For those e-retailers who are utilizing the massive audiences of Amazon and eBay, one thing you may have come across from time to time is a difficult customer who wants the world from you. So what do you do when a customer expects something that is outside of your policy, wants a refund on a product they broke or claims that it never came? The answer is not an easy one.
Online retailers are held hostage due to the fact that every transaction is being rated by the customer and your reputation is based on their experience. Though that seems like a great tool, it has increased the power of your customers…and the customer isn’t always right.
To make things more challenging for you, eBay has made it to where the seller can no longer negatively rate the buyer in return and PayPal, the eBay owned payment gateway, typically takes sides with their “Buyer Protection” policies which gives them the freedom to refund the customer without your approval.
Losing one customer may not be a big deal but your reputation is. Statistically, most buyers will look at the negative experience other customers have had before weighing the positives. Though a measly, undeserved, red comment in a sea of green may not seem like much, losing that pretty “100%” next to your name can significantly lower sales.
On Amazon, “100%” can be near impossible just because of the range at which you are reviewed. Rather than a simple 50/50, good or bad, review, Amazon has you grade on a scale from 1 to 5 stars. So as long as you’re consistently getting 4 to 5 stars and maintain a high 90%, you’re as good as gold in the eyes of a potential customer.
So how should you deal with a customer who is determined to make things difficult? The answer is not very black and white.
The first thing you have to do is weigh the cost of the product vs. the cost of the customer. If you are selling phone cases for $5, you’re better off given in to the customer, even if they are in the wrong. A couple of dollars in profit is not worth the dent in your reputation nor the time it takes to deal with the minute issue.
If you are dealing with a higher priced item, find out the best way to solve the problem for the customer. Your number one goal in this situation is to do whatever it takes to avoid a return, replacement or refund while keeping your customer happy. Those options are costly and may even leave you with a product that can’t be resold. If able, get a manufacturer involved or help your customer troubleshoot. Many times, a customer will just need some guidance in order to be happy with their purchase.
When it comes to lost or damaged merchandise, many times a customer will come to you before going to the shipper. If you ship with any of the main carriers, be sure to insure expensive packages and get tracking information on everything. It will solve problems with the good customers and prevent the dishonest ones from claiming they never received their merchandise.
Should you wake up one morning and see that a customer decided to leave you a negative feedback before reaching out to you, there is still hope. Contact the customer and try to reason with them. There were a few times where calling the customer and humanizing the transaction can go miles.
You can also submit a request to the customer via email asking them to change their feedback once you have gone through the proper channels and solved their issue.
If all else fails, tell your side of the story. Amazon and eBay both allow you to respond to a negative ranking via a reply that will appear below the respective feedback. If you plead your case reasonably, you may just save yourself the loss of a sale.
Lastly, here are a few tips for your e-store that will help you prevent any negative impact to your reputation.
- Always describe your product accurately – Avoid returns and upset customers by letting people know up front exactly what to expect when they open the box.
- Always ship on time – Ship within policy and update orders with tracking info. Amazon sends emails to customers to confirm they received their package on the due date. Make sure they have something nice to say.
- Pack it well – Make sure the customer will be receiving their item in tact and try and stay away from using boxes that your other products came in. It is tacky and screams unprofessional.
- Follow up – Send an email to your customers asking how they like the product and if they received it well. It opens up the discussions to any problems and may even lead to future business.
Selling online can be extremely rewarding. You have the whole world to sell to with minimal staff and overhead so make sure you do things right from the beginning. It will save you a lot of trouble when your business begins to boom.