Root Causes: The Key to a Successful Amazon Suspension Appeal

Understanding what Amazon wants when they ask for root causes can make or break your chances of reinstating your ASIN or account

Man found tree root cause

This post is by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy.

Misunderstanding the cause of complaints that led to an account suspension is one of the biggest mistakes that sellers make, when they write their own Plan of Action. It may seem trivial at first glance, but if you don’t get the root causes right, Amazon’s investigator won’t even bother to look at your POA.

When Amazon asks you for the “root cause that led to the complaints” they really mean that: the ROOT cause. Tell them precisely what lies behind the complaints which led to the notification, as closely as you can.

Don’t quote back to them what a buyer said, or repeat Amazon’s opening paragraph. Many sellers do that, but you have to step forward and show some analysis. Here’s how to look beyond the symptoms and get to the root cause that Amazon asks for.

What’s the big deal about root causes?

Why is it so crucial to nail down your understanding of what happened to cause those complaints?

The Seller Performance team investigators don’t want to read your POA to the end, they want to find an excuse to toss it aside. Sellers assume that investigators want to read the whole POA, and it’s possibly the biggest mistake you can make with your appeal. Don’t give investigators an easy reason to pull the plug on you.

If you’re able to identify to Seller Performance exactly what went wrong, and led to buyer or brand complaints, that means you probably know what you need to do to fix things! At minimum, if gives the investigator the confidence to keep reading and consider your appeal for reinstatement.

So, providing correctly diagnosed root causes is not simply an exercise Amazon puts you through to fill up account annotations. To Amazon, details around causality really do matter. If you can’t properly identify what went wrong, how can you execute the steps to prevent future buyer or brand complaints?

Amazon doesn’t want to review your account over and over. They need to be convinced that you’re a safe bet. Get your ducks in a row, and present credible solutions to the underlying problems which led to the ASIN or account suspension.

What went wrong?

Diagnosis and strategy in relation to “what went wrong” forms a big part of how we approach account reinstatement work with our clients.

We understand the key differences between what Amazon refers to as “root causes” (the problems that led to complaints) and the seller’s perspective on what happened. Those differences can make or break an account suspension appeal.

So, what are the differences between the seller’s perspective and root causes?

Let’s dig into what you have to research in terms of:

  • Mistakes by staff
  • Gaps in your internal operations
  • Failure to keep up with performance notifications
  • Any other root causes relevant to your suspension

Don’t underestimate the importance of getting beyond your first reaction to a buyer or brand complaint, and digging down to the underlying problem.

Here are some examples.

Expired products

It’s not unusual for buyers to complain about products being past their expiry date, or lacking an expiry date completely.

What sellers say:

Buyers thought the items were expired because the items don’t have an expiration date.

Or…

Buyers didn’t find the expiration date on the product, but it’s there.

Root causes that Amazon wants to hear:

We did not realize that buyers looking for expiration dates would have trouble finding them on the bottom of the bottle.

Or…

We failed to appreciate that several buyers would mistake the lot code for the expiration date due to similar code formatting.

Inauthentic complaints

Authenticity has long been a problem on the Amazon marketplace. Buyers can be quick to complain that the product they have received is fake or is not what was advertised.

What sellers say:

Buyers made authenticity complaints because we sold under listings that did not exactly match the products we sold.

Root cause that Amazon wants to hear:

We lacked a listing review oversight process to match our inventory to the proper product detail page 100% in every detail.

Late shipment rates

Sellers who do their own fulfillment (instead of using FBA) have to keep their shipping metrics up to a high standard, particularly if they are in the Seller Fulfilled Prime program.

What sellers say:

We had a technical error in our order fulfillment software that delayed some shipments until we could correct it.

Root cause that Amazon wants to hear:

We failed to assign a manager to monitor our tools and processes for on-time shipment confirmations, which led to some late shipments and out of range metrics.

Safety concerns

Complaints and trigger words around safety are a priority for Amazon. The slightest hint that a product you sell is not safe can cause an immediate ASIN suspension.

What sellers say:

A buyer who consumed our product did not read the instructions or check with their doctor in advance to see if their allergy would be provoked when consuming the item.

Root cause that Amazon wants to hear:

We failed to update our listing details to include information on specific allergies that could lead to bad buyer experiences or health concerns.

Rights owner complaints

More and more brand owners are monitoring the Amazon marketplace and filing infringement notices when they find that their intellectual property is being misused.

What sellers say:

We listed our products after matching UPCs and joined an already established listing. We did not create the listing.

Or…

We have contacted the rights owners to resolve the dispute but they have not replied to us.

Root causes that Amazon wants to hear:

We failed to verify authorization with brands or notify them of our intended Amazon sales prior to listing and selling their products on Amazon.

And…

We failed to maintain full supply chain documentation for proof of authenticity purposes.

ASIN variation misuse

Amazon product variations are often used wrongly, sometimes by mistake and sometimes deliberately. Either way, suspensions can result.

What sellers say:

We followed other sellers who had created listings using the same parent-child format that we used.

Root causes that Amazon wants to hear:

We failed to understand Amazon listing policies or train our listing creation staff accordingly. We joined an active listing but misunderstood the violation around variation creation.

An example for a variation mistake that sellers often make with their own products…

We failed to understand violations of policy around creating child ASIN variations from other child ASINs.

Make sure the root causes come first

We’ve seen great POAs with solid solutions that Amazon investigators disregarded because the seller had neglected to identify the specific operational problems behind the suspension.

Start with the root causes and nail those down properly before you even BEGIN to cover how you’ll prevent the problem in the future.

Investigators review hundreds of messages daily. Make sure yours doesn’t get shoved aside. Show them that you understand the true causes of what went wrong, and lay out the strongest viable POA you can.

This post was by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy. Chris was formerly an Investigation Specialist for Amazon’s Seller Performance team.

Join Leah McHugh and Chris McCabe for their Prosper 2019 workshop, From At-Risk to Top Seller: How to Use an Amazon Account Review to Protect Your Business.

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