Originally published on March 17, 2017, updated June 17, 2020
Are you going crazy trying to figure out how to talk to the team at Amazon about a problem with your seller account? Learn who to talk to in order to get the answers you need. Former Amazonian Chris McCabe shares his perspective on:
If you’re interested in learning about the best way to communicate with Amazon, you won’t want to miss this conversation.
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
Have you ever struggled to get an issue resolved when contacting Amazon's seller support? If so, this is the webinar for you! Learn how to talk to the right people at the right time to get the support you need.
Seller Support is the customer service department for Amazon sellers. Basically, they can answer questions about listing and selling as well as information about internal annotations on your account. They do not have the authority to make changes to your account and, most importantly, if Seller Support gives you poor guidance, you will still be held responsible!
“I saw a lot of time and energy wasted on the wrong kinds of questions to the wrong kinds of people,” said McCabe. “Obviously, revenue is lost is your top ASIN or account is down so I have spent as much time as possible trying to reorient people and direct their energy and focus in the right direction.” It’s important to have reasonable expectations of how Seller Support can actually help you.
By contrast, Amazon Seller Performance has the authority to approve multiple accounts, block/reinstate listings, or suspend/reactivate your account. In short, if you need to address a major concern, request or issue, this is where you want to go.
“This is a team that you deal with in writing,” McCabe explained. “If you don’t necessarily have a great writer on your staff, you want to find one because if you’re unable to communicate with Seller Performance in a meaningful way, that’s when people will start spinning you in circles.”
As is often the case when dealing with Amazon, there is a wrong and a right way to interact with Seller Performance. One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that the investigators receive a large number of requests. You’d be wise to keep your communication brief (a page or less) and easy to read.
This isn’t the time to vent your frustrations and get emotional, either. Instead, focus on the facts and stay on topic. Also, be prepared with any relevant documentation before you send your message. They need to get through a number of appeals every hour so the less time you waste, the better.
Even if you do everything right, things can go terribly wrong. In those situations, you may wonder when, if, and/or how you should escalate the situation. You may find yourself in an endless email loop trying to gather the information you need, but seemingly getting nowhere. It’s tempting to escalate things right away but McCabe cautions against this.
“If you start escalating with an incomplete or insufficient Plan of Action (POA), you’re not going to get anywhere,” he explained. Instead, take the time to go over all of your documentation that make sure everything is in perfect order. When appropriate, you can escalate within the Seller Performance team and request that a senior investigator or a manage review your case.
As a last resort, you can email Jeff Bezos. This is your absolute final chance at resolution so make sure you use this resource wisely. It’s always best to exhaust every other avenue first before laying all of your cards out on the table. If your appeal to Jeff is rejected, it’s over, so don’t do this prematurely!
The presentation goes into great detail on all of these topics and also provides guidance on how to respond to Amazon. Most importantly, McCabe urges sellers to not panic if things get stressful. This webinar is definitely worth a listen if you’ve ever struggled with resolving issues with Seller Support or Seller Performance!
Liz: All right. Hi everybody. Thanks for joining us for today's webinar titled How To Talk To Amazon Without Losing Your Mind. We have Chris McCabe with us today who knows Amazon from the inside out. After several years evaluating seller account performance and enforcing Amazon policies, he turned consultant and launched ecommercechris.com. Now he teaches his clients how to think like Amazon. His insider knowledge helps sellers to protect their accounts and appeal listing restrictions. He also founded frustrationfreeamazon.com so that anyone can learn the exact proven strategy he uses to craft Amazon appeals and plans of actions.
Liz: So, today we're going to talk about what Amazon doesn't want you to know about seller support, the number one mistake sellers make when communicating with Amazon, the right way to deal with seller performance, when you should and shouldn't escalate to Jeff and then we're going to give you some special offers from eComEngine and from Chris and we're going to take some questions. As we're going along in the go to webinar panel, feel free to put your questions in the question field and we will get them to Chris. So without further ado, I'm going to turn it over to Chris. He's going to talk about some important stuff, and then I'm going to talk to you a little bit about customer service, and then we'll take questions. So stick around, submit your questions, please and enjoy. Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Thanks Liz. Good afternoon. Good morning. Good evening? Hi guys, how are you? I wanted to talk for a few minutes before we get to this first slide here about where this webinar came from. Why I put it together, why I wanted to talk about this? It's been a passion project for me to go out and inform as many sellers as possible, the differences between seller support and seller performance and as much information as possible. I can share with you about when to go to each one and also the kind of pitfalls and problems with going to the wrong place with the wrong kind of issue. One of the reasons I thought so much about this over the last few months is because I've heard from sellers and clients who would show me seller support cases that they opened that had almost nothing to do with the problems that they were facing with seller performance and product quality or policy teams, which are the teams I used to work on for several years.
