Originally published on July 8, 2016, updated July 30, 2020
Amazon account suspension is a top concern for many merchants. In this webinar, eCommerce Nurse and former Amazonian Carina McLeod discusses how to prevent Amazon account suspension by managing your seller performance.
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
Remaining suspension-free is top of mind for many Amazon sellers. Carina McLeod, former Amazonian and current CEO of eCommerce Nurse, shares her tips for staying in good standing in this webinar.
Amazon is a customer-centric company. Amazon is highly skilled at developing customer trust and loyalty, and it truly guarantees every customer an excellent shopping experience. To help sellers succeed, the company has established performance targets that merchants must meet. Failure to hit these targets could result in a loss of selling privileges or even an account suspension.
To be a successful merchant, you have to consider the way Amazon thinks about offering a great shopping experience. Look at your Amazon business in terms of long-term sales, not short-term transactions. Amazon’s viewpoint is that a happy buyer will become a loyal customer. A seller needs to keep in mind that all decisions Amazon makes are about the customer, including speedy delivery time and items that are easily available.
The best way to avoid suspension? Provide good customer service and pay attention to the Performance Checklist in your Seller Central account to see how Amazon rates you according to certain metrics.
These metrics show every aspect of your Amazon business. What’s helpful is that this can make you aware that a problem might exist. For example, your refund rate metric allows you to track returns and see what type of items are returned. If you realize that a certain item is being returned, it’s time to look into why this is happening. Could the item be low quality?
You can also make changes if you realize your metrics are not where you’d like them to be. Consider the Cancellation Rate/Late Shipment metric. Fulfillment dates can be changed from 1 to 2 days to about 5 days if needed. It’s understandable that you want to stay competitive, but you also need to meet a customer’s expectations by providing a realistic shipping time.
The On Time Delivery/Valid Tracking Rate metric is one that can really help your business. Provide your shoppers with the tracking number to help avoid delays and potential customer service concerns. A customer won’t be messaging you asking, “Where is my order? Does it have a tracking number?” This protects you, too, because if a customer says that something was not delivered and they want a refund, you have proof-positive that it was indeed shipped and delivered to them.
There are other helpful metrics to monitor including: Order Defect Rate, Contact Response Time and Return Dissatisfaction Rate.
One of the best things you can do is to start getting to know Amazon’s policies. Not following these guidelines means that you run the risk of losing your seller privileges.
Here are a few of the most common policies that sellers have trouble with:
Not listing products correctly – This is a very common violation and can actually be an error. A new merchant might do this if they don’t understand how to properly list their products. But some sellers actually do this on purpose to avoid the competition on a product.
Listing restricted products – Most realize that items such as firearms and alcohol are prohibited to sell on the Amazon marketplace. But if you want to sell beauty products, you do need permission from Amazon before doing so.
Feedback solicitation – Amazon does encourage merchants to get honest feedback. Any attempt to manipulate the process, including providing special offers, is not permitted.
Whether you are brand new to the Amazon marketplace or have been selling for awhile, it’s a good idea to review these policies often.
As mentioned, Amazon has targets they want all merchants to reach. If you don’t reach the targets, you run the risk of a suspended account. The best way to stay on track is by monitoring your performance.
Reports are helpful, because then you can look deeper into this issue. If one of your products is doing much better than another, then you would look at the Performance by Product Group report to learn more.
You’ll find reports in the following areas:
McLeod gave some excellent advice about what to do if your account gets suspended, as well as how to create a clear, effective appeal. You only get one chance to appeal a suspended account, so it’s important to be informed. Keep in mind that Amazon frequently reviews your account’s performance. Sellers are most often given 60 days to improve. You can always appeal an account suspension to Amazon.
McLeod reminds us that we all can learn a lot from Amazon. The company has been successful for a reason. Their customers trust them and are very loyal.
Colleen: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today for our webinar on Amazon Seller Performance. My name is Colleen Quattlebaum and I'm the Business Development Manager for eComEngine and I'm actually joining you from the East Coast. So it's about 12 o'clock my time. eComEngine's headquarters is here in Richmond, Virginia. So that's where I'm calling in from and our featured presenter today is Carina McLeod. She is a former Amazonian and eCommerce expert supporting sellers, brands and manufacturers on the Amazon platform via Amazon Seller Central and Vendor Central.
Colleen: Carina is actually joining us from the UK. She actually lives in Costa Rica where she's lived for about four years, but she's currently visiting some family and friends in the UK. So she's joining us from across the pond and as you all know, that's of course the joy of being in the eCommerce industry, getting to live and work anywhere. So as many of you probably do as well. We will be recording this webinar and I'll send the recording, the link out to via email tomorrow along with some special offers as a thank you for joining us today. We'll also share some special offers at the end of the webinar, but in the meantime, if you have any questions that come up throughout the webinar, if you could please use the GoToWebinar panel on the right hand side of your screen and you can enter questions in the GoToWebinar panel and we will take all of those questions and respond to as many as possible at the end of the webinar. And if we don't get to all of them today, we will have record of who wrote the questions in so that we can be sure to respond to you individually. All right, so at this point, I will go ahead and turn it over to Carina where she's going to share her presentation on Amazon Seller Performance. So if you could just bear with us while we switch screens real quick, and then Carina will start her presentation.
Carina: Thank you Colleen. I hope you can see my screen.
Colleen: Yes I can.
Carina: Welcome everybody to the Amazon Seller Performance webinar and how to remain suspension free. I will be as Colleen had already introduced me, I'm Carina and I have previous experience working at Amazon and in the eCommerce world, and I'm going to run through different tips and ways to avoid that dreaded suspension by Amazon. So some of you may have joined because you've already gone through the pain of having your account suspended. Some of you may have received that warning from Amazon and also, some of you may be new to Amazon as a seller and want to understand the ways to work with Amazon to avoid any suspension or any loss of your selling privileges in the future.
