps something was ambiguous. Always own your mistakes. Fix them and do what you can to make it right for your customer.
The customer made the mistake
Sometimes a customer misreads a listing, or doesn’t actually read it, or doesn’t look at all the pictures, or misunderstands what they did read. These things happen.
If the customer is basically admitting the fault was their own, contact them as usual, and ask how they think you could have improved the listing to make things clearer – but don’t do this sarcastically! Be sure not to accuse the customer of anything, even when it is clear they are the ones at fault. You must keep on the high ground here.
“I just read your review for the Child’s Teddy Bear hat and I am sorry that you thought it would fit an adult. I tried to include plenty of information to ensure that visitors would know it was for children. Can you suggest any ways I could improve this?”
The customer has mistaken you for someone else
This is surprisingly common on marketplace sites like Etsy, but I have heard of it happening on standalone shops too. A busy customer has bought a number of items from different shops. One has a problem. They leave a negative review on the wrong item, or in the wrong shop.
Contact the customer and explain that you don’t sell that item, or the item you sent was blue, not red, or whatever the situation is. Keep your explanation short, clear and unemotional.
“You have left a review on the ceramic knitting bowl you purchase from me on the 3rd July. In your review, you say “the red paint is chipping off the bowl”. The bowl you bought is blue and is not painted. The clay is blue, so the colour can not chip off. Could you have confused your purchase from me with one from another seller? If you are sure it is my bowl that has a problem, please send me a picture and some more details so I can help sort this out as soon as possible.”
“Hi, you have left a review on the Santa card you bought from me on the 5th. You have written “the seller was rude to me”, but I have no record of you ever having contacted me about this purchase. Could you have mistaken me for someone else you recently bought from?”
Even when it is obvious that the customer has made a mistake, try not to sound like you are accusing them of this. When they realise the fault is actually their own they may be embarrassed. A professional seller will always try to offer the customer a way to extract themselves from the situation with the least fuss. When well handled, these sorts of unhappy customers can often be turned into your biggest fans.
The customer is having a bad day
Sometimes someone is just having a bad day and you get in the cross-fire. They are grumpy, everything looks negative and, sadly, that includes your product.
There will be times when such a customer will calm down and regret their snapping at you. As long as you have contacted them politely and professionally, they may apologise and even change their review.
Or they may stay grumpy and that is that.
If it is obvious that someone is picking for a fight, do not take the bait. Remain calm and constructive until the point where it is obvious that you can not change this situation. Then respond to their review and move on.
The person leaving a review is a rival seller
Eek, yes, sometimes it does happen that a rival seller will buy something and then leave a bad review to try to scupper your business. Thankfully this is very rare. Do not retaliate in kind. Maintain the higher ground and be professional.
If you are sure this is what has happened and you sell on a marketplace site you could try contacting the customer support with your evidence. On your own website, you can, of course, delete the comments. As with all reviews, take the time to read them properly and consider your actions carefully first though.
Try not to take it personally. If you tend to get upset at things like this, you may find it helps to think of yourself as if you were one employee of a larger company, rather than the whole business yourself. So put on your customer service hat and try to distance yourself a bit.
Be professional. You are a small business owner. This is just one of those things that happens to all small business owners. It is not “just you”. Handle it professionally and you will feel good about yourself. Whilst you may not be able to make it go away, you may well be able to make the situation better. And it is always worth trying to do so!Keep calm and professional when dealing with unhappy customers.Click To Tweet
Remember that being calm, friendly, polite and unemotional will all help you handle it well. This is your chance to show you can deal with the downsides of running your own business – so let’s do what we can to sort this…
Start by thinking carefully about what has been said. It is really important to decide whether the review is a genuine grievance that you must do something about or a minor gripe that needs a good response, but there is little you can do about the issue in question or something that is not really your fault anyway but still needs handling carefully.
Contact the Customer
If you can offer some sort of solution to their problem, do so.
“Hi, I am so sorry to hear that your glass bowl arrived broken. Please, could you send me a couple of photos of the damage – I will need these so I can file for postal insurance. Once I have them, I will of course either send you a replacement, or a full refund, whichever you prefer. My apologies again.”
Never accuse your customer of anything. Ever.
I personally would very strongly advise that you do NOT ask a customer to change a review. Many sellers agree with me on this. Doing so can look very tacky and upset your customer further.
Ideally, you will be able to deal with the situation and make the customer feel happy again. And ideally, they will then change their review themselves.
