Dealing with Product Complaints with Emily Murray, Cascadia

April 16, 2018

Everyone’s a critic. That means not everyone is going to like your product. Not everyone will think your product is a home run. Customers may think it’s a bad color. They may not like the smell. They may not understand how to use it. They may not like how it fits. These issues will likely end up in a complaint. Amazon sellers have to create strategies to best handle these complaints

“The most common thing is probably going to be just the perception of what they order versus what they got so,” says former Amazonian, Emily Murray.

Emily used to work on customer service at Amazon, a lot of the information in this episode is coming directly from her experience as an Amazonian. Emily also uses this information to help her own clients through Cascadia.

Complaints are going to come. Just as Emily said because people have expectations of the product and then when it arrives those expectations aren’t meant. Often if a customer can’t figure out how to fix the issue, they will complain.

There are several different ways they will complain. The first is on product reviews. The second is through Buyer-Seller messaging and the third is through social media. Each of those areas should have a strategy for responding and handling the issue.

First, if a complaint comes through product reviews. Sellers have the opportunity to respond to reviews and you should. Your strategy here is to try to get the conversation off of the public forum. You want other potential shoppers to see that you are proactive to solve problems but you also don’t want to give a lot of information out in a public forum.

In every situation, you want to have some sort of response template created so that you can easily and quickly respond. When it comes to reviews, this is a good place for customer education.

“That’s where you would reply back ‘Thank you for leaving your review and I’m very sorry that the shade of pink isn’t what you were expecting. The colors sometimes appear different in people’s different monitors and it must have looked different to you and I apologize for that,’ and that’s it.”

In that situation and in any response you can encourage them to contact you through buyer/seller messaging. That way you can help them work through getting a replacement or a refund.

Complaints through Buyer-Seller messaging are the most ideal. You can better figure out how to clearly assist your customer. You also get immediate access to a lot of information about the customer, you can see what they ordered, when they ordered it and you can see if they’ve ordered from you before.

“You can talk to them. ‘Do you want a refund or do you want an exchange?’” says Emily, “It can be a little bit more one on one and tailored kind of personal service because again it’s offline it’s not in front of everyone.”

You can also use information about the customer to determine what kind of solutions you are willing to provide. A refund isn’t something that’s always required, but if you see from order history that they’ve ordered from you before and they’ve never had an issue or asked for anything then you can take that loyalty into consideration.

Now if a customer does work with you to resolve a complaint and they don’t like the resolution – they can escalate it to Amazon. That’s not a good thing, but they can’t complain directly to Amazon first. Amazon makes them work with the seller first.

Now the third place a shopper could complain is social media. This gets tricky. You have to make sure you’re really monitoring social media to make sure you catch these kinds of complaints and problems before they have the potential to blow up. You need to make sure you’re searching for your brand name, company name and watch for your hashtags being used.

‘It’s your responsibility to show that you’re kind of manning the store by answering those questions,” Emily says.

You’re going to create a standard message that you use to respond to complaints on social media, but you also want to try to find out more about the person making the complaint. Are they a long time customer? Are they a first-time customer? Have they reached out in other ways?

“So within that message, I would tailor it to say, ‘Hey, if you want to reach out to our customer service at this number’ and kind of tailor so I can get a better idea,” Emily says.

The nice thing about social media is just as people have easy access to your company, you have easy access to customers.

“Give the standard message that the company has already decided is the standard verbiage that we’re going to use for this. I would put that in response to your comment and I’m going to reach out to you and I would just go straight for you and I would just engage there,” Emily says.

Another thing that Emily encourages is to give customers a phone number. Post that number in your auto-responded emails thanking customers for their purchase and include it on any package inserts that go with your products. It gives customers more ways to contact you.

Some of the most common complaints are going to revolve around

  • The size was wrong
  • The product smells
  • It’s not what the customer wanted
  • Or it was a used item

The hardest complaints to deal with are going to be the ones where the customer made a mistake. Customer service 101 says that the customer is always right, but that doesn’t mean the customer didn’t make the mistake.

There are different strategies for how to handle the situation. There are also some things you can do proactively to try to prevent it from happening in the first place. You can and should adjust your listings. Pay attention to your reviews if you are getting multiple complaints that are somewhat related, update and change your listing to address questions before they get asked.

Now, the most difficult complaints to deal with are when a customer has made a mistake. They ordered the wrong color, they used a product wrong and they’re choosing to complain about it.

“If they’re a brand new customer it’s not like you have a big history with them and it’s only a couple of dollars maybe it’s not that big of a deal to refund it and take care of the customer. It’s not necessarily a resolution but it’s probably the easiest way to get out of a tricky thing instead of saying well you just did it wrong not our fault,” Emily says.

Let’s walk through an example of a product being used wrong. Let’s say you sell pre-workout pills and a customer is now complaining about headaches.

“They took too much. It probably should jack you up a little bit, it’s probably got the equivalent of one to three cups of caffeine equivalent to a cup of coffee but how much coffee did you drink this morning before you went to the gym before you took the pill?” Emily says.

This is a situation where you need to do some education.

“Something like ‘Thank you for taking the time to leave your review. We’re sorry that that was your experience. Everyone’s body responds to this a little bit differently. You might be surprised to know that this has caffeine in it and if you already consume three cups of a coffee in a day then with this supplement you’re consuming more like eight and if you need help please feel free to reach out to us via Buyer Messaging.’ So that way you can take it offline,” Emily says.

This puts the response in the public’s view so it can also help educate someone before they buy it. You should also make sure to include it on the listing. You can take it even a step further. If you have a website for your company, you should be writing blog posts about your products.

You can write a blog post about particular things customers should know about your product.

If you’re selling pillows or mattress covers that may have a smell to it, you can write a blog post outlining the manufacturing process, walking customers through airing the product out when it’s received.

Back to our pre-workout supplement. You can write a post about side effects and the best use of your product.

“Then after a while when people start searching for maybe I’ve dropped my brand name in their a couple times when people start searching for the brand name my blog is gonna start coming up in there too,” Emily says.

So if a customer orders your product and has an issue, let’s say they start searching the internet about that product, our blog posts about that issue will show up in results. It can help educate customers before they even send you a complaint.

When you do receive complaints, remember to try to learn about the customer. Are they a long time customer or new? Try to take the conversation off of a public forum to resolve it.

“Social media gets one sort of treatment. The customer reviews get another sort of treatment and private messages get still another one based on who is going to be reading that and who can benefit from the response,” Emily says.

Big thanks to Emily Murray. She helped us unpack a lot of information about product complaints.

If you’d like her help with your Amazon account, you can find her at

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