Etsy is at it again. The most recent announcement has been the implementation of the Order Defect Rate or ODR. It has caused quite the stir among sellers and quite a few people have even just resorted to shuting down their shops in an effort to avoid dealing with the new policy.
So, today, I want to break down what exactly this new order defect rate even is and how to best protect your shop from being shut down.
Alright, so let’s start with the basics. The new metric is called Order Dissatisfaction Rate or ODR. The Etsy website tells us that the ODR is “a reliable measurement of quality customer service a seller provides to their buyers. It’s the percentage of your shop’s orders with a case or a 1-2 star review. All shops must maintain an Order Dissatisfaction Rate of less than 1% to sell on Etsy”. (link)
Ok, so let’s look at those metrics a little more – the cases a customer can file can be for two things:
(1) an item not received, or
(2) an item not as described.
The low reviews are for 1 or 2 star reviews. They specifically say that if a customer leaves a low review and then go back and change that initial low review to a 4 or 5 star it will still count against you. Which, seems counterproductive to me as that takes away the motivation to work with your customers, but they didn’t ask me so there you have it.
The percentage is calculated over 60 days, but does not include the previous 30 days. That part is a little tricky to keep tabs on, but I will include the link to check your ODR in this post so that you can check your current shop standing. (ODR Link)
It’s not a bad idea to bookmark that link so that you can keep an eye on it.
Ok, so now that we have all the technicalities out of the way. What are we going to do about it?
Well, there are two options:
1) Decide that you don’t want to deal with the new policy and close down your shop, or
2) Accept the new policy and be proactive
We are selling on someone else’s platform and that means we have to follow their rules. It’s just like if you live in a rental property and they tell you that you can’t hang pictures on the wall or you have to pay an extra $500 deposit in you want a pet.
While you are the one actually utilizing the property, they still technically own it. So this means that you have to follow their rules or they will kick your booty out. Those are just the facts of life that we have to accept if we are going to use their platform.
So, while we are following these new rules and working on a plan to protect our shops – that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also be working on a plan to drive traffic to your own site. This can be Shopify, Squarespace, WordPress with Woocommerce. Or, at the bare minimum building your email list so that you can eventually move your customers to your own site in the future.
The main point is that we don’t want to operate from a place of fear. I see lots of people on the handmade forums and Facebook groups saying that they are just cancelling orders at the drop of a hat. This is a good way to put yourself out of business, friends. Amazon monitors your cancellation rates closely and I’m willing to bet that this is coming down the pike on Etsy, too. It’s also not good business on Etsy.
And, just as a side-note- a customer asking questions is not a reason to cancel an order. What if you were refused service every time you asked a question in a restaurant or brick-and-mortar shop? We would think that’s insane. Sometimes, customers just have anxiety when they are purchasing online and can’t see the product in person. I just want to encourage you to save the cancel button for extreme cases and not make it your initial reaction out of fear on an increased ODR.
Alright, so the first thing we need to think about in our shops is controlling the controllables. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to, we do not have control over how our customers are going to act. I sold 1200 units of one particular design over Christmas and even received emails from several customers telling me how much they loved it. But, lo and behold, there was one Amazon customer who left me a one-star review and said it was the worst thing she had ever bought in her life. I mean come on, it was my best-seller. To hundreds of people. I literally couldn’t make it fast enough, people were raving over it – and she hated it. You can’t make everyone happy.
That’s what makes the ODR so scary, right? We don’t know if they will read the listing, or if their package is going to get lost and they might decide to leave a 1-star review before giving us an opportunity to replace it. We just don’t have a lot of control over their actions or their level of comprehension. So, we want to be proactive and try to prevent problems before they happen.
This is were prevention is key. Is there a common frustration that your customers experience? This can be in your shop specifically or your industry as a whole. I know this is kind of a broad statement, so let’s try to narrow this down a little more – think about how your customers use your product, who is your product for, how is it installed, how is it cared for – try to think about your customer’s experience from start to finish and brainstorm any frustrations, questions, or concerns that may come up for your customer. Then, try to come up with ways to solve them before they come up. This can be done with informative inserts with the product packaging or links to how-to videos for installation or care within your listings. You want to make the customer experience as frustration free as possible.
Honestly, in the absence of ODR, this type of proactive approach is what builds a fan-base of raving repeat customers. Annnd, if customers are super impressed with your product and their shopping experience, they will be more inclined to leave a 5-star review.
The next thing you want to think about is communication. Communicating with your customers is key. Your customers need to know what to expect from you –be sure you are communicating what the product is with clear pictures, accurate shipment dates, and timely email responses. All of these things decrease customer anxiety and ultimately cases against your shop.
You may also want to consider including something in your packages that lets customers know how to get in touch with you if they have a problem. Please don’t say something that tells them not to leave a bad review before contacting you. There’s a much more professional way to do this. You can say, “Love your order we’d love for you to leave a review as that helps our small business grow! Your satisfaction is of the utmost importance, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your purchase please contact us at …. And we will get back to you right away”.
Alright, so say you do all of these things. You run a perfect shop and you draw the short straw of having a really cranky impossible to please customer that opens a case and tanks your ODR- what happens next?
Etsy says they will send a Customer Service Warning Email when you exceed the 1% threshold. They have not really been clear about what happens next. They do say that you need to demonstrate improved customer service to continue to sell on the platform, so that suggests that you will be put on some sort of probation, but this can vary if you have other dings against your shop such as IP complaints. This makes how the implementation process works a bit unclear. So, it may be different if you are cutting it close with their otherwise 3 strikes and you’re out rules. That part makes me a little nervous for sellers who have had trademark claims, but I do not have solid evidence to back this up. I am making this statement based on watching previous Etsy behavior of doing random things without explanation. Just keep that in mind and don’t sell copyright or trademark items.
The statement for Etsy does say that if you are otherwise compliant with Etsy policies, “warnings will only be sent if you meet ALL of the following criteria- ODR of 1% or higher, shop with three or more orders with a case or low review since its first sale, shop has two or more orders placed within a 60 day evaluation period that resulted in a case or low review”.
I understand WHY Etsy has implemented this new policy. They are wanting to ensure that Etsy customers have a good experience. Amazon also has an ODR that you must adhere too, but it is much more transparent. There are tons of smaller metrics that make it up and you can see them at any time. So, it seems like Etsy is trying to implement that same policy but in a much less transparent and effective manner. The best thing that we can do is familiarize ourselves with the policy as much as possible and be proactive by problem solving for our customers and building customer bases on our own websites.
The ultimate goal is for Etsy to be an income stream but not the only income stream so that these changes are minor inconveniences and not something that wrecks our world.
If you have any concerns about ODR that you’d like me to discuss, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m going to keep an eye on this new policy and how Etsy continues to implement it, especially with the smaller shops. So stay tuned for updates.