This post is by Chris Dunne, Product Marketing Manager at eDesk.
This post is all about Amazon seller feedback: what it is, why it’s so important, how to deal with negative feedback, and how to improve your rating.
In an effort to maintain its high standards, Amazon is frequently updating its review guidelines for both buyers and sellers. It’s important to stay on top of the latest procedures, what’s allowed and what’s not — so that you ensure you’re making the most of your position as a seller and not running up against any of its rules.
Buyers have a 90-day window to submit one feedback per order made on Amazon. The ecommerce giant is strongly focused on removing fake product reviews and has recently taken legal action against a number of websites selling non-genuine reviews and against sellers themselves.
Product reviews are getting all the attention of late, but what about seller feedback? The two are completely separate but often confused. This post is all about seller feedback: what it is and why it’s so important, how to deal with negative feedback, and how to improve your feedback rating.
The importance of feedback on Amazon
What matters most to Amazon? Customer satisfaction and loyalty.
So, when it comes to deciding which sellers to award the Buy Box to, your Amazon seller feedback – submitted directly by Amazon’s customers – has a big impact.
If you can create happy customers, then you’ve accomplished a major part of selling on Amazon. Conversely, if you create negative customer experiences, your business can start going downhill very quickly.
In ecommerce, an unhappy customer is more likely to leave feedback than a happy one. However, receiving negative feedback doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It could be an opportunity for you to improve an area of your business where you are weak and provide a better customer experience. Good sellers try to do a good job. Great sellers are never content with just doing a good job, and always try and find some way to improve.
Amazon calculates your seller feedback rating based on the feedback received over the last 12 months. If you have a feedback rating of over 95% (ideally over 98%), you’ll improve your chances of getting a share of the mysterious Buy Box. If your feedback rating is less than 90%, then you may want to review your selling practices – it’s likely to be having a detrimental effect on your sales, profits and Buy Box percentage.
In addition to helping you win the Buy Box, good feedback will also help improve your Amazon SEO. While Amazon doesn’t divulge its algorithm details, it’s a fact that feedback influences your product rating on Amazon.
I encourage all sellers to become familiar with Amazon’s feedback guidelines. Asking for feedback (and product reviews) is allowed within Amazon’s guidelines, so long as you do not incentivize reviews through compensation or attempt to influence reviews.
With so many things going on including sourcing and shipping, it’s understandable that some sellers neglect feedback management. Whether you choose to do it manually or through an automated software solution, I encourage ALL sellers to have a process for collecting and managing feedback – even long-term sellers should continue to monitor their feedback. After all, it’s your rolling 12-month rating that counts. If service standards slip, your feedback will too.
The difference between product reviews and seller feedback
When you search for a product on Amazon, you’ll notice a number of gold stars and a number indicating how many product reviews it has received. Here’s an example of a 1-star product review of a Harry Potter book on Amazon.
According to an eConsultancy study, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. If you’re a private label seller, you’ll be very determined to gain 4 and 5 star reviews for your products – as you receive more product reviews, your product visibility on Amazon will improve.
Seller feedback is a bit more difficult to find. Here’s an example of an Amazon seller called Clyde Parks, who pride themselves on providing the “highest standard of customer service”. You’ll notice from their seller profile below, they’ve received 575 feedback ratings and have a score of 99% over the last 12 months.
Some buyers will leave feedback on your business that is actually a product review. If this happens, you can ask Amazon to remove it. I’ll show you how below.
Strategies for dealing with negative feedback
If you sell on Amazon, it’s somewhat inevitable that eventually you’ll get negative feedback – it even happens to top-rated sellers. If the inevitable happens and you get left negative (or neutral) feedback, don’t ignore it. Even a handful of bad feedback ratings can affect your Amazon business.
Tip: Neutral or 3-star feedback is also considered negative by Amazon, so treat it in the same way as 1-star and 2-star feedback.
One thing to note, Amazon’s feedback isn’t cast in stone. If you receive disappointing feedback, you can work with the customer to see if there’s any way you can improve their experience and satisfaction level. An unsatisfied customer can upgrade or remove their feedback within 60 days of leaving their review.
Let’s look at the two main ways you can deal with negative feedback on Amazon.
1. Get Amazon to remove it
In the first instance, check to see if feedback complies with Amazon’s guidelines – if it doesn’t, they’ll remove it for you quickly. The effort required for this is pretty low. Just visit Seller Central and send a message to Amazon stating the reason why you think the feedback infringes their guidelines.
Here’s an example of a message you might send:
I’ve received a comment from [buyer’s name] on [order number] and feel it is more suited to the product reviews section. Can you remove this from my feedback profile?
Here is the comment in question, [insert comment].
