Be more constructive with your feedback.The other morning I awoke to a shocking discovery... somebody had left neutral feedback on my Amazon merchant account. They thought that the book they had received wasn't in the described condition. While I might beg to differ, it really doesn't matter what I think, the damage is done.
I wasn't contacted before this feedback was left, and other than sending an apology, there is not much I can do. I would have gladly provided a partial (or perhaps even full) refund to avoid bad feedback, but at this point that would be considered a bribe and is explicitly forbidden. You do not want to risk upsetting the Amazon gods by attempting trade money or product for feedback.
When I saw that grey number 3 (instead of a beautiful green number 5) in my feedback score I felt angry, betrayed, and hurt. These emotions are all completely unjustifiable and I soon got over them, only to be replaced by feelings of embarrassment and frustration. Embarrassment because I likely overestimated the condition of the book I sold. That one is on me. Frustration because the Amazon feedback system is very important to merchants like me, but rarely utilized by Amazon customers. I'm getting screwed by the system.
Unlike eBay, Amazon hasn't built a culture of feedback for independent merchants. Ask anybody giving advice on how to make more money on your items, and they'll tell you to "have a great reputation." The feedback (and star rating system) is basically your only means of gaining a reputation. The problem with this system arises when customers aren't encouraged, and then don't know how, to leave feedback.
I estimate that, for me, only about 1 in 9 successful transactions results in feedback. Maybe less. So even though I'm selling 30-40 books on Amazon every month (a small amount in comparison to others), I'm still only getting 4 - 5 feedback ratings for those sales. It has taken me several years to get over 100 feedbacks (with my "feedback percentages" continually changing because those are only based on the feedbacks of the previous 12 months).
Somebody looks at my feedback and thinks I've only complete about 100 transactions, and I want to shout that I've got nearly a thousand happy customers under my belt. Unfortunately most are happy but silent.
Things have the potential to get ugly. Just as an unhappy customer in the tangible shopping world is more likely to tell his or her friends about a bad experience than a happy customer would of a good experience, an unhappy customer is a lot more likely to take the initiative to navigate the feedback system to leave negative, or neutral, feedback. And let's face it, anything but positive feedback is considered negative.
Do the math and cringe. I could complete 99 successful transactions, but I'd likely only see 10 customers leaving feedback. Then, if one order goes awry, I get a negative feedback (which I probably deserved). While I'm posting a solid 99% success rate in the real world, my feedback score has me around 90%. It looks like I'm screwing up one in ten of my orders!
The problem isn't unhappy customers leaving feedback, the problem is happy customers not leaving feedback.
So what can we do about this?
Stay tuned, because my next post offers some strategies towards getting a little more love in the feedback area. I'll also probably complain about the system some more.