Carina: So to start with, I'd like to talk about why seller performance is so important to Amazon. Amazon is a customer-centric company and starts with the customer and works backwards. Now a number of people will always or a number of companies I know do say that the customer comes first, but as an ex-Amazonian I can completely, this is 100% true. All the decisions Amazon makes is always about the customer and the customer is the number one priority. Amazon maintains customer trust and they guarantee all their customers an excellent shopping experience and an excellent shopping experience can mean attractive prices, wide selection, availability, efficient delivery and excellent customer service and sellers also need to maintain this high level of customer trust that Amazon have maintained with their customers. So in order to ensure that the sellers are maintaining this high level of trust, they also have this ... Are offering the customers an excellent shopping experience and are very consistent in their approach with how they're selling.
Carina: Amazon has established a number of performance targets that all the sellers need to achieve and need to hit and unfortunately, if sellers do not hit these targets, they do risk losing those selling privileges, and also account suspension. So really, it's important for sellers to understand that Amazon has this really good customer trust, and they are offering that excellent shopping experience. They're opening up their doors effectively for a seller to then go and sell on their platform. So that seller really needs to ensure consistency, that seller needs to be offering that same shopping experience that Amazon offers direct to their customers.
Carina: So it's simple. It's about changing the way you think, and thinking like Amazon. So a number of you may already be putting the customer first, but what's key here is that you're not focused as a seller on short-term sales, is that you are looking at your business from a long, you're looking at those long-term sales. So everybody, of course, is a seller on Amazon because the idea is that you want to achieve sales. Your goal is to generate those sales and generate profit, but the thing that sellers need to be thinking about when selling on Amazon is first off thinking about that customer, that customer experience, and ensuring they're delivering all they can to provide that excellent shopping experience.
Carina: That excellent shopping experience then creates a happy customer. A happy customer results in purchasing the item, they might then become a loyal customer that they're coming back for a repeat purchase, or they as a result, you also get positive feedback. So it's really important that as a seller, it's not just about thinking or how do I get quick sale getting that quick buck, it's about thinking about how you can be a seller for the long-term successful on Amazon, thinking about that customer, and also ensuring that you are achieving as a seller and performing well to avoid the dreaded suspension or loss of selling privileges which we're going to follow on to very shortly.
Carina: So here is a performance checklist. Now, some of you may be familiar with this screen. If you log into Seller Central, and go to the menu bar at the top, and if you click on Performance and go to Customer Satisfaction, you will then click on Account Health and you'll see this Performance Checklist. So this is how Amazon will monitor a seller account. There's lots of different elements or variables that Amazon will look at including Order Defect Rate, Cancellation Rate, Late Shipment Rate, and they will look at all these different metrics and these metrics will then be categorized. So they'll be categorized under good which is where all sellers want to be which is a saying that you're well within that acceptable range.
Carina: Fair. Fair can be the, "Okay, this isn't a severe issue, but it's highlighted that you're not achieving, you're not achieving targets." So there are improvements that need to be made or the worst case scenario is Poor which is indicating that they're, you're effectively in the danger zone and there's a real issue that the sellers need to resolve immediately. Often, what you'll find is if you're in the fair zone, fair means that you will typically receive a warning from Amazon saying, "You are not delivering on this variable, we need to see improvements in, for example, 60 days." And then those improvements need to be seen to avoid any loss of selling privileges.
Carina: However, when it's fair, the important part is that your ... The actual metric is going from fair to good, as opposed to fair to poor. Because even though Amazon say that they want to see improvements, let's say within 60 days, if the account gets worse, Amazon has the right to remove selling privileges at any point in time that they wish to. When we talk about performance targets, there are a few areas or elements that have a certain targets in place and you will see this on each of the performance metrics that I'm going to run through very shortly on the next few slides. And the key targets that need to be achieved are the order defect rate that needs to be under 1%. The Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate that needs to be under 2.5%, late shipment rate under 4%, and a valid tracking rate for all categories which is over 95%. B
Carina: efore I do look at the performance metrics, one thing I do want to highlight is the difference with Seller Fulfilled versus FBA when we're looking at the actual seller performance. Now what you'll typically find is if you're actually selling FBA, your account should effectively continue to hit target because Amazon is sending out the shipments, Amazon is managing your customer service. So they should be delivering that high level of or excellent customer service or customer shopping experience. So there's less risk if you're going FBA, of losing your selling privileges, or being, having your account suspended if you're selling FBA versus Seller Fulfilled.
Carina: And also, what you'll see within the performance metrics is that there are separate performance metrics for Seller Fulfilled and FBA. So if I go to the previous slides here, you'll see there's two tabs at the top, you've got Seller Fulfilled and Fulfilled by Amazon. What you'll notice is Seller Fulfilled has a number or a high number of metrics compared to Fulfilled by Amazon which there are very few metrics in comparison. And one thing also to note on the Seller Fulfilled side versus FBA is that the same setting policies apply to both Seller Fulfilled and FBA and that's a key thing to highlight because a number of sellers I know go FBA and think, "Well, if I go FBA, I'm effectively safe. I'm safe from having, losing any selling privileges, I'm safe in my account ever being suspended."
Carina: But that's not necessarily the case because there's another metric out there, that if you violate any of Amazon's setting policies, you also can risk having your account suspended or taken away from you. So it's really important that you as a seller are very familiar with these selling policies and I will be running through a slide later on focusing on this area. So to start off with Order Defect Rate, now Order Defect Rate is looked at ... Order defect Rate is effectively ensuring that there are no issues with how the order was managed and sent out to the customer and this is broken into three variables. It's broken down into Negative Feedback Rate, Filed A-to-z Claim Rate and Service Chargeback Rate. The Negative Feedback Rate is basically the number of orders as a total ... the number of orders that received a negative feedback and negative feedback can be classified as a one or two star.And then it's calculated as a how many orders receive negative feedback as compared to total number of orders.