Chris: I basically saw people who needed to compose appeals for reinstated ASINs or trying to get their account back if they were suspended. I saw a lot of time and energy wasted on the wrong kinds of questions to the wrong kinds of people. Unfortunately, I also saw seller support giving out some inaccurate information that I after that had to step in and correct. So time could be lost, obviously revenue's being lost if your top listed ASIN or your account is down. So I have spent as much time as possible trying to reorient people and direct their energies and focus in the right direction. So that's where this webinar really came from and the supporting blog post that I wrote, I guess, a couple of weeks ago. So I thought I would begin with seller support because many sellers who have problems with performance and policy teams themselves begin with seller support.
Chris: I understand why they do that. It's somebody that you can get on the phone. I mean, seller support is functionally supposed to be customer service or sellers. You want to talk to somebody, especially if you don't understand your warning, your suspension notification, your listing restriction email. If you need something clarified, you want to go to them and I completely understand why the expectation is there that you'll be able to get bare minimum, at least some additional clarification of what went wrong. Unfortunately, I also see people's expectations a bit too high for seller support in terms of what can they do for you? Can they help you resolve the problems or are they simply guiding you on how to begin to solve a problem? I'll get into that a bit more later on here, but backing up 12, 13 years, I guess, maybe 11 years when I started at Amazon, what was seller support doing then?
Chris: I mean, people in those days had to understand the basics of the marketplace. There was a lot of Q&A around how to, right? Which is one of seller support's main functions is to guide you through seller help, to answer questions about how to list things, maybe how to load an image, technical problems, that sort of thing, questions for catalog. I don't want to necessarily call that lower level function, but certainly nothing in the ballpark of the teams that I used to work for performance and policy. They were there to speak to you. Amazon wanted to offer you some method of speaking with somebody and not simply handling everything in writing the way you would with seller performance. But there were limitations to how much they could discuss with you, how much they had been trained on, in terms of policy violations, things that you basically had to understand yourself before you ever had a problem or before you ever went to call seller support.
Chris: So of course it's understandable, you want somebody to speak with. I just want to make sure that you understand there's a big difference between having a comforting or therapeutic conversation with seller support because there's an actual voice on the phone and practical methods of problem resolution, which is, 90% of the time, especially with what I do, maybe 99% of the time that has to be accomplished in writing and in detail and not verbally. So skipping down a bit, understand what they have the authority to do, what their decision making parameters are. Suspension notifications do unfortunately direct you to contact seller support. I believe the messaging says if you'd like to speak with somebody about this email or speak with somebody about this action that implies that they can help you resolve it, but they do not have the power to do that.
Chris: They can give you some additional information, they can help you understand the notification you got, but often they're reading to you from menus or the issues on your account might be beyond what they understand to be the problem. And they might not even have access to the right information or take the time to look at the account annotations in order to understand what's going on with your account. So the net result of that is that sometimes you're given incorrect information. Are you still responsible if seller support answers the case with something that's not accurate or they spin you in the right direction? I mean, yes you are because you're contacting seller support about a seller performance problem, right? Something that you needed to understand, had to be resolved in writing and in messages to you... I'm sorry, seller performance indicates that you need to submit things like a plan of action, things like invoices.
Chris: I mean, submission of written material and you can't discuss an invoice with somebody and all sorts of limitations come when you're on the phone with people. So that won't be changing anytime soon, in terms of, "Can I call seller performance and discuss things?" They've done different pilots. I'm going to get into that on a later slide, but in general, this is what seller support can do. Skipping down to the next slide. We want to talk about seller performance and what do they do? I've only listed a few things here. Obviously, there's a lot of ground that they cover. That's why they are getting thousands of emails a day, whether they're account suspension appeals, questions about listings, all sorts of things. They are going to be the team, either seller performance or product quality responsible for reinstating your listings, assessing your plan of action when you send it in, of course, suspending your account or blocking your listings if you're trying to get approved for things like multiple accounts, they definitely would be the people to go to, to annotate both accounts and give you that permission.
