How to handle negative reviews due to shipping and supply chain delays

Supply chains have taken quite a beating over the last few years, and no one has felt that more than the consumer.

When it comes to eCommerce, customer expectations of fast turnaround times and infinite supply have caused serious challenges for small businesses. Larger companies like Amazon now provide one-day or even same-day shipping, a development that's unrealistic for most direct-to-consumer brands.

In fact, as a business with any kind of supply pipeline, relying on external shipping and distribution on both sides of the inventory cycle can leave you exposed to a litany of issues. 

Sadly, with your brand name on the package, the negative outcome of shipping or supply chain issues often falls squarely at the doors of eCommerce professionals and marketers. Nowhere is that more visible to prospective customers than in the resultant negative reviews.

However, even if the customer experience has hit the negative review stage, all is not lost. Let's look at some damage control methods that can help you preserve buyer relationships and even offer an opportunity to improve them.

Don't delay or hide reviews

Negative sentiment as a result of shipping and supply chain issues can often come down to fulfillment not taking place within an agreed timeframe. Therefore, failing to get ahead of or respond to negative feedback promptly is the worst possible thing you can do.

When you drag your heels, you prove the customer right and reinforce the notion already in their minds that you're working to no one's schedule but your own. In a world where same-day drone drops are right around the corner, any dent in your supply chain armor is a wound that quickly needs to be addressed.

Many of the ratings and reviews platforms like Pixlee TurnTo [now Emplifi] provide a means by which you can have negative sentiment flagged immediately to help you to address the issue quickly. Having your response accompany a review shows online shoppers that your customer service team is dedicated to its customers and any issues they face.

Additionally, tools like Dialpad's virtual receptionist service that direct customers toward the right department for resolution should be more efficient and timely than ever.

Some brands consider hiding negative reviews or removing ratings and reviews completely from their websites because most of their reviews are negative/1-star due to shipping/supply chain issues. However, this negative feedback has nothing to do with the product itself, and removing negative reviews due to low ratings violates FTC requirements, as this practice creates a false representation of customer experiences with a company. There are ways to remedy shipping and supply chain-specific negative reviews without hiding them

In general, only showing positive reviews on your eCommerce website is a red flag to online shoppers — they're more likely to trust a 4-star rated product with a high volume of reviews rather than a product with just a few reviews. 

Shoppers want to know whether or not shipping estimates are accurate. If you're receiving consistent feedback that your estimates are inaccurate, the solution is to improve delivery estimates rather than hide the negative reviews.

Establish an escalation and communication plan for supply-chain-related reviews

To expedite the complaint resolution process, having a formalized escalation and investigation procedure for every element of your supply chain and distribution networks is vital. Keeping an eye on your lead time in the supply chain is one of many ways you can get ahead of issues, and one of your first ports of call for investigation should things go awry.

Being able to demonstrate an effective investigatory process means all customers can expect consistency, and you increase the chances of positive reviews on your resolution. It doesn't take much for negative feedback around your fulfillment to accumulate. After a certain point, it becomes much more difficult to show commitment to resolution and claw back positive sentiment.

Look at it this way, would a few bad reviews out of thousands put you off a purchase? Where's your individual threshold for negative reviews vs. total reviews? As a business, you should aim to mitigate the lowest common denominator and keep the batting average as strong as possible.

With Pixlee TurnTo, brands can set up moderation for trigger words in reviews. Only the reviews that contain words related to shipping are hidden until a moderator reviews, and then flagged to send to customer services if needed. The rest of the reviews you receive can be automatically published. This reduces the time and effort spent sifting for reviews related to this specific problem.

Separate product-specific feedback and delivery-related reviews

In addition to moderating reviews for specific trigger words, there are other ways to reduce the negative impact of bad reviews due to shipping and supply chain problems. With Pixlee TurnTo, brands can work to isolate the shipping rating from the opinion about the product by creating "how was shipping" ratings-type sub-dimension.

Additionally, brands can configure Pixlee TurnTo review collection forms to encourage product-specific feedback. For example, brands using Google Seller Ratings can direct customers to leave delivery-related feedback through that channel rather than in the product's own reviews. Pixlee TurnTo's seller ratings add-on gives customers a valid outlet for concerns that aren't product-related.