Carina: Also, there's a Filed A-to-z Claim Rate. Now, an A-to-Z Claim is when a buyer contacts Amazon instead of resolving the issue direct with the seller. This typically happens when the seller is not responsive to the buyer and the buyer doesn't have the trust that the seller is going to resolve the issue. Now, an A-to-z claim is something that Amazon takes really, really seriously. So you'll find that there are some metrics that Amazon highlight as something as a warning, but typically, your account is at far greater risk of suspension if you receive an A-to-z Claim because effectively, it's saying that the customer had no confidence in the seller resolving the issue that they may have had or the order issue.
Carina: Let's say the order didn't arrive, they have no confidence or that the seller has not been responsive. So but one thing that has happened in the past that happens less these days is there have been occasions where those A-to-z Claims do slip through. So where a seller hasn't received any communication from the buyer, and then all of a sudden they see receive an A-to-z Claim.Now, for an A-to-z claim to come through, what is important is that the seller or the buyer sorry, actually contacts the seller and allows them three business days to respond to the query. So that prevents a number of buyers who decide, "Oh, well, I don't want to resolve any issue with the seller, I'm not going to make any contact with the seller and I'm going to contact Amazon directly."
Carina: By having this process in place, this is starting to eliminate those queries that go direct to Amazon because this is something that Amazon are then filing as an A-to-z Claim is something really serious when the buyer hasn't even made contact with the seller which is extremely unfair. So you will see ... So if these ones do crawl through, you can contact Amazon and say that no communication has been made and that should be then checked by Amazon and that A-to-z Claim can then be removed. The other variable here is Service Chargeback Rate.
Carina: The Service Chargeback Rate is when a buyer disputes purchase charged to their credit card. So for example, the buyer did not receive the item or received their refund and they then contacts Amazon to dispute this charge that has been taken from their account. Typically, what you'll find with your defect rate is the most issues within this metric are down to receiving negative feedback. So as opposed to Filed A-to-z and Service Chargeback and the Order Defect Rate takes all of these areas into consideration and gives a total percentage on this metric.
Carina: And there is a target here so sellers need to be aware that the target is under 1% which really means that Amazon doesn't give much leeway here is that they're really expecting no A-to-z claims to be filed, no chargebacks and very, very little negative feedback to come back from customers. The next metric that sellers need to be familiarize themselves with is the Cancellation Rate and Late Shipments and one thing to note on this metric is this metric is actually Seller Fulfilled only. So the metric I previously looked up which was Order Defect Rate, Order Defect Rate is for FBA and Seller Fulfilled.
Carina: However, Cancellation Rate and Late Shipment is Seller Fulfilled only. And this metric really pushes sellers to ensure that they have products in stock ready to ship when the customer order comes in, and also that they're shipping the item within the estimated shipping date. So there's two targets here and with the Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate.
Carina: Now, the Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate is when a buyer or sorry, a seller cancels an order that the buyer has made. And this could be because the item that they thought they had in stock was no longer in stock or it could be that the inventory is not being updated on a regular basis. So this metric is in place really to ensure that and to push sellers to ensure that they are updating their inventory on a regular basis, daily basis, or if the orders are coming through quick, that they've got an automatic feed coming through or they're updating their inventory regularly if orders are coming through to their website and stocks going out of another to another channel, that they're then making sure that Amazon is updated at the same time.
Carina: Also, I've seen a number of sellers fall down on this area, particularly sellers that sell dropship and the reason being is that they may not be getting the right inventory update from their dropship suppliers and or the dropship suppliers are not regularly, they are providing those inventory updates, but they're not 100% accurate. Now Amazon supports dropship, but what it has to be with dropship, it needs to be, the inventory needs to be accurate. So they want to avoid instances where the buyer ends up making a purchase, but then what happens is once the seller then goes and purchases an item, let's say through dropship, that they then find out that your item is not available, they then cancel the order. That's extremely bad experience to the customer. So that's really why this target here is in place and the target needs to be under 2.5%.
Carina: Then there's the Late Dispatch Rate. So Late Dispatch Rate is ensuring that sellers are shipping within the estimated shipment date. So when an order comes through on the order page, Amazon will give an estimated shipment date on when that item needs to be shipped by. Typically, orders need to be dispatched within one to two working days. Now, if you as a seller are finding that one to two working days is impossible, you can actually change the fulfillment, number of fulfillment date. So you can actually extend that and say dispatch within five days or it could be dispatches within seven to 10 working days. You can amend that and the field that you would amend that in would be fulfillment latency. So that is a possibility for those that can't meet that expectation.
Carina: And one thing to note is that and I found this experience with sellers, clients in the past is that they're so eager to please. You can be sometimes so eager to please and want to deliver and dispatch within the one to two days because that you know that that's going to benefit you from a shipment point of ... Benefit you from a sale over any competitor, but at the same time, it's really important that you're meeting that customer's expectation. So what you want to do is you don't want to say, "Well, we'll ship within one to two days."
Carina: When that's almost impossible just to get the sale. You want to make sure that that is actually something that your business is capable of to avoid any mis-expectations or mis-customer promises. The other metric here is Refund Rate. So the Refund Rate doesn't have a target here. So really, there are some metrics that you'll find have targets that Amazon is saying you have to reach under this target, otherwise, this is going to be an issue and you risk losing your selling privileges and account suspension.
Carina: There are other metrics there that are more for sellers to be aware of, and to help sellers make improvements to the service that they're offering to the customer and their overall business. So here with the Refund Rate, this is great for sellers to take a look at and establish whether they have an issue with regards to refunds on Amazon. So every category and every seller will really have an indication of what level of Returns Rate they typically see for their products. So for example, you might see a much higher Refund Rate for clothing or footwear compared to for example, consumables.
Carina: So when you come to this screen, you can't say, "Well, it needs to be X percentage because there's so many variants according to the category." But if you look here, and let's say for this example, we have here in front, the percentage needs to be ... Is usually around 2.5%. So it seems to be tracking okay in the last seven days, tracking all right in the last 30 days, but actually it was far higher in the 90 days. Then typically what a seller should do is although they're not being targeted against it, really should identify what is driving this high refund rate because it could indicate that there's a problem with some of the stock that's been sent in. It could be defective stock, it could be a defective batch of stock or it could be that the product page is misleading and has incorrect product data.