Amazon will remove negative feedback if:
- The feedback includes obscene language.
- The feedback includes personally identifiable information.
- The entire feedback comment is a product review.
- The entire feedback comment is regarding fulfillment or customer service for an order Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).
Here’s an example of the latter taken directly from Amazon:
The way it was forced through my letter box was appalling. Damaged the packaging I’m not happy about that at all
Message from Amazon: This item was fulfilled by Amazon, and we take responsibility for this fulfillment experience.
But if the feedback complies with the guidelines, it’s pretty unlikely that Amazon will actually remove the comment – the comment would have to be unusually harsh or dishonest.
2. Respond to the negative feedback
Okay, so maybe the first strategy didn’t work. What you’re left with is damage control. It’s like how on TripAdvisor you might come across a review from a disgruntled customer only for the restaurant manager to respond, addressing the person’s concerns. You won’t actually be able to remove the negative feedback, but at least you’ve got an opportunity to explain your side of the story.
Sometimes it’s necessary to take one on the chin and move on – the important thing is that you addressed the issue (if there was one) in a professional manner.
With time, the feedback will fall off the first page and after 12 months, it won’t count towards your seller feedback rating at all. Just make sure that 95% of the feedback you receive is of a positive nature, meaning you need to get 19 positive ratings for every one bad one.
What you can’t do about negative feedback
In the past, the seller was able to contact the buyer to ask them to remove or reconsider negative feedback if it was unfair or unwarranted. However, this is no longer possible. According to Amazon’s latest feedback rules, you may not ask customers to change or remove their review.
Amazon has also introduced new rules for buyer and seller communications that affect how feedback may be sourced and dealt with. These rules took effect at the end of 2020 and are important to note in order to keep your seller account in good standing.
Read on to find out how to best navigate customer communications under the new rules.
New rules for Amazon buyer and seller communications
As of November 2020, Amazon updated its Communications Policy to create a healthier marketplace by limiting the types of messages that buyers and sellers can send one another.
The purpose of this change has been to improve communications between sellers and buyers and here are the primary ways in which the messaging options have been changed. Under the new rules, Amazon has:
- Limited proactive messages to those concerning order completion
- Protected buyers from fraud and abuse
- Protected sellers from unscrupulous competitors
This new policy means that all communications between buyers and sellers must now be kept within Amazon’s platform, within your Amazon Seller Central account.
The messages that are allowed to be sent fall into two categories: Necessary Permitted Messages and Proactive Permitted Messages. Here is how both types are defined:
Necessary Permitted Messages: This type of communication is necessary to complete a customer order, or in response to a customer inquiry. For example, shipping problems and return or refund requests are necessary permitted messages. Such messages must be sent through your Amazon Seller Central Account.
Proactive Permitted Messages: These are messages sent to the buyer from the seller, which are not in direct response to an inquiry. For example, this could include returns problems, delivery issues, or customs information relevant to shipping the order. Fortunately, review requests are also included in this category, meaning it is still allowed to follow up with customers after a sale to ask for feedback. But be aware that these communications are limited in that they must be sent using Amazon’s templates in the “Contact Buyer” area of Seller Central.
Additionally, it is important to note that in either of these cases, the seller may only send messages to customers who have contacted them first or who have purchased from the seller within the past 30 days. In each of these communications, a 17-digit order number must be included.
What do the new rules mean for soliciting feedback?
Prior to the new rules, many sellers have opted to send messages to their buyers throughout their purchasing journey, including thank-you notes, order updates and incentive coupons for money off future purchases to gain repeat business.
The new Amazon communication rules for buyers and sellers affect these messages. It’s important to know what is allowed and what’s not so that you don’t fall foul of Amazon’s new rules. Under the new rules, sellers are no longer able to send standalone messages or include the following in other messages:
- Order confirmations and product images
- Shipping confirmations
- Thank you messages
- “Contact us if you have a problem” messages
- Promotional messages including coupons
- Promotions for additional products
- Referrals to any third-party products
- Repeat requests for product reviews
- External links (unless necessary for order completion)
- Attachments (except for instructions, invoices or warranty information)
- Logos displaying your web address
- Email addresses and telephone numbers
- Sensitive content (violence, bare skin, gore, adult and offensive language)
- Language that incentivizes buyers to leave a review (a free gift, discount, compensation)
- Links to opt-out of messaging
- Tracking pixels and images
In addition, emojis, GIFs, spelling/grammatical errors, excessive images or graphics, and http links (as opposed to https) can also fall foul of Amazon’s new communications rules and your business could be threatened with suspension.
This may sound heavy-handed, but the reasoning behind it is that Amazon also continuously communicates with your customers itself, so many of these rules are to avoid duplication and messaging overlap.
