Amazon on Negative Comments: Disregard 5%

Dana (My sister)
Image by Spi-V

In its Holiday Marketing Best Practices Guide, Amazon coaches online merchants to disregard negative comments until they reach a ratio of 5% of all comments:

“Most sellers will eventually receive some negative feedback. When it happens to you, put it in perspective: a 0-2% negative feedback rate is great! If your negative feedback rate is greater than 5%, review your business practices to correct any operational problems that might affect a buyer’s experience.”

Amazon has had its fair share of customer service issues over the years. But I agree with the online retailer’s guidance in principle, and use a similar barometer in coaching clients about negative commenting.

I do think its important to listen to the comments in case there are insights to be gleaned (even from a troll).

The truth is you can’t please everyone. That’s why 0-5% may represent a group that you’ll never satisfy.

You make your choices, and when generally they prove to be winners, you live with the smaller negative results. When decisions are wrong, you have to own them and clean up the mess.

Thoughts on How to Respond

Amazon’s negative feedback guidance also suggests an “inside the locker room” approach to response.

“Remember that you can respond to negative feedback. But before you do, we encourage you to contact the buyer and work together to resolve any issues regarding the transaction. The buyer could then remove the feedback if they feel it would be appropriate.”

I do agree that moving conversations offline is smart; however, I think it’s best to show a public response when possible.

You need to do this to show other customers you care, and that you will address issues. When someone has a legitimate beef or is factually incorrect (troll or not), you need an initial public response for reputation purposes, too.

There are some negative posts that I won’t respond to, mostly because I just outright disagree with the presented opinion, or I think the person just wants a fight (e.g. troll). But 99% of the time I try to respond.

What do you think? Does Amazon have it right?

  • While I agree it’s a good idea to not let a little negative feedback get to you – it’s inevitable, after all – I think I’d agree with you on the importance of making the pleasant attempt to resolve the situation a public affair.

    There’s just no pleasing some people. If you’re going the extra mile to make things right, everyone else needs to see it. It’s only fair.

    • geofflivingston

      I agree, it’s important to keep your eye on the negatives just in case it comes up en masse. You never know when a negative appointment becomes the first of many. Then there are times when I am very glad I ignored a negative comment.

  • mikeschaffer

    You stink! [Actually, you don’t. Just checking the theory.]

    • geofflivingston

      Huh? Did you say something?

      • mikeschaffer

        And you DO respond to negative comments. Practicing what you preach, my friend! :-)

  • jabusamra

    Agree; will always respond publicly, even if “moving it offline.” If it goes on and on, then I’ll ignore, but the public can see what happens and why a reply eventually is not forthcoming. It almost always helps the “brand.”

    • geofflivingston

      Yes, and it’s definitely for the benefit of the lurker and not the commenter (though it’s great if you can resolve the issue)!

  • MrTonyDowling

    Hi Geoff
    I guess the way I look at it is to recall some great advice I was given once to always remember that not everyone will like and agree with you. At least that’s the case if you stand for something and are willing to stand your ground on it. In fact it’s good to be a little polarising sometimes :)
    One is bound to attract negative comment by dint of ones position alone.
    I also agree with amazon in that if the negativity starts to become regular or consistent, maybe it’s time to review work practices!

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I think there’s a warning level versus a normal level of friction. I certainly piss off my fair share, that’s for sure! LOL! Now how polarizing do I want to be, well, that’s another issue. Good point on that, though!

  • Ed Legge

    This does make sense — as an amazon review user and a sometime reviewer, I seek out the negative reviews in order to adjudicate my purchases, and I believe one can usually distinguish a troll from a discerning customer.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I agree. There’s usually a level of vitriol that accompanies these types of grudge posts.

  • I vote for the “respond publicly unless obvious trolls”, but then either resolve the issue on the first pass or move it to a different venue offline to try and resolve the issue.

    • geofflivingston

      Seems to be the consensus. Maybe the commenting thing is pretty much a best practice now.

      • And I think it is becoming the expectation of the consumer. Just like airline travelers expecting quick responses to their tweets, consumers sometimes want to be heard – and responded to – in whatever venue they choose.

  • AmyMccTobin

    I absolutely agree that you should respond publicly as well, even if it’s the standard ” We are sorry that you are disappointed, we’ve messaged you to discuss your issues further.” One small complaint can snowball if the audience thinks you’re not listening.

    I usually tell my clients that when they’re “patiently” dealing with a troll, they’re not doing it FOR the troll, but for those watching. People can see if you care and are trying for a resolution…

    • geofflivingston

      I agree. I think I could do better with the patiently part of the equation, and you add a good point with that.

  • No doubt there’s no way to please everyone but that’s a reflection on them, not you.

    Personally I’m all for responding to negative feedback publicly. Although I do give a pass on the haters… those can be deleted and I think it will be pretty obvious who they are.

    But whenever I look for reviews if I’m the one doing the buying, I look first for the negative reviews. Those are the ones that help keep things in perspective. I feel much more confident buying something or doing business with a company if I read the complaints first so I can gauge A) What they are (relevant to me? overreaction? deal breakers?) and B) The end result (fixed? ignored?)

    So to me, negative reviews are essential and how a company handles them is more important than a lot of the happy glowing stuff.

    • geofflivingston

      Good point, Carol. As an author I made it a point to respond to a few of our negative views on Amazon, just to address some of the points made and to listen… Negative reviews matter to me. too, in my buying experiences, as well.

  • Seems like everyone agrees. Respond to the negative comments publicly. I also agree with this policy. It shows the customer that you’re at least listening, meaning that you are working to improve.

    I even would say respond to the trolls – kill them with kindness and understanding – if they keep going then stop. But show the other customers that you treat everyone equally at first.

    • geofflivingston

      You are nicer than me. Once I identify them as such, I give them a polite brush back and then arctic winter. Don’t feed the trolls!

    • Kinda hard not to disagree with the things that are so obvious. I would so love to say that there is other way to run the comments, and say something differently, but can’t do it :(

  • No matter how good you are, there will always be some who are displeased. Unless you are seeing a pattern, you shouldn’t be too concerned. Can’t please all the people all the time.


  • Pingback: Monthly Mash and How Often Should We Blog?()