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Grow Your Business by
Keeping Customers Happy

Selling on Amazon

by Steve Weber

#111, 31 December 2007

Taking a long-view outlook for your bookselling business can keep your customers satisfied and make your business more profitable and easier to manage. You will have plenty of repeat customers if you stay committed to customer service. It's no coincidence that the feedback of the most successful sellers are peppered with comments like, "pleased again from buying from this seller." Make a customer happy once, and they will look for a reason to buy from you again.

Meeting and exceeding the expectations of your customers will bring two major benefits:

  1. Protect your business. If you're selling books to earn money, you'll be more competitive if you can display a good feedback record. Most of your sales will come from new customers, and the only way to differentiate yourself from competitors is the feedback record you earn by providing good service to buyer after buyer. It's true that many customers buying cheap books don't look at feedback, but those who buy expensive books do. The customers buying the high-end books - the ones that will be your most profitable - want to deal with a trusted seller. They will pay a premium to buy from a seller who has demonstrated reliability.

  2. Make your business easier to manage. By monitoring your business closely, you can nip potential problems in the bud. Prompt responses to customers' inquiries and complaints can prevent small problems from getting bigger.

It's helpful to occasionally put yourself in the place of a buyer. Make a few purchases from Marketplace vendors yourself, and gauge your own satisfaction. Are you willing to risk your own money on a seller with spotty feedback? How about responsiveness, packing materials, and accuracy of descriptions? Compare the practices of these sellers with your own habits. How can you improve on what your competitors are doing?

The other side of the coin is that good selling practices benefit us all. For every used book buyer that is happy with a purchase, it increases the odds that they'll consider buying again - and recommending it to friends.

So is customer service important to your bookselling business? You bet it is. Many of your customers are buying convenience, just as much as they're buying a book.

Customer Service Rules to Live By

  1. Monitor your e-mail, feedback, and Amazon Payments account at least once daily. E-mail isn't foolproof, so monitor your account for early warning of problems.

  2. Ship orders or issue refunds within 48 hours. The best way to compensate for lackluster service by the Postal Service is to get your packages into the mail system as soon as possible. Likewise, if you need to refund a customer because of a stock-out or some other mistake, a prompt refund helps minimize complaints.

  3. Include a packing slip so customers can contact you via e-mail in case of questions. It's better clear up misunderstandings promptly rather than discover an issue from negative feedback.

  4. Ask customers to leave feedback for you at - if they are satisfied - and to contact you if there was a problem.

Maintaining an Excellent Feedback Score

Whether to ask buyers for feedback is a constant source of debate among sellers. It's been a common practice for years among sellers at eBay and but Amazon buyers seem less responsive.

A typical feedback request from a seller to the buyer reads like this: "I've left you positive feedback, and I hope you will do the same for me if you are happy with your purchase." The implication is, if the buyer is unhappy for any reason, the seller will respond appropriately.

Many sellers send a feedback-request e-mail to all their buyers at some point after the purchase. The object is to build a feedback record and enhance your image among potential future buyers. Indeed, sometimes it pays to ask - such requests can result in a greater volume of feedback and raise your feedback total faster than would otherwise occur.

Many sellers, however, believe that asking buyers for feedback is simply asking for trouble. Many book buyers, particularly on Amazon, become frustrated by the long wait for Media Mail shipments. So a portion of these customers, after receiving an e-mail from a seller requesting feedback, will leave negative feedback simply to express their impatience. Perhaps these customers would have eventually left positive feedback (or no feedback at all) if the seller had not reminded them of the transaction before the book arrived.

Amazon sends buyers an e-mail 21 days after a Marketplace transaction. Fortunately, the vast majority of Media Mail shipments arrive within 21 days. Most buyers who are angry about "slow" delivery at the 10-day mark won't be angry after they receive their book after two weeks, then receive Amazon's 21-day reminder to leave feedback.

Remember that the total number of feedback ratings is not nearly as important as the percentage of positive ratings, at least in the eyes of many buyers. All else being equal, most buyers will purchase from a seller with a modest feedback total but a 95 percent positive score, rather than buy from a seller with a huge feedback total but a large percentage of negative ratings.

Although it's customary for sellers to leave feedback for buyers on eBay, it is uncommon on Amazon. Perhaps 99 percent of Marketplace buyers aren't aware of buyer feedback and don't care. Buyer feedback on Amazon was somewhat important several years ago when Marketplace was new and many of the customers had experience with eBay. Today, however, the pool of customers on Marketplace has expanded. Many of them have never used eBay, have never purchased from an individual online before, and some of them don't even realize they're not buying directly from Amazon.

You can expect that only about 20% of your Marketplace buyers will eventually leave feedback.

Getting Negative Feedback Removed

Once they've left feedback, Amazon buyers can't change it, but they can delete it. It's well worth your time to educate your buyers about removing erroneous feedback and instances where a problem resulting in negative feedback was corrected.

Amazon provides these instructions to customers who want to remove feedback:

  1. Go to

  2. Find the pull-down menu next to "View by Order." Select "Orders placed in the past 6 months," and hit the "go" button.

  3. After you sign in, you'll find a listing of your recent orders. Select the relevant order and click the "View order" button.

  4. You will find a feedback section 2/3rds of the way down the page. To remove feedback, click on the "Remove" link in the feedback section of the order summary.

  5. You may only remove feedback if it is 60 days or less since you left the feedback.

Some booksellers take a few extra steps to make feedback removal easier for buyers. It takes a bit longer to do but it helps ensure the customer finds the correct feedback. Here's a script and link you can use:

"Please follow this link to Amazon and sign into your account. About halfway down the page you'll see the feedback comment you left on my account and a link to 'remove.' I'd greatly appreciate it."

(Replace the series of Xs on the end with the customer's order number.)

The difference with this second technique for Amazon feedback removal is the customer isn't looking at a list of orders; they only see their order with you.

You might want to test out both techniques and see which one you think is best. You can take a look at the screens yourself if you've left feedback for a Marketplace seller within the past 60 days. After that point, buyers can't delete feedback.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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