Chris: But lots of other investigations go on as well. Sellers are reporting each other for things valid and invalid all the time. A lot of that messaging lines up in seller performance. Since I left the company, they've divided things into smaller teams in terms of this team might handle abuse of policy a bit more than that team. We can just stick with the term seller performance to cover performance evaluation and investigations on account issues that sellers face just for the sake of consistency. But again, I must reiterate that this is a team you deal with in writing. If you don't necessarily have a great writer on your staff, you want to find one because if you're unable to communicate with seller performance in a meaningful way, that's when people start spinning you in circles, because they might not know what you're saying. You don't know what they're saying, and you just wind up talking past each other. So I'll get into a bit more detail.
Chris: Liz, can we... Yeah, there we go. Seller support can't transfer you to sell a performance. Like I said, a moment ago, they've done some experimental pilots. I knew some people, I think I even hired somebody for a time who had worked on the team on the pilot, where they maybe had 20, 25 sellers assigned to them who were in the appeals process and they would speak to those 20 or 25 sellers. But it doesn't matter how many times you call seller support. They won't be transferring you to sell a performance. They might tell you that they're transferring you there, but you're probably dealing with a seller support/customer service type team that may or may not even be able to see properly into the annotations on your account. If they can see into your account in seller support and they're willing to read off some very interesting information from there, then great.
Chris: That happens maybe one out of 100, one out of 1,000 times, because they're not really supposed to be doing that. But if you can get that kind of insight/ intel so we call it on our complaints on the quality of your items or on what previous investigators thought were the big drivers behind your metric misses, then sure. Definitely stay on that phone call, but don't keep calling seller support unless you're getting back kind of valuable information. If it's low value information, focus your time and your energies on what you're writing to seller performance, and certainly stick to the point when you messaged seller performance without getting into this seller support case, that seller support case. They only have a few minutes to really size up your plan of action, anyway, and to look at your accounts, to look at previous account annotations, to add new account annotations, they're not going to be spending much time looking at cases in seller support, unless they're 100% certain, that one case has a unique and crucial piece of information, otherwise that won't be happening.
Chris: So you won't get transferred to seller performance. In previous years, sometimes people would get transferred to executive seller relations or to an executive seller relations, voicemail inbox, which has since been deactivated. But you won't find it a common occurrence that you're being transferred to executive seller relations to escalate your case. You're going to stay in the seller support ecosystem 99 times out of 100 that you're on the phone with them. That's one of the big mistakes people make of course, is that they think they can be transferred to somebody higher up. They can escalate to a manager. They can somehow speak with somebody on the phone. I know I mentioned this earlier, but I have to mention at least two or three times. They talk to somebody on the phone who can simply tell you exactly what you need to put in your appeal to get your account or your ASIN reinstated.
Chris: It just doesn't work that way. They need time to assess the information you give them, especially when we're talking to all of the teams. They're probably asking you for invoices. If, for example, you were warned for an inauthentic item, they need to get into your plan. Hopefully your plan is written in such a way that they can read it and understand it quickly. They need to make a decision on it, but that is work that's accomplished in writing and on the phone, you might get some guidance that you have to do those things, but that's really just rising to the level of general tips. It won't be specific to your account unless you happen to be talking to somebody who's really actually looking at your account and going over it with you.
Chris: I know there are performance managers now, I know that there were past pilot programs for seller performance employees who would go over your account with you. Those are a minority of cases. That's not something you can really hang your hat on at this point, but maybe down the road. Then I want to spend certainly a lot of time talking about the best way to interact with seller performance once you get to the point that you understand that seller support is not the way to go when you're appealing things. When you're trying to retrieve your account that's been suspended, you're trying to retrieve your top ASIN, your best selling listing of course. Every day in the past is you could be losing, thousands of dollars.
Chris: I mean, some of my clients are losing thousands every hour that they're not selling their top selling ASINs. So it's important to understand timelines with seller performance. And certainly I've seen this lately. I get a lot of questions from sellers. I guess I'll spend a moment on the timeline here. A lot of people say, the last time I wrote to seller performance, they got back to me within two hours. They got back to me within 20 minutes, they got back to me within 24 hours. It all depends on the number of emails sitting in that queue. They have an SLA, service level agreement. They're trying to meet. So obviously they're moving quickly through emails because any email that goes from green to yellow, and then of course, if it goes to red, it means it's missed the service level agreement.
