In ecommerce, customer complaints are just part of the game.
Though some sellers may be attempting to bury bad reviews under fake ones, you know that creating a defensible brand requires knowing the potential problems and creating safety measures against them.
It involves establishing workflows that ensure positive customer experiences, so your brand is poised to earn honest, positive reviews.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of common complaints that sellers of all sizes encounter. You’ve probably seen a number of these before. But if your first instinct is to chastise your team or simply address fires as they come up: (A) we get it, ecommerce moves fast and it’s easy to make errors, but (B) we challenge you to consider more long-term solutions.
Below are our recommendations on how to address the root of each complaint. Read on for practical tips on how to optimize your operations so that you’re less likely to face these issues in the future.
Complaint: “Item not as described.
If not an actual manufacturing issue, then you’re likely dealing with a catalog issue. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to fix, assuming you have the right tools to bulk edit your catalog across all the channels that it lives on.
- Check that your SKU is categorized correctly. It’s easy to miscategorize your listings when every channel has its own menu of categories and subcategories and/or makes frequent updates to their browsing pathways. Also, if you’re using an automation tool that simply routes SKUs based on the product name, then you may find that your “Plastic Teapot Play Set” is being listed as real kitchenware. To avoid this issue, make sure you’ve got a smarter system for categorizing your products that takes into account a variety of product attributes.
- Publish complete product data. If you’re the gatekeeper of your product listing, fill out as much product details as possible. Include product details beyond what your marketplace requires, such as measurements, materials and recommended use. Don’t leave details to the imagination. Rather, opt for more true-to-life copy over salesy language.
If you’re a reseller piggybacking on an existing listing, submit as much additional information for your marketplace to consider and report wrong information when necessary.
- Highlight the most important details up top. Leverage your product name, description and bullet points to draw attention to defining traits about your product. Some channels will also let you format text or add labels to your product images. For clothes or accessories, consider adding sizing charts and helpful links to avoid related complaints like “Not true-to-size.”
- Leverage the Q&A section. Amazon and Walmart both have public Q&A sections at the bottom of product listings. This gives you an opportunity to address customer questions honestly and thoroughly, plus helps you identify what information you should surface higher up in your listing. It goes without saying that for eBay, Facebook and other marketplaces, you’ll want to keep an eye out for direct messages from your customers. You may even want to invite questions directly from your listing if you anticipate confusion over anything.
- Don’t overlook the power of pictures. Pictures compensate for the fact that your customer can’t touch or try on your products. You can mimic the window-shopping experience by showing your items in use, pointing out special features or illustrating the actual size of your item. If you offer various colors, patterns, etc. of the same product, take pictures of each variant and make sure they’re mapped to the correct setting (e.g., your blue phone case should only show when the buyer has clicked “blue”).
- Don’t overproduce your photos. Take caution when editing your photos: invest more into lighting and good-quality raw photos than Photoshop. Even when you add a disclaimer saying that colors may not look as bright in person (as an example), you risk disappointing your customer. If your marketplace allows illustrations or other special edits to photos, keep it minimal and don’t mask your product.
- Offer instructions or tutorials for technical products. Some buyers may conclude that your product is defective or incongruent with your description if it’s hard to use, e.g., I once watched a beauty YouTuber rate the Dyson Airwrap poorly because she tested it out on dry hair (the Dyson Airwrap is meant to curl fresh-out-of-the-shower hair while drying it at the same time). If your product comes with a learning curve like this, provide instructional images, descriptions, live-streams, videos and/or links to dispel confusion prior to purchase.
Complaint: “Item not delivered in time.”
Delayed delivery may be due to a clerical error or a warehouse issue. If either occur consistently, then you’ll want to entertain the idea of finding a centralized order, inventory and warehouse management tool. This is the most fail-proof way of accurately receiving, routing and tracking orders across all your SKUs from all your different channels and warehouses.
- Check your settings. Are your shipping preferences correct (e.g., are you enabling/disabling fast shipping for the right locations and/or dates)? Did you specify the right shipping location(s)? Are you sending the right package weight(s) to trigger the right weight-based shipping template? Each of these are essential to check, though they can be tedious to monitor if you lack a multichannel management software to track, view and edit your SKUs in bulk across all your channels.
- Take advantage of shipping lead times. Shipping lead times tell each channel how many days it takes you to ship an order. They’re especially important during peak selling season, like the holidays, because they help you manage customer expectations around products with additional manufacturing, assembly or delivery needs. You can also leverage lead times when you go on vacation and want to continue receiving orders while delaying time to ship until you get back.
Shipping lead times also ensure that your marketplace doesn’t mark orders as late and thereby hurt your seller performance. Note that lead time is different from your shipping method: if you set a lead time of 3 days and you select expedited shipping (one to five days) as your shipping method, then you’ll have five days to fulfill the orders after the 10-day processing time. With an inventory management tool, you should be able to set lead times at the warehouse or SKU level and easily toggle settings when necessary.
