You got a sale and couldn’t be happier. The customer paid for the product, either downloaded it or received it after you shipped it and you anxiously wait for that five star review that other people will see. You can sense the ball will be rolling soon, sales will be pouring in and the number in your bank account going up to that seven figures you’ve always dreamed of.
Alas, you get notified of a review, and it’s a bad one.
Now before jumping in and arguing with that person telling them why your product was the best they could have bought, take a deep breath and start reading.
Take a Deep Breath, Bad Reviews are Inevitable
You may create the most amazing product on the market but you are bound not to please everyone. Even the largest companies have products that people swear by that others also absolutely hate. It doesn’t necessarily mean your work is awful, just that the customer didn’t like it.
What you should definitely not be doing is arguing with that customer on a public platform, questioning their credibility and attacking them. Understand that bad reviews are inevitable and that you will be getting quite a few in your lifetime. This is not something you can control as you cannot make other people like you and your products.
The goal is to know why the customer was pleased and to maintain a high standard for all your customers.
Understand the Reason Behind It
Before doing anything else, check out the bad review. If you’re lucky, the buyer would have explained in details what it was they didn’t like. It may be something you’ve done or something you had no control over. There are several types of bad reviewers: some will be absolutely honest as to what they didn’t like, others just love to nag about everything. You may have noticed a growing trend of the latter recently on social media. If you feel that the buyer was one of those, best to let it be. However, if the buyer is actually offering constructive criticism or clearly detailing why they were disappointed, then you can take it as a learning opportunity and see how you can improve your offering.
Was the packaging bad? The product itself? If it was a pattern, was it unreadable when printed? Could it be that the package was never delivered? Look at what your buyer is saying and figure out the root cause of the problem. Was it your first sale of that product? Have you sold other items like it that no one seemed to hate on as much as that person did?
In the above example (product and reviewer info hidden for privacy purpose), the buyer gave the product a one star. While this may have thrown the buyer off at first, when you read the post you will realize the problem wasn’t with the product itself, but with the buyer’s dog. Now was that review fair? Not really. Will other buyers’ decision making process be affected by it? Most probably not. In that case, the seller contacted the buyer privately and informed them that the item was not meant to be used as a toy for the dog which should be common sense.
Contact the Buyer
Good communication is key to responding to any type of issue and most especially a bad sale. The buyer will also appreciate your follow-up. Remember that a bad review isn’t about you personally, it’s about a buyer who wasn’t satisfied with a product he purchased.
Start by contacting them privately to understand what the issue is. Once you reach an agreement with the buyer, you can then reply publicly to show your other buyers that the issue has been handled and what the problem actually was and that it was solved. It could either be through a refund or maybe resending the product if you have more in stock or sending them a similar item for free.
Most often, the buyers aren’t out there to get you and will genuinely appreciate you making the effort to contact them and solve their issue. If you’re lucky, they might contact you before even posting their review!
A nice polite response showing you cared enough to solve the problem will reflect greatly on you, your shop and your customer service and might turn a bad case scenario into a good one.
Should I issue a refund to avoid a bad review?
Refunds should be on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes – sadly – some people purchase products then threaten the seller with a bad review in case the refund isn’t issued. Customers sometimes would claim they never received your product and demand a refund while your tracking system shows the package was delivered to the correct address and the receipt signed. This could be a scam or blackmail. If you’re absolutely convinced their intentions are malicious, you do not have to issue a refund. They want to leave a one star review, so be it! Nothing you can do about it. You don’t owe anyone a refund just because they asked for. The customer is always right is not necessarily the way to go. Sometimes, they are simply bad customers!
Sometimes the package may not be delivered due to post office issues, investigate the case and inform the buyer. One example was a buyer who didn’t pay their import fees and so the package was waiting for them to pick it up. It could be no one’s fault or simply a misunderstanding. It is important to make sure you resolve the issue rather than escalate and go into a war of words on your public profile.
In some legitimate cases, you may feel that a refund is indeed deserved. If your packaging failed during shipping for example and the product was destroyed, you can issue a refund after they ship the item back or maybe send them another item again for free.
If they purchased a digital product and on printing it turned out to be a mess, provide them with better instructions than you initially have or email them a new version. Don’t forget to edit the instructions on your product page, especially if you receive more than one complaint about it!
Can that one-star review be removed?
Usually not. A one-star review is here to stay forever. As mentioned earlier, it does not mean the world is ending and that your store will lose all their customers.
Etsy might remove the review however if the problem was due to a third-party issue such as shipping problems. In that case, the review would be construed as unfair and deleted. You can contact Etsy and explain the entire issue to them and they will handle it from their side if they believe the issue was genuinely out of everyone’s hands.
If you successfully resolve the issue with the buyer, they might end up changing their review as they can edit it. For example, if you emailed them the pattern or explained how they should print it, they might bump their review with a couple of stars and edit their text with an update.
Here’s another story found on Reddit from an Etsy seller. The seller explicitly mentioned everywhere that the product was a digital download and not a final product. In this case, the buyer is absolutely in the wrong as they were not mislead into purchasing the wrong product. This case is very simple as all the seller has to do is respond to the post restating what the product was. The other potential buyers will clearly know that one-star review doesn’t mean that the product is bad at all, just that the buyer didn’t pay attention. There is no way that review would affect future sales and that buyer might end up being the one pleading with Etsy to have their review deleted as it is more of an embarrassment for him.
Buyers have 100 days from the day they receive the product in order to modify their review. In case of digital products, that period starts on the purchase date, if it’s a physical product, it’s after the the estimated delivery date.
Note that if you respond to a 3 star or fewer the review publically, the buyer will no longer be able to edit it even if you delete your reply.
Even the top rated restaurants and hotels get bad reviews and it is people’s natural tendency to focus on them. Have those establishments run out of business and closed down because of them? Not really. The problem is usually solved with the customer and everyone moves on with their lives.
If it was a learning opportunity for you, great. Take it and improve on it. If it wasn’t, so be it. Some people can’t be pleased no matter what you do. That’s just a part of life when running a business.
Don’t over obsess and mull it in your head. Bad reviews happen to everyone and you have to let it go and move on. Focus on your future sales and don’t let that one hiccup become a roadblock in your online business venture.