Carina: So what the actual customer ends up receiving is not what they think they are buying when looking on Amazon. So it is an important metric to also take into consideration and review. Another metric here is On Time Delivery and Valid Tracking Rate. Now again, this metric only applies to Seller Fulfilled. And here, really, it's something that Amazon is pushing more and more and particularly they have been pushing in the last year is for sellers to include the tracking number for that shipment because by adding that tracking number, it really helps avoid that poor customer experience and in turn, the negative seller feedback.
Carina: But it also identifies if there are any possible delays with carriers or any issues that need to be rectified. So and also, you're going to receive less by a contact or messages to have to respond to with the buyers having a tracking number because in the past, you receive questions as in, "Have you dispatched my order?" Or, "I haven't received it yet." And all those questions that can typically be eliminated with a tracking number.
Carina: And in turn, it also helps with A-to-z Claims. So if a buyer raises an A-to-z claim about an order not being received, if you've got a tracking number, you've got a lot more, a much better case if you need to prove that that item was sent and delivered than if you didn't have a tracking number at all. And also, it reduces costs of having to replace any stock that it might be that the buyer said they haven't received when it was sent and signed for. So those are key things and that's something why Amazon are pushing for that target to be achieved a lot more and that Valid Tracking Rate is broken down into the different categories that you work within.
Carina: This was taken as an example from a seller sales within Beauty and Health and Personal Care and it looks at both of those areas. And also, there's additional metric which is Delivered on time and Delivered on time is a metric that's basically checking that based on that tracking rate, that item was delivered within the estimated delivery date. And this is information that based on that tracking number that was inputted into the system, the Delivery on time will automatically be updated. Now there are instances where a valid tracking or tracking number can't be provided.
Carina: Now these days, most of the couriers that you'll be working with have integrated their systems with Amazon and will provide you a tracking number these days free of charge. There are a few smaller cut couriers that might not yet be integrated and might where this will not then work with Amazon or it might be that there were the items was really small items that were shipped in a standard mail envelope. So these are then instances that Amazon aware of where a tracking number can't always be provided, hence, it being a lower percentage. But also, if you want to understand more of the data behind what's driving there. So for example, if you had a Delivered on time percentage at 50%, you might want to know what were the orders that weren't delivered on time or what were the orders that didn't have a tracking rate.
Carina: You can just go further down under Delivered on time, request a report and download that data. So that's really useful to understand the metrics behind it. Because what is really important is if you're hitting target at 100%, that's fantastic. That's saying that there aren't any problems. If you're not hitting 100%, and you're not hitting target, you really need to be able to go into the data and identify what that problem is and find improvements, find ways to make those metrics improve those metrics going forward.
Carina: And I'll cover off going to look at different reports that are available forever through this presentation, but this is really important. So all the metrics that I am looking for, looking through will highlight wherever you're at you as a seller are performing and are in a good fair or poor status and then it's for you as a seller to then identify the drivers, the reason what's creating these metrics to be possibly lower than they should be. Another metric Amazon look at is Contact Response Time. So it is important that sellers are responding to any buyer messages within 24 hours.
Carina: Now, you can see here with the example I've got, there was a number of late responses from this seller and the reason behind that was actually because this seller was only responding to messages Monday to Friday working days. But actually, the expectation here is that you are responding on a 24 hour basis, 24/7, not just working days and what happened is this vendor got stung because a number of questions came on a Friday evening when they were not in the office and they only responded to those queries on a Monday morning which then created a late response and then created a basically put this metric into a fair status. So that's something to consider as a business is to ensure that you do have that 24/7 support, to ensure that all responses or all customer messages are being responded to.
Carina: Another metric that is very new to Amazon and still very much in beta stage is the, at the top, is the Customer Service Dissatisfaction Rate and this is basically a new way of working where if a customer has contacted a seller regarding an order. After making that contact, Amazon will then ask if the buyer has, if the seller had responded to their query or that question if they got the right response and the customer then has the chance to vote yes or no. So of course, all sellers want all their customers to respond and say, "Yes, my issue was dealt with, everything is fine, then it's going to remain at 0%." But then in instances there could be a customer that didn't feel satisfied and didn't feel that their query was responded to and then they would vote no which would then appear here under these metrics.
Carina: So as I said, this is still in beta stage and although there is a target against this, this is something that you'll find that Amazon are not currently penalizing sellers for because it is a new metric. However, with Amazon, never say never and metrics typically that Amazon introduced usually in the long run will end up being ... The sellers will end up being marked against and it might result further down the line and if these metrics aren't being met, the seller could lose some selling privileges or risk account suspension. So it is important to take the metric seriously and similar to the previous slide, the seller can request a report.
Carina: So if you want to understand if this is coming at 50% and there's a number of customers that have made contact and are just not getting the right response and maybe you want to check up on your customer service team and understand where the issue is falling and why that isn't not being responded to, you can click on Request a Report to go and look into the data and understand what customers and what order numbers and orders were created this and how they were impacted. The last metric here that we are looking at is Return Dissatisfaction Rate.
Carina: Now this varies according for Seller Fulfilled and for FBA and for Seller Fulfilled, the overall metric is known as the Return Dissatisfaction Rate and this is actually broken down into three variables. Negative Return Feedback Rate, and this rate is looking, is again, similar to the Customer Satisfaction Rate where when a return has been processed or raised, at the end, the customer will then be contacted to ensure that their return, the return was resolved and the issue closed. And of course, it would be negative if then the customer comes back and says that the issue or the return was not resolved, and this would reflect badly in the metrics here. Also, Late Response Rate.
