By Rachel Hoover – eComEngine
If you’re an Amazon seller, you know that negative reviews are bad news. Not only do they decrease your sales, but they can work to harm the reputation of your products and even your brand name.
But are negative reviews always a death sentence for your business? Maybe not. Whether the reviews are a justified reaction from buyers or a sabotage attempt from a competitor, you might be able to take steps to resolve the problem and make your product and reputation better than ever.
Keep reading for key strategies on how to handle negative product reviews on Amazon.
1) Know About Your Negative Reviews Right Away
If you don’t know that your listing received a negative review, you can’t do anything about it. Have a system in place to know about changes to your listings, including an increase in negative reviews, as soon as possible.
If you only have a few listings, you, an employee, or a virtual assistant might be able to check all of them daily and keep track of new reviews, your product’s average rating, and other important information in a spreadsheet.
2) Read the Bad Reviews and Try to Improve
It’s possible that reviewers might have discovered a problem with the product that you haven’t noticed yet. Read your negative reviews carefully to see whether buyers consistently mention the same issue. Look for photos or videos in the reviews as well to understand the issue better.
If there really is a consistent theme, examine the steps of your supply chain to see where the problem might be occurring. Is the packaging inadequate and causing items to arrive damaged, either at the Amazon fulfillment center or the customer’s doorstep? Was there a defective batch of the product? Or, was your supplier making the product incorrectly all along? It happens!
Regular factory inspections are extremely important, as is ordering samples so that you can see, touch, and test the product yourself.
Of course, if you find the problem, fix it for the next batch of product and then try to get fresh reviews that reflect the improvements (keep reading for how to get more reviews).
Alternatively, if the product is working as intended, customers might be misunderstanding how it works. Make sure the listing is as clear and accurate as possible. Pay particularly close attention to your sizing or dimension information, intended uses, and anything else that could be confusing to shoppers. You should also be sure to include photos that meet Amazon’s image requirements.
3) Offer a Refund or a Replacement Item
In 2021, Amazon gave brand-registered sellers the option to respond to negative product reviews with templated messages. You can offer the buyer a refund or a free replacement or ask for clarification about the issue.
Previously, sellers could leave public comments on reviews to attempt to reach the reviewer. However, since buyers didn’t receive a notification when the seller commented, review comments were more effective as proactive communication to show shoppers that the seller was taking negative feedback seriously.
But ever since this feature was retired, communication with buyers has been a challenge. If you’re enrolled in the Brand Registry program, you should definitely take advantage of this rare opportunity to directly communicate with your buyers and demonstrate good customer service.
To respond to negative Amazon reviews, log into Seller Central, go to Brands > Customer Reviews, and click on “Contact Customer.”
Of course, you should always read the review carefully before responding. If it sounds as if the reviewer received a one-off defective product or an abnormally awful delivery experience, offering them the choice between a refund and a free replacement might be the best option.
However, if it sounds as if the reviewer might be using the product incorrectly or the issue is unclear, it might be best to ask for clarification so you can find out what really went wrong.
Either way, replying to the review as quickly as possible will make a good impression and increase the chance that the buyer will respond well. While you cannot, per Amazon policy, ask the buyer to change or remove a product review, buyers who are impressed by your excellent customer service or who are happy with their replacement product might decide to remove or update a negative review all on their own.
(Interested in learning more about Amazon’s review policies? This review guide is a great place to start!)
4) Get More Positive Reviews
If your item was good all along, or you have recently made improvements to it, it’s important to get more positive reviews to balance out the negatives.
Of course, those positive reviews need to be honest reviews from real, verified customers if they’re going to do you any good.
Despite a lot of misinformation to the contrary, Amazon allows sellers to request reviews, as long as they request them in accordance with its guidelines.
The most important Amazon review guidelines are:
- Send only one review request per order.
- Use neutral language; do not ask the buyer to leave a positive review or say they should only do so if they’ve had a positive experience.
- Do not offer any incentive in exchange for a review, including money, gift cards, a coupon toward a future purchase, a free product, or anything else of that nature.
In addition, there are additional Amazon guidelines about formatting, images, links, etc. that can be included in Buyer-Seller Messaging emails; read the Communication Guidelines and Customer Product Review Policies carefully before sending any requests.
If you follow these guidelines precisely, you can and should request a review on as many orders as possible. Most buyers are happy, but they don’t remember to leave a positive review on their own. A gentle reminder goes a long way.
How do you send that reminder? There are several ways:
- Use the Request a Review button on the Order Details page in Seller Central.
- Send a simple, policy-compliant Buyer-Seller Messaging email.
- Automate either of the previous two options with third-party software. Just like with monitoring your listings and reviews above, you might be able to request reviews for every order manually at first, but if you have a few thousand orders per month, this becomes impossible. Use a tool like FeedbackFive by eComEngine to set up automated request campaigns at the best time for your audience. It will even alert you when your listing gets a negative review so you can take action faster!
Whatever method you choose, remember to exclude orders where the buyer already requested a return or refund or experienced a fulfillment issue. This is a very important but often missed step. Think about it though – if your buyer has a problem with their order, but instead of excellent customer service, they receive a request for a review, this is a poor experience that could easily lead to another negative review. Your brief window of opportunity for turning that negative experience (and negative review) around is now firmly closed.
What if the Negative Reviews are Fake?
Every seller has heard, or personally experienced, horror stories about competitors sabotaging listings with fake negative reviews. It’s a widespread problem in the industry.
While you shouldn’t assume that all of your negative reviews are fake, you should be a little wary if certain conditions are met.
Look out for the following:
- Sudden upticks in negative (or even positive) reviews
- Multiple negative reviews with the same or noticeably similar language
- Bad reviews about a different product entirely
- High numbers of negative reviews posted at the same time
If you can find strong evidence that negative reviews are part of a targeted attack, you can submit a case to Amazon and try to have the reviews removed for violating their policies. Either hit the “Report abuse” link on your listing or email Amazon Seller Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be as descriptive as possible about the problem and include helpful details like the ASIN number, the date and time of the review, the reviewer’s name, and what rule you suspect was violated.
Also, even if a review is real, it might violate Amazon’s Community Guidelines. If you see a review that includes profanity, personal information, or anything else that goes against these rules, you can also click “Report abuse” below the review. Amazon will review and remove if it finds the review is not compliant with their policies.
Negative Reviews Can Be Beneficial
In summary, negative Amazon reviews can be harmful to your business, but they can also be no big deal or even beneficial. Occasional negative reviews are normal and expected. You can’t always please everyone! But if buyers find real problems with your products and you’re able to solve them (and get more positive reviews!), that’s a win for your business long-term.
On the other hand, if reviewers are posting inflammatory comments that violate Amazon’s policies or competitors are sabotaging your listing, that is bad, but not the end of your Amazon world. If you know about these negative reviews and take action right away, everything can still turn out okay.
If you need more help with your Amazon review strategy, please reach out to the eComEngine team! We’ve been helping Amazon sellers get millions of reviews since 2007.
As Customer Success Advisor at FeedbackFive, Rachel Hoover helps Amazon sellers connect with their customers and manage their seller reputations. She is committed to helping each seller find the right email strategy to improve feedback ratings, gain product reviews, and enhance customer service.
Mina Elias, “The Egyptian Prescription,” is the CEO of Trivium Group. A chemical engineer turned Amazon seller, he mastered Amazon PPC advertising, investing personally. His insights, shared via YouTube and podcasts, led to Trivium’s global recognition. Today, Mina is a leading figure in the Amazon PPC space.