- Set priority warehouses. An inventory management tool can help you automatically route orders depending on a number of factors, including your channel-to-warehouse assignments, inventory levels at each location, package weight, ship-to location and other custom rules. Your software can make sophisticated routing decisions in a matter of seconds, plus reserve and communicate inventory to your sales channels so that you don’t oversell. This provides the highest level of assurance that your deliveries won’t get delayed because of an inventory flaw—and save you time.
- Streamline the ship/pack/pick process. Advanced warehouse management systems offer robust features for simplifying and automating this part of the fulfillment progress. They offer digital pick lists to increase the speed and accuracy of the picking process, e.g., SkuVault’s Hyper Picking Feature tells you what needs to be picked, where it needs to be picked and by when across a whole array of orders. You can also sort pick lists by storage location versus order number to maximize time and ensure that the process of packing your products doesn’t slow down your business.
- Harness 3PLs, FBA and other fast-delivery programs the right way. If you would rather outsource order fulfillment, a third-party logistics partner like Shipwire, ShipBob or Deliverr can keep your inventory organized and give you access to fast-shipping programs, like eBay Guaranteed Delivery. Deliverr is especially poised to help you on Walmart; Deliverr sellers are pre-approved for Walmart’s fast shipping tag and can leverage Deliverr’s services to make good on two-day shipping.
On the Amazon front, you can choose from FBA, FBA Onsite, SFP, Amazon Logistics, and more to control your inventory while staying competitive. To be clear: we don’t recommend relying on any one fulfillment method like FBA. You never want to be at the full mercy of Amazon (or any marketplace for that matter) where sudden policy changes could lead to big losses.
Complaint: “Wrong item or missing components.”
When your business is doing hundreds or thousands of orders a day, errors are inevitable when everything is done by hand. Automation, as we mentioned earlier, can significantly reduce the burden on your staff and allow them to focus on making strategic improvements to your warehouse workflow. Here’s what we mean.
- Track kits and bundles via an inventory management tool. Kits and bundles are a common cause of defective orders. They become especially hard to track when they’re not prepackaged and/or require shipment from multiple warehouses. In this instance, a multichannel inventory management software can help you route orders to the right places and update the displayed quantity of each component SKU and your master SKU on all of your channels to prevent overselling. You can also quickly create kits from scratch within your software (essentially disable/enable them) to better control the complexity of the orders coming in.
- Have a QA system in place during the pick/pack/ship process. Automated error reports can help you identify partially shipped orders after they go out, while a system like barcoding can prevent them from happening in the future. While barcodes themselves are relatively simple, how you use them can vary drastically, e.g., will your barcodes represent product ID and/or lot ID and/or serial number? Getting in the habit of using barcodes can ensure that the right product is being picked for the order at hand.
Taking it one step further, a “connected” barcode scanner like Finale Inventory’s creates a real-time feedback loop between your scanner and inventory software, so you can instantly update numbers across your warehouses when you decide to move stock. With Finale’s Zentail integration, you can additionally receive orders and update inventory on all your ecommerce channels.
Complaint: “Quality is poor. Not worth the price.”
To state the obvious: you don’t want your products to break on your customers or fall sorely below their expectations. But assuming you’re not taking dishonest shortcuts in manufacturing, here are some things that you can do to avoid unfair claims.
- Remember, context is everything. Sometimes you’re not looking to offer the highest-quality item but if you fail to disclose quality or material details, you could run into trouble with this complaint. The number one rule of thumb is not to over-promise as you’re writing your product descriptions and titles. Instead, be descriptive about the proper use, purpose and materials in your product. You may also want to mention the material (“faux suede”) in the product name and include keywords like “budget-friendly” in your descriptions (most marketplaces will not allow you to add price-related terms in your product titles). The following example shows the difference in attitude between two customers with two wildly different ideas of the intended use, audience and value of a foam archery target that they bought.
- Offer a fair, value-driven price. As we all know, price is probably the biggest indicator of quality. There are various pricing strategies you can use, but the value-first strategy stands out as a way for you to offer competitive prices without short-changing yourself. Ecommerce clothing brand Everlane takes this approach and is “radically transparent” about where their clothes are made, the true cost of producing their clothes and the actual price they charge. Though they will charge $168 for a shirt that cost $54 to make, many customers feel good about their purchases because of other values they get back—and the money they still feel like they’re saving.
- Make sure you’re listed next to the right competitors. Though you can’t choose who you’re ranked against on Amazon, eBay and the like, you can do competitive recon to ensure that you’re listing to the right marketplace and are positioning your product appropriately. Walmart, for example, appeals to wallet-conscious buyers whereas Amazon appeals to a mixed audience, including those seeking brand names at slightly lower costs (but with the same quality expectations). When researching, consider who are you up against on each channel? What mindset do people have when landing on your product listing, and what should you do to combat unrealistic expectations?
Over to You
As inevitable as customer complaints are, there are proactive steps you can take to avoid these common issues. Have any other tips to add to the list? Or want to chat automation with us? Tweet us @ZentailCommerce or email us at email@example.com.
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