Chris: I mean it's late, they've sort of lost that deadline. But again, if they're getting hundreds or thousands of emails a day into seller performance, of course they don't have thousands of people working on these. They have to go through them one at a time. Yes, some of them are quick, some of them are longer, but the time element is always there. Don't write long emails that don't have the content that they're looking for. They're not necessarily going to tell you exactly what they're looking for because they want you to investigate yourself, review your own account, review your own listing issues. If it's a item quality issue, and you've had complaints from buyers, they want you going through those and assessing them and making changes to perhaps listing content itself, perhaps pulling some inventory back to inspect it.
Chris: In terms of an account suspension, they probably have multiple things that they want you to look at to troubleshoot and to solve whatever went wrong. First of all, stick to the facts of what went wrong. Start with that because your plan of action won't mean much to them if you don't show them, you've identified the causes. This is something I emphasize with almost everybody I've talked to. I almost don't blame them for skipping the plan of action if they think you're way off on the root causes, or if you look like you're guessing, if it seems like you're trying to give them generic language that you think that they are looking for, because you saw something on the seller forums that maybe looked like it was relevant to your case.
Chris: You're supposed to be evaluated on your own merits on a case by case basis. Do not spend a lot of your time comparing yourself to a seller who's talking on the forums about something that sounds like you, because you don't know their account history, you don't know how many appeals they've submitted, you don't really know what's going on with their account in other words, so stick to your facts. Don't talk about trends, don't comment on things. I mean, certainly mentioned your documentation. That's going to be very important if you're dealing with product quality teams or any kind of inauthentic item complaints, item quality issues. Make sure investigators know where to look in your content. Otherwise, they're going to spend a little bit of time on you, think that you don't really have what they expect from you or what they need from you and they're going to move on pretty quickly.
Chris So what I was saying a moment ago where's the operational failure, where is the bad batch of product and are you not using that supplier anymore? That's the information they need for these types of things. Don't waste time blaming buyers saying that they just want to return things and not have to pay return shipping. They've heard that a million times. They want to see responsibility and ownership. They don't want to see you blaming a competitor for creating a buyer account to buy from you. They're aware as we all are, that that happens. It doesn't happen nearly as often as sellers suggests and I certainly see that on a daily basis in terms of when I speak to sellers about why they lost a listing or why they were suspended, they almost always begin with somebody else did this to me.
Chris: Obviously, I worked there and I've worked as a consultant for awhile now, since I understand the circumstances that lead to those types of situations, but I know how this stuff works. The process is you are being told by Amazon that there's a problem. You might want to disagree or debate with them, whether or not there's a problem, that's not going to get you anywhere. If you think you've got a smoking gun that directly to one competitor, one seller, who's got a past history of giving you problems and you think you can direct Amazon straight there, then go for it, give it a shot. That's not going to be anything useful, 96 times out of 100, let's say. So the odds are, you need to put together a plan of action that speaks to what went wrong, how you fix the problem, and also be convincing. Show them that you've permanently fixed it because investigators are not interested in seeing your account a month from now from the same perspective or for the same problems.
Chris: Otherwise, it looks to them like they erroneously reinstated you the first time and there'll be 10 times harder on you the second time. Another topic that's taught in the forums and elsewhere, when do you escalate? How do you escalate? Who do you escalate to? There's a lot I could say about this. I'll try to keep it condensed and concise here today, but I understand how people are stuck in these sort of endless email loops, asking for more information. Typically, sellers start talking escalation with me a lot sooner than they should. They want to escalate a plan of action. They show it to me and it's nothing they should be escalating. It's maybe halfway there, maybe contains a half to a third of the information they need. If you start escalating with an incomplete or insufficient POA, plan of action, you're not going to get anywhere. Your escalation is going to just stall as your emails into the general queues do.
