December 1, 2021
Nobody wants a 1-star review on Amazon. But as anyone who sells on the platform knows, even if you have impeccable customer service and stellar products, there are still those pesky reviewers who are never pleased.
Up until recently, brands could interact with negative reviewers. For example, if a customer was unhappy with the t-shirt size and left a bad review about it, the brand could post a reply and it would show in the public domain. It wasn’t the best possible solution, but it was something. People viewing that product’s bad reviews would have to click through to see a seller’s reaction, but at least it was a way for brands to acknowledge the customer’s situation and attempt to resolve it.
Unfortunately, beginning late 2020/early 2021, this option changed on Amazon. For a time there no way to know who was leaving those bad reviews or tie it back to a specific order from that customer. Brands trying to build their business on Amazon were left thinking, “What do we do now?”
Really, the only option left was to ask the customer to contact them by leaving a phone number, email address, or link to their Amazon store where the customer could message the seller, or a link to the seller page where the unhappy customer could send a direct message. But that was a lot of steps the customer may not take, and anyone else reading the bad review would have no idea if the issue was resolved.
Thankfully, starting in August 2021, Amazon gave a peace offering to brands by providing a new a way to connect and resolve low-star review customers. Now, Amazon allows brands to send a message through Amazon’s ecosystem and talk to that customer directly. Halleluiah! This is even better than the previous norm of simply replying to reviews. For brands not familiar with how to message customers who leave bad reviews, here’s a guide to help you.
How to Message Customers
- Enroll in Amazon Brand Registry. This typically requires an active registered trademark. Many new features like this are available exclusively to brand registered sellers, so enrolling in Brand Registry is crucial if you haven’t done so already.
- Locate Customer Reviews. Once you’re in your Seller Central, click on the brand’s tab. There, you’ll see customer reviews. (If you don’t see customer reviews, go into your settings and make sure it’s enabled. When Amazon rolls out a new feature, sometimes that’s not enabled by default.) This is where you can view all of your product reviews.
- Filter Customer Reviews. You can filter by ASIN, by date, and also by star rating. For our purposes, filter to only see low-star reviews. This is where you can start replying to each review in hopes of improving customer experience and your star ratings.
- Do Not Ask for Customer Info. This means no asking for an email address, phone number, etc. Amazon will automatically redact this type of information, especially email addresses, so even if someone put in an email address, it probably wouldn’t show. Amazon wants all buyer/seller messages to stay in their ecosystem to protect the customer and the seller by keeping a history of the communication.
- Do Not Ask a Customer to Change a Review. This directly violates Amazon’s Terms of Service. They’ve had this in the Terms of Service for quite some time, plus it’s referenced directly when messaging these customers again. Part of the Amazon ecosystem is the trust that customers have in Amazon, that they can leave authentic reviews and people cannot be manipulated to take things down.
- Word Your Message Thoughtfully. While you cannot directly ask a customer to change a review, your goal is to word the message in such a way that they will change their review because of how you remedy and resolve their problem. Word your message thoughtfully. Address the customer’s concerns head on and if appropriate, offer a replacement or return. Your goal is to wow your customer. Do this and customers will change reviews of their own accord.
- Check Reviews Regularly. Filter to those bad reviews, and address them directly. Get them resolved, and hopefully, the customers will change their reviews and your business will grow as a result. It’s important to do this as soon as possible after a bad review is left. If you wait too long, the customer won’t care anymore, or they’ll think you’re too unresponsive and it’s too late to resolve the issue, anyway. Set up a system and check for bad reviews at least once a week. This is one thing we do for clients as a way to keep customers happy and reduce those low reviews.
- Keep Track of Interactions. After you message a customer, click the “done” button to show that you’ve contacted them. This will help you better keep track of who you have messaged.
No More “Buying” Reviews
It’s great that Amazon allows you to now message customers directly who leave negative reviews. Every year, they do more and more to protect the review ecosystem, as it seems there are ways people are trying to work around getting authentic reviews. A huge no-no is “buying” reviews, in other words, offering free or reduced products in exchange for good reviews. A company called Rebate Key was allowing brands to give customers full refunds off of Amazon who left the positive review. Pretty shady, right?
Amazon had no way of seeing that refund activity because it was happening off of Amazon—the money was being sent directly from Rebate Key to the end customer. The customer left an amazing Amazon review, but it wasn’t disclosed that the product was free. They were basically buying good reviews. That type of behavior causes Amazon customers to lose trust in the Amazon ecosystem.
Recently, Amazon took away the company’s ability to interface with Amazon through the API who were incentivizing customers to leave reviews and getting free or heavily discounted products in return. So always look for authentically good reviews by doing the work to address customer concerns.
Customers Appreciate the Effort
Recently our company helped a customer with a new product launch on Amazon. We enrolled them in the Amazon Buying program to get some initial customer reviews, but one of the first reviews was only two stars. Not good. Apparently, the customer was confused the labeling, what was in the product and what wasn’t.
So, using this method and Amazon’s tools, we were able to address the issue quickly. We went into Seller Central, found the bad review, then messaged the customer directly. We explained the situation, and they were able to tell us their side. In the end, we came to a resolution by sending a replacement product. Can you guess what happened next? The customer, without us even asking, updated that two-star review to a four-star review. That’s huge! Especially for products that have a low number of reviews. It was a big win for the customer, and also a big win for the brand.
While there will always be customers you can’t please, this new messaging option will help you better serve those customers whose opinion can be changed. Not only that, but this extra effort builds a halo effect around your brand. If you were on the fence about buying a product, wouldn’t seeing a negative review get turned around into a positive one push you over the edge to click Buy Now?
Not sure if your negative review response strategy is all that it can be?