How to handle difficult customers on Etsy [with sample responses]

We show you how to improve your customer service on Etsy to keep the good ratings coming in!

We’ve all been there before. You’re dealing with a customer who is angry, irrational, and just plain difficult. You feel like you are being helpful, however nothing you are doing seems to be rectifying the situation. What do you do next?

Craft businesses can be extremely rewarding, but they can also be challenging when dealing with difficult customers. To be part of Etsy’s Star Seller program it’s also vital to ensure that you provide an experience that allows you to maintain your star ratings and thus your visibility in search results.

It’s therefore really important to have a plan in place to deal with difficult customers in a way that benefits your standing on Etsy, and also doesn’t compromise your principles. Creating a playbook for customer interactions is therefore a must to ensure you are consistent.

We show you some ways to improve your customer service to keep the 5 star ratings coming in on Etsy:

Make sure your policies are clear

As an Etsy seller, it’s important to have clear shop policies.

Not only do they help to ensure that customers know what to expect, but they also help to protect you in the event of a dispute. Be sure to state your shipping terms clearly - this includes turnaround time, shipping methods and any applicable shipping fees.

It’s also important to outline your return policy. This should include how many days customers have to return an item, as well as whether you accept returns for store credit or refunds. You’ll want to make sure to list any exclusionary items, such as custom orders or sale items.

Keep your cool and watch your words

It can be understandably be difficult to remain calm when dealing with a difficult customer (especially if they are not in any way doing the same back to you), but it’s important to do: losing your temper can make the situation much worse. In these days of social media, it doesn’t take more than a couple of negative comments about your business to start to sway other’s opinions.

Secondly, staying polite will always reflect well on you and your company - even if the customer is being unreasonable. Also remember to not take feedback personally as this can really impact on the way you communicate and try to resolve the issue.

Try to be brief and to the point whilst still being friendly. Try to pay attention to the words you use, as this can matter a lot.

There are certain phrases that you should never use when dealing with difficult customers. “That’s not my problem” is a surefire way to escalate the situation. Another phrase to avoid is “It’s not my fault.” This will only serve to make the customer angrier and less likely to trust you. Instead, try using phrases like “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” or “I understand how you feel.” These phrases show that you are empathizing with the customer and trying to resolve the issue. Using the right language can go a long way towards diffusing a difficult situation.

It can be really difficult not to jump to the defensive when you have someone criticising you and your work, however it is never a good strategy to take.

Listen to the customer’s concerns

The customer is always right, or so they say. But what happens when the customer is wrong? Or, even worse, when the customer is unhappy with your product or service?

Usually, the first instinct is to get defensive. After all, you’ve worked hard on your product or service and you know that it’s good. But if a customer is complaining, it means that something isn’t working for them. And if you want to keep them as a customer, you need to try and see things from their perspective.

This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them - sometimes customers can be wrong! - but it does mean trying to understand where they’re coming from. Why are they unhappy? What can you do to make things right? Once you’ve got a handle on that, you can start working on a resolution.

Dealing with difficult customers can be a challenge, but it’s important to remember that they are humans too. Just like you, they have concerns and feelings that should be respected. The best way to diffusing a situation is to listen to their concerns and see if there is anything you can do to help.

Offer a solution that meets their needs

Once you’ve listened to the customer’s concerns, it’s time to offer a solution. Make sure that the solution you offer meets their needs and addresses their concerns.

It is always important to offer a solution when dealing with a difficult customer. This is because, more often than not, the customer is not actually looking for a refund or exchange. They just want to be heard. And if you can offer them a solution that meets their needs, it will diffuses the situation much more quickly.

Now, of course, there will be times when a customer is genuinely unhappy with a purchase and nothing you can do will change that. But if you can offer a solution that shows you are willing to work with them to make things right, it will go a long way in preventing the situation from escalates. Not to mention, it will also leave the customer with a positive impression of your business - even if they don’t take you up on your offer.

Acknowledge and try to make up for any mistakes you have made. We are all human, and thus can all make mistakes - it’s okay to admit it. As an example, if you have been running a bit behind on shipping, you could offer to upgrade the customer to Priority Mail as a gesture towards rectifying the situation.

Sample Response: General

This response can be used as a template for a variety of different situations:

Hi (customer name),

Thanks for getting in touch to let me know about (the concern). Making sure my customers are happy is really important to me, so I’d like to offer you (your offer goes here - a refund, exchange, or other gesture). Let me know if you have any questions! - (your name)

Sample Response: Refund

Here is a sample response you can use in a situation where a customer has rejected an initial offer for sending an exchange and would like a refund instead:

Hi (customer name),

I’d be more than happy to make this situation right for you! If could send back the (item) right away, I can then refund you the full purchase price. I regret that the cost of shipping the item back, and for me to send you the replacement will be your responsibility.

The “bad news sandwich” approach

No one likes getting bad news, especially when it’s wrapped in a disappointing package. But sometimes, you have to deliver some tough love to your customers - especially when you run an Etsy shop.

The key is to deliver the bad news in a way that won’t totally shatter their world (and your feedback rating). Enter the bad news sandwich.

First, start with a slice of good news. For example, “I’m sorry that your order was delayed, but I’m happy to report that it has now been shipped.”

Next, add the bad news - in this case, “Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are currently experiencing delays in our production process.”

Finally, finish with another piece of good news: “We appreciate your patience during this difficult time.”

By following this simple formula, you can deliver bad news in a way that will leave your customers feeling satisfied - even if their order is still stuck in production hell.

The Rude, Obnoxious Customer That Cannot Be Pleased

Of course, there are always going to be some people who are impossible to please. But even in those cases, it’s important to always remain professional and respectful.

If you find that the customer is being unnecessarily rude, is not responding to your requests to keep things professional, and you are going around in circles with your responses, it may be best to send a brief message to indicate that you will not be communicating further unless they can show some civility. From here, if they continue, you can then report the customer to Etsy for harassment.

Fortunately, Etsy makes it easy to report rude customers. Here’s what you need to do:

  • First, take a screenshot of the offending behavior. This will serve as evidence when you file your report.

  • Next, go to the “Conversations” page of your Etsy dashboard. Find the conversation with the rude customer and click on the “Report Conversation” link.

  • In the report form, select “Abusive or harassing behavior” as the reason for reporting. Then, simply provide a brief description of what happened and attach the screenshot (if applicable).

Etsy will review your report and take appropriate action. In some cases, this may result in the customer being banned from Etsy.

Follow up after the issue is resolved

Once the issue is resolved, it’s important to follow up with the customer to make sure they’re still satisfied. This will help build customer loyalty and ensure that they’ll continue to do business with you in the future.

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, inventory and manufacturing software designed for small manufacturers. She has been working with, and writing articles for, small manufacturing businesses for the last 12 years. Her passion is to help makers to become more successful with their online endeavors by empowering them with the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.