A review should reflect how the customer feels. For it to have any value it must be their opinion and totally up to them what they write – and whether they leave one at all.
If you feel that you really want to ask a customer to reconsider a bad review, do so with great caution.
When to Add a Public Response to the Review
If you are selling on a standalone site you may want to offer a public response to the review right away, which you can then edit later once you have (hopefully) sorted the situation out with the customer. Responding to the review may prevent the customer from changing it later – if this is the case, I would advise that you wait in case that occurs.
Important – If you are selling on Etsy, do NOT respond to any feedback until you are sure the customer will not change it. Once you respond the feedback will be locked in place. You will be able to delete your response, but not change it. Deleting your response will still not allow the initial feedback to be changed.
Tips for Responding Publically to Reviews
Ok, so you have contacted the customer. You have done your best to sort out any problem. A bit of time has passed and the customer has not changed their review. Now is the time to consider a public response to it.
Again a quick reminder that if you respond to an Etsy review the customer cannot change it. Just saying.
Remember that your response is for FUTURE customers. You should already have contacted the review privately. Your response is to show visitors to your shop that you treat negative feedback very seriously and do your best to handle it properly.
This is why your response must be professional, friendly, non-accusatory, accurate and constructive.
First, let’s cover the things you really shouldn’t do when responding to a bad review. You may think some of these are self-evident, but I have seen every single one of them, multiple times, in responses to reviews on Etsy.
Don’t Call the customer a liar
Even if you are convinced they are not telling the truth. Accusing a customer of lying will always look bad on you.
Don’t Imply any mental illnesses, instability or similar
You would assume this was obvious, right? But you might be surprised how many times I have seen a seller make comments like “This customer appears to have something wrong with them” or “The customer seems to be crazy”
Don’t say that you have never had an issue with this before
This is such a common one. It is very tempting to say something like “I have sold over 200 of these and never had this problem before”.. but whilst doing so may seem to be bolstering your reputation, it is also very dismissive of the customer’s feelings. They don’t care how many perfect orders you have had, they only care about their less-than-perfect one. In your review response, talk only about the current situation.
Do not Criticise the customer
Even if it really is the customer’s error, not yours, try to phrase your response as charitably as possible. Avoid sounding like you are saying the customer made the mistake. You want potential customers, who are reading this response, to come away with the overall impression that you are considerate, professional, keen to help and treat ALL your customers with respect – all your customers.
Don’t Be emotional
Try to keep a calm, business-like tone. Remember that the response is for future visitors. They will be using it as a guide to how you behave if things go wrong. Keep emotion out of it.
This will just look bad on you. Keep your language professional and calm.
Do not use the customer’s name or personal information
This is, of course, always a big no-no. Revealing any additional information about your customer could be a serious breach of privacy. Just don’t do it.
Doing any of these things is likely to mean that your response is far more damaging to your shop and reputation than the original review was.
Be polite and professional
Write clearly and in unemotional language. Use full sentences. Stick to facts.
Outline what you have done to fix the issue
Show how you attempted to sort out the issue and prevent it from happening again. This will reassure your visitors and can make a negative review actually help your shop in the long run, as it gave you the chance to show off your great customer service skills.
“I am glad you have now received your replacement bag. I have reviewed my packaging to help ensure my bags will arrive safely in the future. My apologies again that yours arrived as it did.”
Remember you are writing for future potential customers. Keep this in your head at all times.
Some Info on Dealing with Returns
Broken, faulty or not-as-described items
If the customer is saying the item has some sort of fault, most sellers start by asking for photos of the issue. Once you are sure that there is indeed a problem, and the extent of it, you can decide what to do next. You will also need the photos if you insured the parcel and will be putting in a claim for it.
For low priced items the cheapest solution is often to tell the customer to just throw the broken item away. You can then send a replacement or refund the customer in full – or offer them a choice of which they prefer.
If you think you could mend the item or reuse parts of it, then you can ask the customer to return it to you. You will need to either pay for a return postage label or refund them the postage once you have the item. Be sure to check with the customer what type of postage you would prefer they use… I have seen quite a few cases where customers have used the most expensive way to return the item, which the seller then has to refund!
If you are in the EU and your customer isn’t, remember to explain to them to mark their parcels as returns so you don’t get hit with import VAT.
