This post is by Chris McCabe, owner and founder of ecommerceChris, LLC, an Amazon seller account consultancy.
The Account Health Services team (AHS) has taken an increasingly prominent role in Amazon’s account suspension appeals process.
Here at ecommerceChris, we used to get the occasional client case that involved a call from Account Health Services, asking for a Plan of Action within 24 hours, just before Amazon pulled the suspension trigger.
Now the majority of the account reinstatement clients coming to us talk about their interactions with AHS, and we often sit in on AHS calls with our clients. This particular team appears to be growing, and it looks like they’re here to stay.
Who are Account Health Services, and how can they help (or hurt) an Amazon seller’s chances of being reinstated quickly?
How did Amazon Account Health Services get started?
Back in 2018, Amazon created a new team designed to communicate with Amazon sellers about potential account suspensions via phone.
The biggest complaint sellers had consistently reported to Amazon was that they could never talk to anyone about their Plan of Action or reinstatement appeals. Amazon listened, and eventually put together the Account Health Services team to speak directly to them, and help clarify what they needed to provide to successfully appeal their suspensions.
At first, AHS could explain to sellers what a Plan of Action (POA) was, how to structure one, where to send it, and what to add if their appeal was rejected. At least in theory, Amazon account reps would improve their communication with sellers on these topics.
Do Account Health Services give advance warning of suspensions?
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Account Health Services have been calling sellers before suspensions happen, giving them 24 hours to submit a POA before suspending the account.
This then changed to 72 hours, and just to keep things interesting, sometimes they even sent messages indicating you had 48 hours to compose a POA. Either way, it didn’t give you much time to work out operational improvements and put them into place, let alone write them all up coherently.
During the call, an AHS rep would go over your account suspension situation with you, sometimes referencing specific ASINs, and then give you an idea of how to address these problems in your POA. The responsibility to convince Amazon that you should continue selling interrupted, without an account suspension, was then down to you.
This warning was sometimes referred to as a “pre-POA”, although an Account Health Services rep that I spoke with at the Prosper Show last year referred to it as a “proactive POA”. Whatever the term, sellers got a chance to ward off a dreaded suspension if they appealed with a quality plan.
In this latest phase in Q4 2019, AHS are contacting far more sellers in advance of a suspension. They will now discuss appeals that were entirely ignored or review denied appeals that were missing required information.
However, the involvement of Account Health Services can be a double-edged sword. We’ve studied all facets of this team’s influence, both positive and negative, on reinstatement work and identified numerous proactive measures sellers can use during the process of composing a Plan of Action BEFORE it’s submitted.
What can Account Health Services do?
1. Give background information
AHS can give you some background info on why your account is at risk for an account suspension.
They may be able to provide specific ASINs, orders, or buyer/brand complaint background that led to your account review in the first place. Likely, much of this already sits in your performance notifications but they could help you separate out what ASINs to focus on in the POA.
Results vary depending on the rep, so we encourage sellers to press them for details.
2. Give feedback on your POA
AHS can give you an opinion on your POA after reading it. Keep in mind, it’s only an opinion.
They may not be well-versed in Seller Performance and may not know the relevant policies well. Make sure they’re perfectly clear to you on what policy you violated, and how.
3. Find out the status of your appeal
AHS can follow up with Seller Performance teams and try to find out where your appeal is, if it’s even been reviewed at all, and in some cases, why it’s been denied. But this is only if the relevant account investigator left decent notes behind!
Often appeals are denied and no notes are included, despite the standard operating procedures that require them to annotate your account.
What can’t Account Health Services do?
This varies depending on who you get when you call.
Some reps will tell you they can reach out to Seller Performance or Notice teams to clarify where your appeal is in the process, or why you were not already reinstated.
Other reps say they cannot access that info, without giving you a reason. Listen to what they say and make notes on the call, but take it all with a grain of salt. They may not have enough info in front of them to provide accurate advice, and they may lack adequate experience to understand fully why your appeal was not given its proper due.
1. They can only give their opinion
The feedback from AHS on your POA won’t necessarily coincide with what an investigator making the “reinstatement decision” thinks about your POA’s merits.
Remember that the rep gives you their “take” but it’s not definitive. Don’t assume that amending a POA based on what that one rep says will assure the path to reinstatement. You’ll often find that different AHS reps will give you a totally different opinion on the same POA, without explaining how or why their views differ so widely.
2. They can’t demand action from other teams
AHS reps can’t force a response from performance or policy teams regarding an ignored POA, even if you haven’t heard back for a long time.
They’ll tell you that they don’t have information about anything beyond the fact that it WAS received, and perhaps that it’s been reviewed. But based on the AHS calls we sit in on with clients, reps often fail to disclose the result of that review.
If there are no notes on your account and you haven’t received a reply from Amazon at all, then there’s no way for them to know where you are in the pipeline. You could possibly be nowhere, and need to escalate and pressure them to respond.
Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point now where AHS don’t seem to know when to tell you that and some even encourage you to escalate it outside of the traditional account reinstatement appeals process.
3. They might not have all the relevant information
In our experience, AHS reps cannot navigate their internal tools well enough to locate all parts to your appeal.
You may have submitted invoices that they can’t find or see, or they may not be able to locate rights owner retractions if you had IP infringement claims take your account down.
Keep in mind, you may need to help reps find relevant appeals info that was already submitted. That may take awhile, too, so be prepared to hang out on hold as they figure things out on their end.
What are Account Health Services getting wrong?
We appreciate that Amazon created this team to help sellers understand the increasingly arcane and tough-to-decipher standard messages sent to sellers.
Yet there’s still a distinct lack of quality information shared from Amazon’s side in regards to WHY any Plan of Action is said to be lacking “greater details”.
An increasing number of reps cannot explain the lack of response to an appeal, or a denial from Seller Performance when sellers receive generic, canned messaging. If an AHS rep isn’t sure why you’ve been denied, they may simply make something up. That can send you down the wrong road, creating more damage and delays.
What have we found out about Account Health Services?
We’ve had several calls with Account Health while working with clients to get them reinstated. Here is what we’ve observed.
1. They might not be able to explain why an appeal was denied
Account Health often can’t offer concise or useful explanations for why a POA is rejected.
When pressed to provide specific details, they come back with very little, only saying that they don’t know or cannot find the right information. If they sound like they are guessing why an appeal was rejected or ignored, we now believe it’s because they are guessing.
They may also simply see bad news and refuse to deliver it to you. If a denial revolves around your lack of invoices or unacceptable supplier info, they may not tell you this. Instead, they can ask you to rewrite your POA, which causes further reinstatement delays as have still not have addressed the root cause.
2. You won’t generally speak with the same rep each time
This means you may receive a different assessment each time, too. You get who you get when you call, and you’ll find a wide variety of opinions about what might be missing from any given POA.
If you keep calling, you can even come full circle back to the first opinion, and spend time rewriting POAs over and over.
3. There’s little consistency
For example, on Notice team or IP claim suspensions, some reps tell you not to bother getting retractions from rights owners because you don’t need to. But other times, they encourage you to contact rights owners or you won’t get retractions required for reinstatement.
Reps would often claim that Amazon hadn’t received any new info from rights owners. They were unable or unwilling to locate attachments or the emailed retractions sent by the brands.
NOTE: Sellers now need to ask rights owners to include their “seller ID” in the correspondence with Notice, not simply Complaint IDs and ASINs.
4. They often resort to giving general advice
When Account Health reps run out of info to share with you, they frequently retreat to the position of telling you that some parts are too general and lacking in specifics. They seldom indicate what needs to be more detailed.
For example, for sellers suspended for ASIN variations abuse, the responses we’ve seen about POAs “lacking details” don’t square with the appeals sellers have sent in. If you have taken each ASIN cited in your suspension notification and scrutinized exactly what happened to create inaccurate listings AND detailed all the proactive measures you will take to avoid that particular mistake in the future, what other details could you add?
They’re just punting it away so they can take the next call, just as Seller Performance investigators adore the “greater details” response when moving quickly through the email queues. This is a common tactic to churn through several POAs an hour, and it appears to be spreading across multiple teams.
Do’s and don’ts for working with Account Health Services
Don’t assume everything AHS says is gold
Do your own digging and reread your POA. If AHS say something is missing, ask yourself if their feedback makes sense.
Does it look like you could provide more details here? Is what they’re telling you relevant to your suspension or is it just generic advice that anyone could give?
Don’t stop appealing because AHS tell you to wait
If you have a great POA and you’re absolutely sure of that, send a nudge email to request an update. If that doesn’t work, you may need to escalate it to generate a genuine review of your reinstatement.
Either way, if AHS spins you in circles let them know you’re unable to wait forever for an unspecified “review” of your POA’s viability. Keep pushing, and demand that someone with the power to actually decide on reinstatement or rejection will review your POA sooner rather than later.
Do complete all actions in the POA before you appeal
The POA is the last step in the appeals process.
First you need to analyze what went wrong and implement your proactive solutions. Don’t make false promises that any investigator can toss out once they look at your account, for example promising to delete non-compliant listings but then leaving several behind.
You’ll get a rubber-stamped rejection that you could have avoided if you had done what you promised to do.
Do understand the delays in responses from ALL Amazon teams
While Account Health Services may be available for you to go over your POA, the team actually reviewing it and deciding on your reinstatement may be backlogged for days or weeks, particularly in Q4.
Do consider the consequences of hastily written POAs
I get emails from sellers every day, regretting badly-written POAs created in the heat of the moment. Don’t expect AHS to like a poorly composed POA, and don’t take a poor POA and use it to try and escalate an appeal.
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.