Carina: So if the return had been raised by the customer, but the seller had not responded to it within 48 hours, that constitutes a Late Response Rate, as well as an Invalid Rejection Rate. Now, an Invalid Rejection Rate is when a seller does not adhere to the Amazon return policies. So when a seller agrees to sell on Amazon, they agree to Amazon's return policies and all of this would be in the contracts that the seller signs online with Amazon and within that, there'll be the Amazon return policies. So if a customer then requests a return and the seller rejects that, but Amazon would actually approve it, and the seller should actually approve it, this would then be classified as an Invalid Rejection Rate.
Carina: So then all these variables form up into one under the Return Dissatisfaction Right and this currently, the slide I've got here, unfortunately couldn't find a decent example, but typically, this is not applicable because this seller hasn't received any, didn't receive any returns within this period. On the FBA side, they look at the returns in a different way, and it's more on the Refund Rate. So similar to what I discussed before earlier on the previous slide is the Refund Rate with FBA.
Carina: And this is also visible on the FBA side because the seller really needs to know about their returns even when Amazon are fulfilling those orders. And again, the same applies is about there is no target here, it is about the seller keeping track of this rate, and just identifying any abnormalities and if the percentage is in line with our expectation, great, but if it's not and it's far higher than expected, then it highlights that the seller really does need to identify where that is, what's the issue and if they could make any improvements.
Carina: As I mentioned earlier, I mentioned setting policies. So policy violations, so this is something that Amazon take really seriously. It is important that all sellers adhere to those Amazon selling policies and to familiarize yourself with them. All you need to do is log on to Seller Central and in the search box, type in selling policies and all the information you will need will appear because what happens if you're not adhering to those policies as a seller, you could, it could result in you losing those selling privileges. It could result in account suspension or even permanent closure depending on the severity of the violation and what you'll find is as the most common policies that are violated by sellers are not listing products correctly.
Carina: Now, not listing products correctly is quite generic, or it can be seen as quite generic. Really, what it's highlighting is that there might be, you might have some sellers that set up products incorrectly, but it wasn't intentional. So it was in error. Maybe it's a new seller, not familiar with the ways of working with Amazon and incorrectly set up those items, but then you also could be a seller that's intentionally setting up those items incorrectly. For example, a seller could be intentionally changing the barcode on an item to enable them to set up a new product and to avoid listing that item against an existing product that's appearing on Amazon.
Carina: And a number of sellers do this and this is done to avoid competition, to avoid competition with the other sellers already listing on that existing products, that existing item. But actually, it's something that Amazon do not support, and it is in violating Amazon's selling policy. So it's something to be aware of. It does happen as I said, and you may be doing that as a seller at the moment, but be aware that if Amazon do identify that is a reoccurring issue, that could risk your, put your account at risk.
Carina: Also, listing restricted products. So listing restricted products could be listing firearms, listing alcohol, or products that aren't allowed on Amazon or it could be products that are allowed on Amazon, but you need specific category approval. For example, beauty products. You are able to sell beauty products, but you need approval to sell within the beauty category.
Carina: So I have seen sellers then sell those beauty products within health and personal care, a category that they already have approval. So actually, changing the category to be able to sell those products which again, that puts the account at risk. Another common policy that's violated is diverting buyers away from Amazon. So sometimes this happens without knowing. Some sellers are not always aware of this being a policy, but it's really important that buyers or sellers, sorry, are aware that they should not share URLs, they should not share their email addresses when they have any communication with the buyer.
Carina: So in those buyer messages, the idea is that all communication with the buyer needs to be within Amazon and you shouldn't be as a seller diverting that traffic outside of Amazon. Also positive feedback solicitation. Now here, I'm talking about positive feedback solicitation as opposed to feedback solicitation. So feedback solicitation is something that Amazon support. You've sent a product out to a customer, it's great, you want to find out how the customer experience was, is the customer happy with the level of service they got an invite them to provide you seller feedback. As I said, that's something that Amazon very much support. The area or the point of which it becomes a violation is when you're soliciting positive feedback. So when I say positive feedback, I mean, okay, you contact a seller and say, "Hi, I wanted to know how your experience is with our product. We really would love it if you could give us ... Could you give us a four to five star review? If you do, we'll give you 50% off your next order." So you're then incentivizing that customer and persuading that customer to provide you a positive feedback and that's something that Amazon doesn't support. Nearly needs to be when you're soliciting feedback that you're soliciting unbiased feedback, and there's no signs of bribery in order to receive positive feedback.
Carina: And another area is opening an account when previous account has been closed. So it may have been an account was suspended, unfortunately, that customer, that's seller appealed, didn't get that account reactivated, the account was permanently closed. So that seller went ahead and opened up a second account under a different bank account, different company name, different person, et cetera. And that is something that isn't allowed and I have seen sellers do that, and Amazon eventually catching up. So it is really important to be aware of that violation as well.
Carina: There's so many selling policies out there. So as I said, try and go in Seller Central, type in selling policies and familiarize yourself with those. As I mentioned earlier, monitoring performance. So it really is important that you are reviewing your performance. So when you're logging into Seller Central, always keep an eye on the current health status of your account. Hopefully on the dashboard, you'll see on the left hand side, there should be a nice green box saying that your account is in good. If that drops to fair or poor, of course, you would need to immediately click on that and understand what is driving that. But also, it's good to go and look at that checklist on a weekly basis just to see how you're performing against the metrics and to get an idea of as to whether any improvements need to be made.
Carina: But overall, sellers should be focusing on maintaining that good account health and there are a variety of reports available. So if an issue comes along and you want to identify what is causing that, the reports that are already appearing within that checklist are the tracking and delivery report which highlights all the orders that have received that have a tracking number against it and how they ... When the items were received versus the estimated delivery date.
Carina: There's the Customer Service Satisfaction Report which I mentioned earlier, as well as the Return Dissatisfaction Report which I also mentioned on a previous slide. Two other reports that you can find under if you're ready, clicking on the menu bar, under performance, and in under customer satisfaction. Further to the right at the top you'll see a section called Reports.