Change of mind or buyer’s remorse returns
Sellers in the United States usually do not return the initial postage on change of mind returns. Sellers in the European Union are legally obliged to do so. Be sure you know the law on returns for your country.
If there is no fault with the product then the customer pays for the return postage. This prevents customers from just returning things willy-nilly. If you are new to online selling, please be reassured that most sellers get very, very few returns.
I will talk more about returns in a later podcast.
Delete the Bad Review or not?
If you are selling via a marketplace site such as Etsy, Amazon Handmade or eBay, you will need to apply to have negative feedback removed. There will be criteria for what feedback can be removed at all. Usually, this includes if the feedback has personal details, swear words or mentions other shops.
If you have your own standalone website you may well be able to delete feedback if you wish.
I’d recommend using similar criteria to Etsy for this. Delete any feedback that your future customers may consider offensive, such as using swear words. Delete if it mentions other shops “I could have gotten a better one from Jones and Company!”. And delete if the customer gives personal info about themselves – or you.
If the review is just a little negative, but mostly positive, definitely consider leaving it be. Having a few less-than-stellar reviews will actually make your site look more authentic, don’t worry.
Many sellers only remove reviews that they feel are untrue, unfair or irrelevant.
Remember that if you write a really good response to a negative review you might actually be strengthening your shop. Future visitors will see it and be impressed with your customer service skills!
A few More tips
Do not hurry to refund a customer to prevent an expected negative review. There are, sadly, some people who will attempt to hold sellers to ransom with threats of bad reviews.
Things like “If you don’t send me an extra one, I will leave a bad review” or “The item arrived safely. Refund me 50% and I will leave a good review.”
Sites like Etsy look very dimly on customer extortion. If you really feel that this is what the customer is doing, send their messages to Etsy. They will delete any negative reviews that you receive as a result of such extortion.
If you have made no fault and done everything you can to help a customer, that is all you can do. Sounds obvious, but I have often seen sellers who refund in full, send more items and do all sorts of totally unnecessary things because they are scared of getting a bad review.
If an insured item has been damaged in the post, ask for pictures for your insurance claim. Do not ask the customer to return the item as this will invalidate your claim.
Do not discuss the customer’s review on public forums, social media etc. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen a seller complaining about a 2 or 3-star review on the Etsy forums, only to then have someone tell the customer-in-question. And the customer has then changed the review to a one-star with a blistering comment about how the seller talked about them!
If you really must ask for some advice from other sellers, privately contact someone you regularly see helping others in forums (I don’t mind if you message me, for example) or use a medium where your shop and/or customer’s name are not available to the other users – such as a Reddit forum.
Not only is talking about your customers something that can easily upset them, but it does also tend to make a seller look bad in the eyes of other sellers, and is generally viewed as trashy. Oh, and it could easily be a breach of the customer’s privacy in many cases too.
- Look at the review with honest eyes
- Address any issues the review raises. A bad review can sometimes point out something really important that, when fixed, will greatly improve your product or business
- Contact the customer and do what you can to help them
- If you are sure nothing further can be done… consider a public response
- If you own the site and can delete, consider whether this is the best thing to do
- Respond once you are sure all other options are no longer available to you
- Chalk it down to experience and move on
You have done everything you can. You have tried your best to make your customer happy again. And you have handled everything in a professional, friendly and calm manner. Pat yourself on the back. You have survived a little “baptism by fire” and you are now a little stronger for it. Have a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate, hug the cat or whatever makes you smile and move on. Don’t dwell on this one bad review… move forward and you will soon have lots of lovely positive ones to push it out of sight.
Describe your items as well as you can. Take plenty of photos. Mention any potential issues up front and stick to your shipping dates and you will give yourself the best chance of not getting too many negative reviews – oh, and all these things will help you get sales too, so win/win there.
If you get a bad review it is not the end of the world. All the best shops have ‘em eventually.
Keep calm. Act professionally. Do what you can to make your customer happy. Then move on.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and profitable New Year. And may all your reviews be wonderful ones!
A full transcript is in the Show Notes on the Tin Teddy Blog.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 20 is called Building an online craft shop using WordPress and WooCommerce. This episode will be out on the 8th January 2019. I have been planning and building a standalone shop for many of my Tin Teddy products. I will be talking about how I went about this – with lots of handy tips and ideas for you. Even if you sell your products via a different platform, there will still be useful content in there for you.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
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For more info on selling on Etsy, check out episode 10 – 5 Steps To Start an Etsy Shop