I am still unpacking the many inspiring ideas and conversations I had at Jim Cockrum’s CES II conference earlier this fall. For example, I was talking to two booksellers who told me that they shrink wrap or polybag every book they send in. I must have gasped and I know my eyes got big and googley because my eyeballs felt stretched. “That’s a lot of work to avoid negative seller feedback!” I said thinking of the hundreds, sometimes a thousand or more books a month I send in. And she said, “We don’t do it to avoid negative feedback, we do it to get positive feedback.” Maybe that doesn’t sound especially profound to you, but it rang my bell because getting positive feedback on Amazon is hard. Unlike eBay, a lot of Amazon shoppers never bother to leave seller feedback…but when they are unhappy – watch out!
Later during CES, Skip McGrath talked about news he had from an inside source at Amazon. He shared that our seller metrics are going to be even more important to our ability to sell going forward. Sellers with better metrics will get the buy box more and will be able to charge more and still be in the buy box. This was exhilarating to hear since my metrics were great at the time and I had a 100% with Amazon and a lifetime customer satisfaction rate of 97%. Of course things change fast and my customer satisfaction/feedback score just dropped below 90% this week – OMG!!! Am I panicked? Worried? Freaked? I am not.
This is for two reasons: 1) I have a strategy that works to remove negative feedback and 2) I have a solution to increase positive feedback that doesn’t require me poly-bagging all my books (just the New and Like New ones).
Before I get into these points, I want to stress how important feedback score really is to you as a seller. I have a private client right now who lost selling privileges because her company wasn’t paying attention to seller metrics (how fast they responded to inquiries, on-time shipping) and negative seller feedback. Four negatives in one day and they lost it all. This is because not only is it the number of negatives you have over a period of time, it is also the frequency within a short amount of time. In the case of my client she didn’t have very many positives because she was a relatively new seller and four negatives sunk her. We got her reinstated and we are dealing with her customer feedback problems.
Even though she has the absolute lowest price for her items on Amazon, she can’t get the buy box. Amazon is also throttling her orders as well so she can’t get them out the door as quickly as she likes (she is MF). She has to prove herself over time. Getting her approved in a gated category will be impossible until she fixes this problem and she has cases of health and beauty items she can only sell on eBay right now.
Another colleague of mine who does this part-time on top of a busy day job, lost track of his feedback and was informed for the first time in years of selling that he can’t sell toys this season because of his seller metrics. He was floored. He is an FBA seller exclusively, but he had one bad listing problem where someone changed the listing on him (sound familiar?) without him noticing and all of a sudden his products were not as advertised. Everyone was pissed and gave him a bunch of 1s and 2s in a week period. We are resolving the issues with his customers and I am very hopeful he will recover his toy selling privileges in time, but what a hassle! The moral of these stories is to pay attention! It only takes a few unhappy customers to tank your metrics. Oh, and Don’t Be Evil! ASIN tricks hurt other sellers: it is not funny, fair or ethical. Amazon frowns on this behavior.
OK, everyone good and scared now? Here comes the good news. You can get negative feedback removed with a bit of work – even after 60 days – and you can significantly increase positive feedback with the right tools. I met the Feedback Genius guys at CES II also. They had a free month trial and boy was I amazed! I got 10 positive feedbacks in the first week which is way beyond my usual. To give you an idea, after four years of selling, I have less than 900 feedbacks total. While my lifetime positive feedback is a respectable 97%, I can’t help but think it would be better if I had more positives. There are some sellers on Amazon with thousands of feedbacks and I’ve always wondered how they do it. Now I have a pretty good idea.
What makes Feedback Genius different from other similar services like FeedbackFive (which didn’t do much for me) is their approach to feedback. They are tightly integrated with Amazon so this is a fully automated process for you. My system is set up so that when a new product is scheduled to be delivered, my buyer gets an email telling them the product is due that day. It asks them to let me know if it arrives in anything less than perfect condition and it gives them a way to contact me – did you catch that? Me, instead of Amazon first. [This is an optional setting.]
In addition, if they are happy, it gives them a link to give me immediate 5-star seller feedback rating. 22% of my positive responders respond on that first day. Another 60% or so respond before or immediately after I send my next email four days later asking for feedback. I know this because Feedback Genius gives me awesome analytics that I can use to tweak my campaigns.
My letters are branded with my logo and they are customized for each customer’s order. I not only remind them of what they ordered, but where it is being shipped, by which carrier and the tracking number. All of this is acceptable with Amazon’s policies as is the follow up. It also pleases me to be sending an email that is valuable and not spam-ish.
There are other cool features that I’ve not even implemented yet. If you have a product that you sell consistently, you can send customers who buy that ASIN a PDF attachment along with a note. As long as the attachment isn’t selling something or taking customers away from Amazon, you have a lot of latitude. I’m currently selling a special product for the holidays and I’m considering sending an attachment with best celebrity recipes (from the public domain). It will be a pleasant surprise for everyone who gets it and I bet it will increase positive feedback. I’m planning to sell hundreds of these items in the next two months.