Carina: There will be three reports available. One, which is the Order Quality Report. Now the order quality report focuses on ... It focuses on the different aspects. It gives you a seller rating for each order. So that celebrating could be anything from 0 to 100. So it looks at every order and rates them. So an order that received no problems would get a rating of 100. An order that received a problem that wasn't severe received a rating of zero. An order that received an A-to-z Claim received a minus 500 rating.
Carina: So that shows you the severity of how serious an A-to-z claim is to Amazon. So you can then look at each, you can download that report and see which orders were failing against Amazon's ratings and understand what orders you need to dive deeper into to understand if there are any current issues with your processes. Also, there's the performance by product group and time. So that looks at all the metrics that we've discussed over a period of time for at product group levels. So if you want to understand what your overall Order Defect Rate is during a particular time, you can download this report from Seller Central. Now Account Suspension.
Carina: So Amazon frequently review the performance of the account. Now with Account Suspension, it's not that somebody is manually checking the account and going, "Right, these metrics aren't looking good, I'm going to cancel their account or take away their setting policies." It's very much an automated process as well if the account is failing to hit target on a regular basis. So it can have manual intervention, but there is a lot of automation that takes place and as I mentioned earlier with the account, if the account is very much not hitting target, but it's not really a serious issue.
Carina: So let's say the target was minus, you needed to achieve at least beyond the 1%, but you're currently tracking it three or 4%. That's less serious compared to for example, 10 or 20%. So with the way and also, if you as an account have regularly failed down on this target, so this is your fifth time you're hitting target, it really puts you more at risk of the Account Suspension. So typically, if it's not a major issue, and it's considered as fair, then you'll receive a warning notification, and often given 60 days to fix. It's really those when you get that big red mark that's really indicating poor and that you've really need to take immediate action and this can result in account suspension with immediate effect.
Carina: And if your account is suspended, it's then important that the sellers then, you as a seller can then make an appeal. So what will happen if your account is suspended, you would receive a notification to inform you that your account has been suspended. You can then click on that notification, and then you can then make that appeal. When appealing the account suspension, and this is a really important part, when the account has been suspended is when everything just falls apart. You've got this account, it's been doing really well, you've seen the sales rolling in, you really think that this is a great avenue to sell the products that you've got, you've got lots more stock coming in, and all of a sudden, everything's just stopped, your account is on hold, your account has been suspended. And you're at a stage where you don't know whether it's going to be reactivated.
Carina: The key thing to do here is first stop and understand why the account was suspended, and be able to explain this to Amazon. So going back and looking at all the different metrics that I showed you, which metric was it that created the account, that put the account in this position to be suspended, downloading reports, understanding what were the orders that are driving it, and being able to then articulate a response and explain to Amazon why this issue occurred.
Carina: And it's really important that you understand it yourselves before then trying to explain it to Amazon. And then to actually put a clear plan of action in place on how to avoid this issue from reoccurring. So for example, it may be that you failed and your account was suspended because nobody was responding to ... You kept falling down on the metric, response time via messages because nobody was working weekends and nobody was responding to any messages. So you could then have a clear plan of action and say to avoid this issue going forward, we have now hired somebody that is going to manage our account on a 24/7 basis and manage all buyer responses. That's the clear plan of action on how to avoid that issue going forward.
Carina: Or for example, you had a high Order Cancellation Rate and a number of orders were being raised by buyers and you had to keep canceling them, or inventory wasn't being updated and was only being updated on a weekly basis, or a daily basis, but because you were selling to loads of other channels, that wasn't the case. So there, it might be that you've then say that you're integrating a ordering system that manages all channels to keep inventory up to date or that you'll be updating inventory on a daily or twice a day basis. So that's what Amazon wants to hear, but also, it's to indicate what you're doing about the customers that have been impacted.
Carina: So there may have been customers that haven't received their orders for example, or customers that never received a response. So it's important when appealing is to actually indicate what you're doing about the customers that have already been impacted. It's also very important to be honest. Everybody makes mistakes, and Amazon is actually supportive of mistakes. As long as you do something about it, that makes a difference. So it's alright to put your hand up and say, "Yup, this wasn't working, but actually we're doing X, Y, and Z to make improvements."
Carina: Sometimes the reason metrics are in place are to highlight that the processes don't work and mistakes happen, and that they're in place to then highlight that and it's about the business taking that on board and making a difference and improving those processes going forward and Amazon do respect that. And be detailed and specific In your response. So really do avoid those ambiguous statements being very clear on what you are talking about and it's really important that when you are appealing, as I mentioned all these points, it's key to say that you need to explain why that issue occurred in your appeal and have that detailed plan of action to avoid that happening again, and also specify how the customer or how you're going to improve the situation with any customers that have already been impacted by the issue.
Carina: Remember that you only get one chance to appeal. So you do need to be thorough, you need to address that exact problem and really have a sound action plan and it's about having an action plan that you are going to execute. Good intentions is not enough. If you just say, "Oh, you just give Amazon a plan of action just to get Amazon off your back and reactivate your account." What will typically happen is that you might fall down on this metric again and if you then fall down on that metric again, and your account is suspended for a second time, and you then say, "Oh, repeat the plan of action." Amazon already know that your account was previously suspended, and that you stated that.
Carina: So it's really showing that you're not really genuinely taking on board the metrics, and really, genuinely want to improve your business. So be very clear that that plan of action is something that you as a business can and will execute. And overall, don't forget is these targets are in place to help you improve as a business. So it's about learning from Amazon. Amazon have been successful for a reason, they've put the customer first and their customer centric approach has really benefited them and they have a huge customer base, huge customer trust that all sellers can also benefit from their customer base.
Carina: And it's about getting out of the mindset that Amazon are strict and are deterrent to sales, and that these metrics aren't in place for Amazon to benefit sales over sellers is that Amazon just don't want to risk their customer trust. It's also important to make sure that you are focusing on the long-term rather than the short term sales and that you want to work with Amazon. And if you want to work with Amazon, that you always remember, the customer comes first and it's so important to always remember that Amazon is opening up their doors, allowing US sellers to sell on their platform.