Lastly, ensure that you're waiting to ask for reviews until after the product is actually delivered. Work with your ratings and reviews provider to configure feedback requests properly, as customers hate getting asked to review products they haven't received! 

Pixlee TurnTo allows brands to configure review solicitation emails (RSEs) so that they're sent only after the customer has received the product. Changes like estimated delivery date delays can also be accounted for so the RSE is timed correctly. This ensures a smoother process than calculating RSE send date based on when the customer purchased the product.

Own the issue

Shipping and supply chain issues are rarely a result of things that happen in-house. Despite this, customers may still blame your brand for a delayed parcel. 

Complaints and bad reviews can be some of the most difficult customer interactions to navigate, particularly when not entirely your fault. However, that customer is in your care regardless of which stage of their fulfillment failed them. You chose your distributor, your courier, your inventory management software; you must own those decisions and remain brave in the face of adversity.

That's not to say that customers won't be amenable to a little insider knowledge. Letting them know there was an issue with courier turnaround times or supplier quantities is transparency without blame. These things happen, after all.

In cases like this, composing effective review request email copy is vital. Taking some time to workshop templated responses will save you time when it comes to bottlenecks that impact large numbers of consumers. When responding to reviews and online feedback, though, keep it bespoke, personal, and empathetic. All reviews are emotional responses and speak to the individual means by which people interact with your business and product. 

Where you don't have such direct visibility over a particular area of your supply chains, such as shipping or transit, a bespoke holding message is best to allow you time to look into the issue, which brings us neatly to our next point.

Take the conversation private where possible

You can't always control the narrative or direction in which a follow-up interaction may go, so it's important to gear any subsequent responses into offline channels. 

Email, DM, or a good old-fashioned phone call with cloud phone service from Dialpad can get you one-on-one and stop your resolution process from becoming a spectator sport. Pixlee TurnTo's flagging capabilities also allow moderators to email reviews to specific team members who are best suited to deal with any issues raised in the review. This is another effective way of moving the conversation forward in a private channel.

Leverage negative feedback

Reviews play a more critical role than ever in consumer research. Their presence across eCommerce platforms has increased exponentially as businesses realize the importance of peer feedback and social proof in customer decision-making.

The presence of negative reviews, and visibly active participation in resolving them, can do more to build brand loyalty than five-star reviews eclipsing your landing page.

Use the inevitable negative feedback as an opportunity to win over a disappointed customer, and improve business on your end. If you've successfully resolved their issue, consider including a link in their final contact resolution message, requesting a testimonial, incentivized by a next-purchase discount. 

Most customers will understand that shipping and supply chain issues are much more outside of a business's control than other fulfillment steps. Where this has been the sticking point, they could easily be more amenable to balancing their earlier feedback with some positive comments if they know you've been a champion on their behalf with your service partners.

It's incredibly useful to address past issues as part of your future marketing. "You Spoke, We Listened" is a phrase seen often in such instances, and it's there for a reason.

Should your supplier or inventory management evolve as a result of continuous improvement, be transparent and use real-world examples to show how you have been listening. Every company promises to change but showing active evolution built on a foundation of historical and invaluable customer feedback can set you apart from the majority. 

Gauge your supply chain effectiveness

Reviews are an invaluable source of information about how your company is performing. Now more than ever, potential consumers are factoring peer review into their buying decisions and crucial research.

It's no small leap, then, that when it comes to customer opinion on your shipping and supply chain infrastructure, you should also be using this intel to make improvements.

It's not the end of the world

If there's one thing to take away from any of the above, it's that negative reviews are inevitable but by no means terminal. Any successful business won't be able to meet the needs of 100% of customers 100% of the time.

Having the courage to meet negative feedback head-on, accept it, and mitigate it as one of the many plates you have spinning is the mark of effective and admirable business.

The true legends will be able to take the negative, act on it, and have a customer singing their praises while their negative review is still hot off the proverbial presses.

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities via Dialpad IVR solutions. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica has also written for domains such as Springworks and TDAN. Here is her LinkedIn.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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