Even though I sell a lot of used books and collectibles, my strategy is to use Feedback Genius for new items only. This increases my chances of getting positive reviews. I get negative feedback on books more than any other category and it is usually for the same reason. I said it was one condition, the buyer disagreed. The book and collectible game buyers have to make an extra special effort to give me negative feedback so when they do, I know they are really pissed and I jump on it right away.
Once I tweaked my letters with Feedback Genius, I was done. It runs itself and is awesome! I was so excited with my results that I contacted the guys there and asked them to do something special for my readers. In addition to a free month trial, you will get an additional 500 emails added to your subscription (each time I send an email to a customer counts so they can add up fast if you send two emails per new customer).
Also, I collaborated with the team at Feedback Genius to create an 8-page report/mini-eBook on how to remove negative feedback. This report incorporates several of my actual letters successfully used for different unhappy customer situations. It is free and exclusive to my readers for the next few weeks. You don’t even have to sign up for the free trial, just click the Free eBook button and download it.
As you will learn in the report, the secret to turning that frown upside down for unhappy customers is sympathy and empathy. Don’t get defensive, be their friend. You are there to help and you are really sorry about their troubles. Depending on the problem, a letter isn’t always going to be enough. I’ve given refunds, partial refunds and gift cards to unhappy customers. Not as bribes, but as compensation. The gift is never dependent on them removing the feedback. I always thank my customers for giving me the chance to make it right. In short, we have to treat our customers the way Amazon does – with respect, kindness and helpfulness.
For my new customers, they are most likely to be unhappy about shipping or a defective product. Shipping is Amazon’s problem and they will remove negative feedback relating to delivery. If the seller is complaining about the product, that is a product review which can also be removed by Amazon. So the issues that will require most of your attention are those relating to your performance as a seller. I got dinged yesterday because the product received did not match the listing. It did when I sent the product in, but another seller changed the listing. All I can do is make it right for the customer (curse the evil seller) and have my product suspended until I work it out.
In the situation I mentioned earlier with a client where the date had passed for the buyers to remove their feedback (you have a 60-day window), what I did was tell the unhappy customers that if their problem was now resolved to please tell me by email so I could forward it to Amazon. Three out of four did it. I called Amazon and got the feedback removed. I made it super easy for them and they responded. Most angry customers are decent people with a sense of fairness. They want to be heard. If you approach them with respect and compassion, the anger will often pass. They will see that you are a person who made a mistake and is sorry – not some faceless “them” who doesn’t care about their problems. If you try to make it right for them, most will respond positively.
Another thing to remember is that usually an unhappy customer is a sign that something is wrong. Sure, sometimes it is because they didn’t read the description or whatever, but a lot of the time, they are telling you something you need to hear – you should be grateful for that alone. I remember when my book manufacturer made mistakes trimming my book; all the pages at the back were missing part of the page. I had sent about 20 in FBA without examining them. I mean, they were new! I had no reason to suspect they were faulty. I was horrified, but because my customers told me about it, I was able to make it right for everyone and remove the misprinted books from the site before I got a ton of negative feedback.
When I first started FBA, I loved that Amazon was my customer service representative and I was not interested in getting my customers to contact me before Amazon. That has changed over time. Now I would prefer that unhappy customers give me a chance to make it right before leaving me negative feedback. That’s one of the reasons I like Feedback Genius. But, if they leave me negative feedback anyway, Feedback Genius sends me a text and an email immediately. I can jump in and respond to the customer fast which cuts down on a lot of customer frustration immediately. I can give them a refund through Amazon (if they’ve not gotten one already) and I can sincerely apologize. It goes a long way.
So, no, I’m not freaked out. I have a strategy and a tool. I know I can help my unhappy customers and I can make it easy for my happy customers to give me feedback. Both my clients I mentioned above are using Feedback Genius right now to get their sales back on track. Don’t wait until you are in dire straights – get on top of your feedback now! We are heading in to the biggest sales time of the year and you have an opportunity to propel your positive feedback to a whole new level just in time.
By the way, if you are a small seller and prefer a DIY approach rather than a program, be aware that Amazon will send out an email about two weeks after an order as a reminder to leave feedback. In addition, you can always send your buyers emails through the Amazon platform by clicking on their hyper-linked names on the order page or through the feedback center. When I was doing this myself, I focused on buyers who had used expedited shipping. That way I had an idea of when the product was due to arrive and I knew the chances of them being happier was greater.
PS. If you are interested in learning more about the Amazon Buy Box, Feedback Genius or Feedvisor (see my previous review on them), check out next weeks’ free webinar on the Buy Box hosted by the two companies. Sign up now to reserve your seat.
I occasionally talk about products on my blog that I believe to be useful to the FBA seller community. I don’t write about products I don’t like and only rarely do I talk about a product I don’t use myself. I use my modest affiliate income to help compensate me for the hours I spend on my blog each week. If you click on the links above and become a Feedback Genius customer after your free month, I will make a very small commission. If you would prefer to check it out without an affiliate link, you can go to www.feedbackgenius.com directly.