For example, Amazon sends order-related messages as soon as you update the status of an order in your Seller Central account. So, as a seller, your business can thrive within these rules as long as you update all aspects of an order promptly, including confirmed shipment and refund processing too.
Amazon also automatically sends emails asking buyers to leave reviews and feedback, so you actually do not have to do anything other than update your Seller Central account.
By updating the order status in your Seller Central account promptly, Amazon will send notifications to the customers on your behalf and you’ll still be in a good position to receive positive feedback from your customers after the sale is complete.
How to improve your seller feedback rating
Many customers do not understand the importance of feedback. You may need to educate them, so they understand how important it is to your business. You would be surprised at how many customers don’t realize they are buying from a third-party seller and not Amazon themselves!
With statistics showing that only 10% of people leave feedback on Amazon, that makes it vitally important to increase your quantity of positive feedback and deal with any negative feedback quickly.
Feedback on Amazon is scored as follows:
- 5 stars = Excellent
- 4 stars = Good
- 3 stars = Fair
- 2 stars = Poor
- 1 star = Awful
It’s worthwhile informing your customers of these metrics as a 3-star rating (neutral), will actually count against your business and bring your seller rating down. Without knowing the ratings, a customer could think a 3-stars rating is positive, when it is in fact negative.
1. Put a note in the package
Successful sellers have developed clever ways to encourage positive feedback. The most obvious way to get more feedback is straightforward, ask for it (at the right times)! You can encourage your customers to leave feedback through the inclusion of a note in your packages.
The more personal, the more likely they will see you as an individual – resulting in better feedback! Sellers can include a thank you and a reminder to leave a review but are not allowed to include incentives or discounts for doing so.
2. More feedback tips
Stephen Smotherman is one of my favorite FBA bloggers and always willing to help others based on his vast experience. He has kindly shared his five tips for helping to maintain a 100% seller feedback rating.
- When choosing the condition of a product, round down, not up.
- Think twice about selling an item in acceptable condition.
- When you get unfair negative feedback on Amazon (and you will), act quickly.
- When you get legitimate negative feedback (and you will), act quickly, apologetically, and generously.
- Use automated Amazon feedback software.
I’m going to add a further two tips to Stephen’s list, that could help you prevent negative feedback and product returns.
- Providing better product descriptions and images.
- Ensure you ship your items on time and respond to customers within a timely manner.
You should aim to respond to any messages you receive from customers within 24 hours and ideally as soon as possible, which brings us nicely onto feedback mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
Feedback mistakes you should avoid
1. Taking too long to respond to buyers’ feedback
Amazon grants you a 24-hour period to respond to customers. If you’re out and about a lot, then installing the Amazon seller app on your smartphone could help you respond to customers in a more timely manner.
2. Not marking messages as “no response needed”
Sometimes you’ll get a message that doesn’t require a response. In these instances, you should mark the message as “no response needed” so it doesn’t appear to Amazon that you have not replied.
3. Not asking for feedback
As recommended previously, all sellers should spend time on feedback management. Send your buyers a message through Seller Central asking them to leave their feedback. But remember, offering incentives for positive feedback is against Amazon’s policies.
4. Not using automated software
Many sellers like to save time and take the hassle out of feedback management by outsourcing this part of their business to automated software. If you’re just starting out on Amazon, you may prefer to manage this side of your business manually.
5. Not dealing with negative feedback
Negative feedback is part of doing business. It’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time. If you think that feedback you have received is against Amazon’s guidelines (like a product review submitted as seller feedback) you can contact Amazon and ask them to remove it.
If a customer has a genuine issue with their order, try to resolve it with them through Seller Central, the only permitted channel of communication with customers. Once you’ve dealt with their issue, they may take it upon themselves to amend their review. You can’t directly ask for them to do that, as explained above.
6. Allowing too much time for a customer to cool down
If someone is annoyed about poor service or feels let down, it’s advisable to give them some time to reflect and take the emotion out of the situation. That said, don’t forget to resolve the situation within 60 days, as after this period, feedback can no longer be changed or removed.
Whether you source stock from manufacturers, distributors or retail arbitrage; or are a private label seller selling your own products on Amazon, protecting or improving your seller rating is crucial to Buy Box eligibility and product visibility in search results.
Putting a system in place (whether manually or automatically) to increase your positive feedback and product reviews, as well as helping you react to negative feedback, is vital to long-term sales and success.
The real icing on the cake with improved seller metrics is the double-whammy of both higher sales and increased profits. You’ll win the Buy Box more often and win it with more of your profit margin intact.
This post was by Chris Dunne, Product Marketing Manager at eDesk. eDesk gathers customer interactions from websites, marketplaces and social channels into a simple dashboard for customer support teams.