Etsy is a whole world in and of itself, and I am lucky enough to know an expert on all things Etsy. Danielle Spurge-Swavely runs a successful handmade business selling embroidered art and kits, called The Merriweather Council. She also offers a variety of mentoring services for craft biz owners, including personal Etsy shop critiques. I encourage you to check out her blog and sign up for her super newsletter. I look forward to it every week! When you sign up she gives you a list of 12 Instagram hashtags she loves for sharing creative work. I hope you enjoy Danielle's guest post as much as I do. Enjoy! XO, Caitlin
The fear of a bad review or negative feedback is a big issue in the handmade community, specifically on Etsy where reviews are public, and play into an overall star rating for your shop that appears on every listing and is prominently displayed on each page. Of course we are all trying our best to deliver the correct item, in a timely fashion, without incident. But hey, things happen.
Here's what to do if you do find yourself in a negative feedback situation:
1. Deep breath
Deep inhale, long exhale. Repeat.
Settle down and know this is not the end of the world and your business will survive. Keep telling yourself this until it sticks. Yes, it might take a while.
Okay, feeling a little better?
Does this person have a legitimate complaint or issue? Or are they just being a rude negative Nancy? Either way, it's probably fixable.
If something is broken, non functioning, or flat out wrong in one way or another, message the person and apologize for the issue first! Then, make it clear you are interested in fixing the problem and working out a mutually agreeable solution. Sometimes it's as simple as "I'm sending the replacement out ASAP." Other times, you might need more info. Be calm, rational and understanding.
If the person is making a claim about the product that simply isn't true, or has a complaint that is fully out of your control, I suggest writing them as well. A short note to open the lines of communication and let them know you are eager to make their experience with you better can really turn the situation around. Ask them what they'd like you to do. It might be outside the range of your policy, but it might not be. Ask and listen, then decide how to move forward.
Sometimes people just don't realize they could have contacted you directly, that their feedback is public, or that it impacts sellers at all. Just be honest with them and do try to resolve it so you are both happy.
Once you hear back from the customer, respond promptly. Getting issues resolved quickly will make both parties feel better.
Most people are very happy to work with you to solve an issue once you've made it clear that is your primary goal. These people are wonderful to work with - they love your work, they just have had an issue - and they are understanding that things happen. Other people are not so pleasant to work with. If you encounter someone who just cannot be satisfied, you do still have some options, so stay calm. If the feedback is 1, 2 or 3 stars, you can leave a public response to it on Etsy, this can be effective in "telling your side" of the story, but can also easily turn ugly so be sure to chose your words wisely and remember, it is public. If the customer is truly unruly or abusive, you can report the issue to Etsy. They can review it and advise or possibly even intervene if needed.
Sometimes a customer hasn't yet left you feedback, but is unhappy and certainly WOULD leave bad feedback. If you cannot reach a resolution from your standard offers, I suggest refunding and canceling the order. I know it totally sucks, but sometimes the peace of mind that comes from being done with a difficult customer is worth more than the sale price.
One way you can deflect feedback that would be negative is to include a note with your orders that tells the customer how to contact you via email if there is any issue with their order. This immediately lets them know you are opening the door of communication and implies you are ready to help solve the issue. This simple addition can change the whole trajectory of a bad sale, and the buyer never even came in contact with the feedback screen.
Something to keep in mind: bad feedback is very uncommon. Focus on making your orders as well as you can, and package them so they arrive safely. If your customer sees you put effort in, they will put effort in to resolving it with you.
Danielle is a crafter and craft business consultant to handmade business owners who want to optimize their shops, leverage their work, and build better brands. On her blog, The Merriweather Council Blog, Danielle writes to inspire and support makers in business and share insights from her five years of experience selling handmade work online. Danielle believes that a creative life is a happy life and works to empower creatives to share their work with confidence. More info can be found at merriweathercouncil.com