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How to Handle Negative / Neutral Feedback

For many, negative feedback feels like a bitch slap on their left cheek. Initially, they’re shocked with a sense of disbelief. They move to hurt feelings and feel inexplicable guilt. Then they get angry and indignant, insisting that this loose lipped abuser isn’t going to get the best of them. They might start to feel like less of a person or less of a business without necessarily admitting this to anyone. Eventually, they get over it and can finally relax with a nice glass of wine.

I believe coping with it effectively depends on a few things:

1. Your willingness to accept responsibility for what went wrong.
2. Deciding that feedback isn’t about your score, but about their total customer experience.
3. Recognizing your worth as a person and/or business regardless of others’ opinions.
4. Your ability to communicate without a hint of sarcasm, anger, or ego.
5. Refusing to believe that elite customer service makes you a doormat.

If you believe the above, the following steps might help you resolve negative feedback and its associated issues a bit more completely.

1. Do nothing. Until you feel peaceful and not personally attacked, take no action. This may take a day or two. If you’re angry, wait.

2. Detach yourself from the outcome. Your customer may not be willing to talk about it, may think you’re crap anyhow, may not respond, whatever. Decide the level of service you want to offer regardless of the customer’s reaction. This is a critical step. If you will only be happy if the customer changes his feedback, you’re too attached to the outcome.

3. Email or convo the customer. The overall strategy could be something like:

a. Thank you for your order
b. I see the experience wasn’t what you hoped
c. I’m sorry [critical]
d. This is what happened [brief, 20 words or fewer, make no excuses – skippable step]
e. Here are a few options for how we’ll fix it [choices – it’s a negotiation, not a command]
f. Please choose one
g. If I don’t hear back from you by [date], I’ll [choose your favorite option]
h. Thank you for your patience
i. I’m sorry [again]

An example: “Thank you again for your order. I noticed that you left a negative/neutral feedback along with some comments. At [company], we settle for nothing less than your absolute satisfaction so we’d like to try and address the issues you brought up in your feedback.

“I’m so sorry that your experience with us was anything less than stellar and we’d like to do something to make it up to you. You said you felt the shipping timeframe was too slow. While we shipped the item out the next day, sometimes the USPS delivers packages a little bit slowly, especially around the holidays. I know what an inconvenience that can be.

“We’d like to offer you some recompense for your trouble. We can either replace the item, refund [x]%, or refund the whole thing if you ship it back. Please let me know what you’d like to do. If I don’t hear from you by [two weeks from now], I’ll go ahead and refund [x]%.

“Again, I’m so sorry. Thank you for your patience. We’ll resolve this somehow.”

4. Wait. Give the customer at least a week to respond. After a week, if he hasn’t responded, send a follow up that refers to your original convo/email.

5. Once the customer responds (and however he responds), do nothing until you’ve achieved that peaceful feeling again. Every time.

6. When you’re calm, write something up. Make no excuses.

7. If the customer has chosen a resolution, do it. Fast. If not, press them to choose. Keep at it to the point where you’re comfortable and can afford it. (Sidebar: In my opinion, unless it’s going to keep you from putting food on the table, you can afford it.)

8. Ensure their happiness. Once you’ve delivered on your promise, check with them once more to make sure they’re happy with you and your business. If you’ve reshipped, wait until the replacement is in their hands.

9. Then, and ONLY then, mention KAMU (Kiss and Make Up) through convo/email. Don’t initiate blindly. Ask them if they’re willing to do it. If they never respond, let it go. To me, KAMU is a bonus. It’s far, far more important to have happy customers than to have the right feedback score. Even if it weren’t available, I’d recommend the steps above.

Some Don’ts:

- Never let your ego get in the way.

- Never refer to your policies unless you don’t mind business failure at the hands of a given policy.

- Don’t worry about being a doormat. Customers aren’t friends, they are feeding you and your family. Respect them like you respect your boss.

1 Highlighted Response

Hello everyone,

With a topic like this, it's easy to slip into relating specific details from specific transactions and feedback issues, which is against Forum policy. Please keep the discussion general and/or hypothetical.

Also, let's try to maintain a calm tone and treat our fellow members with respect. Thank you.

133 Responses

Default avatar
Inactive Etsy Member 2:52 pm Dec 14, 2011 EST
Every seller needs to read this.
The feedback system has been broken since earlier this year. When it is fixed, I will utilize it more.
Extremely well worded. This should be required reading before being allowed to sell on Etsy. With occasional pop quizes referencing its content.
Excellent advice - thanks for sharing.
Default avatar
Inactive Etsy Member 3:03 pm Dec 14, 2011 EST
I don't know if bugging them to change it if they aren't happy will work. Also, if you just refund a certain percent without hearing anything back, what would that accomplish? They aren't happy.. I doubt they will honestly consider that a nice gesture. That's just my opinion on it.
I usually remind them that I have their address and "know people."

(for the humorless out there this is a joke.)
Assumptions about attitude.

Dear me.
Thank you for this very sensible and constructive post.

Reading some of the posts about neg/neut feedback your advice is very relevant.

Well done!
This is very well put together ( applause)

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