Carina: So it's really important that you do adhere to their policies and guidelines, you respect those, if you want to be there for the long haul and not risk your account being suspended in any way and that's the key thing is just also accepting that Amazon has their ways of working. It's not always the very typical way of working, but they're there in place and to be setting on their platform to work with Amazon. Unfortunately, you have to accept the ways of working with Amazon. I hope you We'll found that useful. I'm going to shortly hand you over to Colleen. A number of you probably sent in some questions which I'm going to be covering off shortly. And hopefully, this has given you a good insight into ways in which to work towards ensuring that you are working against Amazon metrics and familiarizing yourself with the metrics and why Amazon have seller performance and monitor sellers as well. And yup, if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thank you.
Colleen: Great. Well, thank you Carina. So as Carina mentioned, she's going to review some of the questions that came in during the webinar. And I'll just take a minute now while she's doing that to tell you about one of eComEngine's tools and how it can help you to build your reputation and minimize that risk for negative feedback. So thousands of merchants, many of you who are on this call today know us through our flagship product FeedbackFive which is a tool that's been helping Amazon sellers build their reputation since 2009. And as Carina mentioned, it's important to always put the customer first and respect Amazon's rules and provide excellent service at all times.
Colleen: And so FeedbackFive helps you to automate your emails and open up the lines of communication with the buyer before they leave that negative feedback. So in your feedback solicitation emails, we highly recommend that you specifically offer the opportunity for the buyer to communicate with you directly. So if they have any concerns, to talk to you about that before just jumping to leave that negative feedback. So here is just a sample email template from FeedbackFive where we recommend using this verbiage which I've highlighted in yellow. So to say something along the lines of our goal is for you to be completely satisfied with this transaction. If this is not the case, please allow us to address your concerns before leaving feedback by replying directly to this email.
Colleen: So as Carina said, "You can't solicit and ask them to leave positive feedback." You can't say, "Please leave us a four or five star seller feedback." But you could say, "Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns so we can address that." And that way, that would open up those lines of communications hopefully before they would leave that negative feedback. And we've found this to be very effective for a lot of our FeedbackFive users.
Colleen: So again, it just encourages the customer to tell you about their experience so you can attempt to resolve it and provide that outstanding service. And next FeedbackFive provides personalized automated seller feedback and product review requests. It has a dashboard and features that help you to manage feedback and reviews and minimize the risk for negative feedback. And one way to do that is through the options that we have for automatically excluding orders from receiving email solicitations if they have a higher potential to generate negative feedback.
Colleen: So for instance, you can automatically exclude orders when a buyer has already left positive feedback. So you don't want to bug them to leave you feedback and irritate them when they've already left you positive feedback. You can also exclude orders that have been refunded, or that's shipped late or out of the country just so you're not soliciting those orders that are more likely to generate negative feedback. And maybe there's specific SKUs that tend to get more negative feedback than others or maybe you have a defective line of SKUs and you don't want to solicit feedback or reviews.
Colleen: For those you can certainly exclude those from your email campaigns and FeedbackFive as well. And then we have multiple settings for dealing with repeat buyers. So in case soliciting them too often might lead to negative feedback again, by irritating somebody who's a repeat buyer. You can set a rule to either never send repeat buyers an email, or you can choose to only send one or two emails or you can always send the repeat buyers an email. And if you do receive negative feedback, the sooner you respond to them and address their issues, the more likely they are to be satisfied and remove the feedback.
Colleen: So FeedbackFive does have an option that will alert you by email or text anytime you receive negative feedback so that you can respond to the buyer immediately. You can either receive alerts on an individual basis, every time you get that negative feedback or you can get like a daily digest where just once a day, you receive a summary of all the negative feedback. And you can choose the times of day to receive that too so you don't get bogged on yourself and in the middle of the night with an alert.
Colleen: And if you're a larger seller, like I said, you can do the high volume summary of your negative feedback just once a day. And after you've resolved the customer's issue, FeedbackFive does have a negative feedback removal request tool that helps to simplify the process for both the seller and the buyer. It automatically provides the unique link to that customer's negative feedback. So you can include that link in the email to the buyer, when you're, again, just making sure that they were satisfied with how you resolved it and requesting for them to remove or update that negative feedback and they can just do it with two clicks of a button. So combining that great customer service with a timely response and making it as easy as possible for them to remove or update that feedback will increase the likelihood of them actually updating or removing it.
Colleen: And so FeedbackFive, we have offered feedback management since 2009 and we now offer the ability to manage and solicit for product reviews, including matching buyers to reviews and our product review management feature can help you to monitor whether you're currently selling them, or maybe you're considering selling them, and you can determine if it's a product you want to sell or maybe avoid. So if you see a lot of negative product reviews related to the item quality, you might want to consider the risk and reward of selling that item.
Colleen: So by entering those ASINs in your FeedbackFive account and monitoring those reviews before you purchase them or while you're selling them, it can also just help you to manage that whole process and you can receive negative alerts as well for product reviews, and we will match the buyer to their reviews. So if it is one of your own orders, we'll certainly alert you of that and but of course if it's your own private brand, then most of them would be associated with your orders. But again, just to reiterate, the bottom line is to think like Amazon, always put the customer first and provide excellent customer service and that will certainly help you to have a top seller performance.
Editor's note: This feature is no longer available due to Amazon policy changes.
Colleen: And lastly, before I turn it over to Carina for the answers to a few questions that came in, I just want to share a couple special offers from us. Carina is offering a free 30-minute consultation. So just visit her website, ecommercenurse.com, go to the Contact Us page, and there's a drop down menu when you're filling out the form that asks for your reason for contact. And if you choose eComEngine webinar, then she'll be sure to make sure you get that free 30-minute consultation. And then for eComEngine's tools, we also offer an extended 30 day free trial for anybody who has registered for this webinar using the coupon codes that are listed there. For instance, FbFive-Nurse for FeedbackFive. So all right, I'll go ahead and turn it back to Carina.
