This post is by Peter Kearns, Feedvisor‘s Director of Customer Success for the US West Coast.
Are you an Amazon seller who has been recently suspended? Or have you received warnings about suspension? Are you unsure what to do next or how you even got to this point?
Selling on Amazon can be tricky. However, the right knowledge about Amazon’s policies and violations, combined with strategies for preventing suspension, can help you save your business.
Amazon has more than 270 million customers and is the most trusted brand worldwide. The retail giant has built this vast customer base and exceptional reputation because of high quality service it provides. As a result, Amazon has very little patience for sellers that offer poor shopping experiences.
Many sellers have received a warning or faced account suspension at one point or another, due to performance violations or customer complaints. Amazon isn’t shy about policing these issues even for its top sellers. Suspensions are not rare – they can happen at a moment’s notice – and often Amazon will give you very little detail as to the reason behind your suspension.
While suspensions can hurt immediate cash flow, they’re not detrimental to your business if handled correctly. And many suspensions can be prevented by following key best practices. Here’s a closer look at the world of Amazon seller privileges and how businesses can manage and prevent suspension notifications.
Maintaining your selling privileges
The first approach Amazon sellers should take to protect their business is to prevent suspensions altogether. The golden rule for sellers is to manage their accounts the same way Amazon manages its business, by following these three Amazon Leadership Principles:
- Customer Obsession
- Insist on High Standards
- Bias for Action
Customer obsession is probably the most important of the three. As a seller you are more or less an extension of Amazon. Customers do not differentiate between sellers and Amazon – if something goes wrong and it’s your fault, they’ll likely blame Amazon. As a result, Amazon is very concerned about the way in which you treat and interact with customers. If you’ve created a bad experience, Amazon will take action through a warning or suspension.
So to prevent punishment, your number one priority needs to be responding to customer issues without delay. This means that you must apologize for everything, respond to any and all issues within 12 hours, and issue refunds with no questions asked.
It’s also important to insist on high standards, which means that your product listings must be accurate and shipment processes and product quality must be consistent with what you’ve told customers.
Lastly, make sure that your team has a bias for action. What does that mean? Well, part of having high standards means you’ll immediately take any action necessary to improve the customer experience. If you receive a complaint, don’t be afraid to contact seller support immediately to inform Amazon that you’re taking action to resolve the issue and prevent future instances.
Types of policy violations
Even some of the most diligent Amazon businesses have faced violations. Amazon values its customer service and is quick to take action in response to customer complaints. The two types of Amazon seller policy violations that your business could face include seller performance violations and product quality violations.
Seller performance violations are the easier of the two to manage. Amazon essentially creates metrics and ranks you (green, yellow or red) on each one. The metrics include measurable issues like late shipment or order defect rates. When you’re underperforming in any metric, you receive warnings or suspension. These rates are very clear to understand and sellers are aware of the benchmark they need to maintain their business.
The second, more complicated type of violations are product quality violations. When Amazon issues one of these violations, they typically provide very little information as to why or how to resolve it. Product quality violations involve any of the following three customer complaints:
- Counterfeit Complaints: When customers believe a product you sold them is counterfeit.
- Material Difference Complaints: When customers believe that an item they received is different from what they ordered.
- Expired Product Complaints: When customers receive items that have already expired, or are going to expire before they’re completely consumed.
The challenge with product quality violations is that it’s often difficult for sellers to know where they stand. There are no green boxes or metrics to track. So to remain in good standing, it’s important to practice preventative techniques.
Preventing account suspension
Business owners must constantly monitor feedback and buyer/seller communications in order to prevent account suspension. If you receive any feedback that is less than five stars, reach out to that customer and make sure it has been resolved. Even though Amazon already knows something went wrong based on the feedback, they’ll know you addressed it immediately.
It’s crucial for sellers to monitor buyer/seller communications. This is another key location of information that you can use to proactively prevent suspension. It helps you predict issues before they arise and address them before Amazon issues a warning or suspension. If you do have a significant issue arise, it’s crucial that you proactively contact Amazon Seller Support to make sure Amazon is aware that you’ve addressed the issue.
Lastly, performance notifications within Seller Central can help you address issues before suspension. Amazon will communicate with you solely through this channel, so pay close attention to these notifications and address them before it’s too late. At the end of the day, it comes down to taking a proactive approach in response to all communications with both Amazon and the customers.
What to do if your account gets suspended
Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that Amazon will still suspend your account at one point or another. The first step to take should this situation arise is to inactivate all listings and correct the errors. This is crucial because once you get reinstated, all of the inventory you previously had for sale will otherwise become active again. That can lead to new order defects (and further suspensions) because shoppers will once more be able to buy the products that led to your suspension in the first place.
When you’re suspended, Amazon won’t give you much information as to why. So the next step is to review Amazon correspondence, buyer/seller communication and feedback. This will give you some information and provide you with the ASINs in question. But beyond that you’ll have to do your due diligence to address the issue.
Once you’ve determined the root causes, it’s important to write a clear Plan of Action (POA) and provide documentation. This needs to be similar to a business plan in that it should lay out how you’ve fixed the issue and how you’re going to prevent it from happening again. Be specific! Maybe you’re adding more quality control team members or you’re reviewing all of your product descriptions.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re a large seller and you’ve been down for a few weeks due to suspension, you might be put on a “rolling reserve” disbursement schedule when you are reinstated. When you’re suspended, sales are flat. So when they reinstate your business, they’ll immediately spike. Amazon will assume something is wrong and hold onto your funds for a short time period. Keep this in mind for budgeting and planning purposes.
Lastly, remember to be professional and courteous in your communications with Amazon. The company has worked hard to provide such a widely trusted platform for you to run your business. Remaining on Amazon’s good side is a smart move for everyone. Be proactive, polite and ultimately treat Amazon employees as if they’re your best customers, because in a sense, they truly are.
This article is based on a talk I gave at the Los Angeles Feedvisor Professional Sellers Summit in December last year. You can watch it here:
This post was by Peter Kearns, Feedvisor‘s Director of Customer Success for the US West Coast. Peter has more than 15 years of experience working with businesses in advertising, marketing, and ecommerce – specifically the Amazon Marketplace.
Prior to Feedvisor, Peter held positions at Amazon in strategic sales and sales leadership on the Seller Services team. He has helped hundreds of sellers launch on Amazon, generating more than $165 million (and counting) in sales.