Amazon sellers know how important reviews are, particularly negative ones. As a customer, we always like to see how brands respond to negative Amazon reviews. It shows that they’ve made the effort to read and attempt to resolve any issues with the product, which makes them look more trustworthy – an important factor when buying online.
Amazon used to allow public replies to reviews, but that feature was removed some time ago, almost certainly due to some review manipulation that was going on. It was flouting their own review policies so they just got rid of it altogether. Let me tell you, the sellers weren’t happy. They felt they weren’t able to perform their customer service duties on negative reviews and ultimately those are the ones that people remember.
The latest update
Well, Amazon have brought it back…sort of. Say hello to the new Contact Customer feature, a new part of the Customer Review tool on Seller Central. It’s a way for sellers to respond to negative Amazon reviews and what they deem a ‘critical product review’. To them that’s anything between 1 and 3 stars. The catch is the response method is through a series of email templates. You can either choose to offer a full refund or you can request additional information on the order to help resolve the issue. It’s all done through the customer-seller messaging service, which of course will only work if the customer has opted in to receiving communication. Snag one…
Why can’t I just write a personalised response?
The idea behind the new feature is to improve customer service. If the customer likes your response they may choose to change or update their review of their own accord. The templates have been chosen in order to limit a seller’s ability to try and coerce customers into changing their reviews, keeping in line with their review policy. There’s even a notification at the top of the template selection reminding brands of that before they respond.
What’s the feedback so far?
Whilst it’s an intriguing update and a powerful tool, it did go a little under the radar. There was one notification on Seller Central last month, lost amongst the wealth of other updates posted. As expected, a lot of sellers are frustrated that they aren’t able to write a personalised response.
For example, one Amazon seller received a 3 star review, deemed ‘critical’ under the new Amazon review feature. However, the comment left by the customer was glowing, making it look like the star rating was perhaps a mistake.
As the Contact Customer feature has only 2 automated template options, the seller was not able to simply ask the customer if the lower star rating had been selected by accident. Would this be considered review manipulation?
How do you know if you’re violating the Amazon review policy?
If you’re not sure what constitutes a violation, here’s the current list from Amazon:
- If a seller posts a review of their own product or a competitor’s product.
- A family member or colleague posts a review of the product or a competitor’s product.
- Offering a third party a financial reward, discount, free product or other compensation in exchange for a review on their product or a competitor’s product. This includes services that sell customer reviews, websites or social media groups.
- Offering a refund or reimbursement after the buyer writes a review, including through non-Amazon payment methods, and asking a buyer to change or remove the review before or after the refund. This includes through the buyer-seller messaging on Amazon or through direct contact with customers using 3rd party services, websites or social media groups.
- Diverting negative reviews to be sent to the seller directly or to a different feedback mechanism whilst positive reviews are sent to Amazon.
- Inserting a request for a positive Amazon review or an incentive in exchange for a review into product packaging or the shipping box.
- Using a customer account to write or change a review on their own or their competitor’s products.
You can see more details on Amazon’s customer review policies here.
What happens if I violate the rules?
No seller wants to be in violation of the rules, especially with such steep repercussions if you’re caught out. These can include:
- Brands having their selling privileges revoked
- All product reviews being removed and prevention of receiving any future reviews or ratings
- Permanent delisting of the product from Amazon
- Legal action against the seller
- Disclosing the seller’s name and other related information publicly
We’ve already seen Amazon take action against a huge number of Chinese sellers for taking part in fake review schemes, so we know they’re not just talk.
As the Contact Customer feature has only just come in, it’ll take a little trial and error to see how well it works for both sellers and customers. At least sellers can now actually respond to negative Amazon reviews in some way. Who knows, we may see it develop further, with more personalised options becoming available so sellers sound like real humans instead of robots! Amazon’s quest to improve their customer service continues…