Carina: Thank you Colleen. I've just run through a number of questions and I appreciate where we're nearly coming to the end, approaching one o'clock EST time. So I'll try to cover off a few. Any of those questions that I'm unable to cover off, we will ensure that we try and get back to you so you do get an answer to that question. A number of questions actually have come up and I'm going to put a bunch of you together and a lot seems to be around A-to-z claims that are being opened, but they're not the ... They're being opened incorrectly, as in the buyer hasn't actually made any contact with the seller.
Carina: And so where I mentioned that the buyer needs to adhere to the needs to basically allow three business days before escalating it and opening up an A-to-z Claim. It appears in some instances here that this isn't happening. When this doesn't happen, you as a seller have the right to dispute this. What you need to ensure is that you are going through all your messages and that you are checking when you get that order number, that you are checking that no correspondence was received, and that you're accurately disputing that and if you go through your buyer messages and you look at the order information, and you can see that no communication was made with you as the seller, then you can then go back and dispute that A-to-z Claim via Contact Us in Seller Central and state that no communication has been made.
Carina: An A-to-z Claim is not correct, is not fair because the buyer never contacted you to resolve this and in these instances, unless there seems to be an error where the buyer did communicate and that was missed, then Amazon should be removing those and closing those A-to-z Claims because that issue wasn't actually, they weren't following sorry, the A-to-z Claim process and they need to allow those three business days to resolve that. So do make sure that you're not afraid as a seller to go back to Amazon and disputes and you might come back with a response that you don't support.
Carina: Never be afraid to keep disputing dispute and always when you dispute, dispute with evidence. So if you can show that no contact was made or if contact was made, that you did respond, and that you responded to their query and clearly, they still may opened an A-to-z Claim, go back with all the evidence that you have to dispute that. One thing that is important is trying to ... If you need further information when a buyer contacts you then of course you've got to ask for that, but the sooner that you can close by messages down and avoid back and forth messages and get an issue resolved, the better because sometimes, what does happen is that the buyer gets frustrated that an issue isn't being resolved and there's too much back and forth and they can end up claiming an A-to-z. So again, make sure that you are disputing those.
Carina: Also, another question came in about percentage, the Pre-fulfillment Cancellation Rate and the target, the Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate actually came out higher than the target, but was on one cancellation. So one thing to add to all of this is that yeah, the percentage can sometimes be exaggerated. So one order has resulted in a percentage that's higher than the target. Amazon should look at this and Amazon typically will look at this.
Carina: So although they have their targets in place, if only one order is affected, then it's very unlikely that your account is going to be impacted. It may mean that your account still goes into a fair or poor status and there could be an incident where the account is selling privileges are taken away because it was automated, but you're in a stronger position to dispute that if it's only one order, especially if all your other orders are being sold via FBA. So just because often with an account suspension, you get a better chance of depending on the situation, if it's not so severe and little, few customers have been impacted, you've got more chance of being able to reactivate your account. How are we for time Colleen? Do you want me to continue with questions or?
Colleen: Maybe we can do one or two more questions. There's still quite a few people still on the webinar. So for those that have to leave, you can certainly leave, but maybe we can answer just a couple more.
Carina: Sure. I had a question that asked if when Amazon believes that we've ... When the tracking number shows delivered, but the buyer claims not received, should every delivery require a signature on Seller Fulfilled? It shouldn't necessarily, it depends on the service that you're providing and with the tracking number. Sometimes not all items require a signature when they stay, they're delivered. The important thing that you are in a situation that if a buyer claims that they haven't received the item, and you can prove to Amazon or the customer that there is a tracking number, and that the item was delivered, then really, that becomes a dispute then to understand for the buyer, then to understand why the item wasn't received and if that needs to be a claim to the shipping company.
Carina: So if you find that there is a situation where the item hasn't been delivered, it says it's been delivered but the buyer claims that they haven't received it, you as a seller really need to take on that conversation further with the shipping company that managed that to understand why there is this discrepancy with the buyer stating that they haven't received it. Another review here. There seems to be a couple of reviews, a couple of questions about actual product reviews where a number of ... They're seeing that a number of sellers are getting product reviews for items, and five star reviews.
Carina: Now, with product reviews, this is slightly off topic, but with actual product reviews as opposed to seller feedback, you are able to solicit, again, it's similar to seller feedback and that you are able to solicit product reviews. But again, you can't solicit positive feedback. So there are a number of sellers out there, that will, that use a number of different review companies that may be able to offer free, where you offer a free or promotional item for feedback. Again, it's really important that you are highlighting when soliciting product reviews, that it's an unbiased review. So it's not a policy violation if it is ... The buyers are or the customers, those people that are writing those reviews are not being incentivized. So in other words, "Well, I'll give you this item for free if you write me a four or five star review." No, it's about, "Well, we'll give you a free promotional item in exchange for an unbiased review." And that review will have to state that they have received that item and written a review based on in exchange for they state that the items is an unbiased review, and that they've received it on writing that to ensure they've not been persuaded to write that positive review. And I think those are currently the question. If you have questions that have come in which I can cover off a bit later or ...
Colleen: Okay. Yeah. Since we're about five after, we did ... We do have documentation of everybody who wrote in the questions so we can certainly be sure to get back in touch with you individually or you can reach out to Carina or myself at any time. You can contact us through our websites and, but I guess yeah, for now, we'll go ahead and wrap things up since we are beyond the one o'clock timeframe. So thanks again Carina and everybody for joining us today. I will be sure to send out a follow up email that includes a link to the recording of this webinar, as well as our contact emails and details of the exclusive offers. And so on behalf of eComEngine and eCommerce Nurse, we thank you for joining us and please reach out to us with any questions and we wish you all the best with your business. All right, thank you all.
Carina: Thank you.
Originally published on July 8, 2016, updated July 30, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.