Chris: So double check things, double check the POA, make sure somebody who's knowledgeable gets a pair of eyes on it, at least before you submit it. Make sure you go over your documentation. It's complete. It's not obviously going to get rejected for being illegible, way too old, that sort of thing. I also want to take a moment to talk about again, the forums bringing up email Jeff. Jeff is supposed to be the last resort. The Jeff@amazon email, I understand that it's gone public, people know about it more than they know about processes I use, but for example, the product quality teams, you can escalate within those teams. You can ask a senior investigator or a manager to review your case. Before you do things that might close you off for good. If you appeal to Jeff prematurely and they say no, then where do you go from there?
Chris: That's supposed to be your last resort and you're supposed to have 100% solid POA when you send it to Jeff and you should have a pretty good escalation letter to go with it that explains why you need executive seller relations or Jeff or anybody else beyond seller performance just to review your case. You don't necessarily have to point fingers for half the document, but you need to express that you don't feel that the information you gave had any gaps, it was complete, you know how it was complete and you want else to review it, somebody higher up and perhaps somebody away from the team that's been reviewing your suspension or your appeal because you don't think that you've had enough proper scrutiny of your plan. You feel like it's complete, you feel that everything they requested you've submitted. Escalation is not simply, I'm not getting an answer that's customized or personally written. I need to make sure that an actual person is reading the email.
Chris: People are reading your emails. I know the pre-written standardized language doesn't necessarily look like it's sometimes, but those are manual investigations. Investigators are looking at your account, they're looking at your appeal. I understand they might be doing it quickly or insufficiently but you're not being treated by a bot and then you have to go straight to Jeff. That's not how this stuff works. There are other escalation cues. There are other teams that you can ask for help before you do the Jeff email. If you're not going to get any sort of viable or detailed answers from those teams, then yes, of course the executive seller relations option is open to you.
Chris: I'm just going to wrap that up by saying, make sure you have your ducks in a row before you start firing escalation emails all over town, because I've seen a lot of people do it poorly. I've seen a lot of people do it prematurely and they tend to greatly reduce their odds of getting the result they want by doing it in a hasty or irresponsible manner. So certainly take a minute. I understand there's a lot of anxiety and panic even when your finances are crunched and you're not getting the sales on your account that you're expecting on a daily basis that you've projected. But it just won't do you any favors to rush or stumble through that escalation process.
Chris: Great. So don't panic. This is what I was saying a moment ago. Not everybody wants to, or has the ability to hire me or retain me to work on their cases with them, help them craft their plans and basically learn the proper ways to communicate with seller performance and product quality. So we've created Frustration-free Amazon. Here's the link to it. We'll talk about the special offer in a minute, but basically what is this? This is an online course that guides you through what you should do when you're composing a plan of action. I mean, we've got proven track record and success with doing reinstatements for people.
Chris: Obviously our approach works and we're proud of that and we're also proud of our record with that methodology that we use. We've taken the time to create a digital product that will help you teach yourself these skills so that the next time this happens, you'll know what needs to go into a plan of action. Hopefully there is no next time. But if you've got a suspended account and you need to find the right way to get back on all my tips, all my expert level recommendations are in Frustration-free Amazon. So certainly don't, like I said, rush things, don't make any hasty decisions or actions, don't jump on the phone and assume that you're going to get the best tips from the seller support teams that you contact because they could easily send you off in the wrong direction, just because they need to tell you something when you're on the phone with them.
Chris: The best thing to do is to analyze your own situation, come to your own conclusions about complaints you've had from buyers, what's driving metric misses. If you had late shipment problems, any metrics that you've missed. You need to sit down for a moment and come to your own conclusion about what went wrong and then you have to grab your best writer and come up with some solid correspondence to craft the right kind of appeal. So let me know if you have any questions on that.
Liz: Super. Thank you so much, Chris. We did fill up today, which is crazy. So if you have anybody contacting you saying, "Oh, I can't get in." Know that all registrants will be emailed the recording. So that's good. I'm going to talk to you for just a couple of seconds about customer service. So remember the golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated, and the same goes for customer service. So you're a customer of Amazon, you want timely responses to your questions. You want to reach the right person at the right time. Now think about your customers and the fact that they want the same. Responding to your customers and dressing their issues is so important to you as an Amazon seller.
Liz: As I'm Liz Fickenscher, I work for eComEngine and Feedback Five is our feedback automation tool. We've been helping sellers address buyer concerns and address negative feedback since 2009. So we're coming up on a big anniversary. So how does Feedback Five help you? Amazon has pretty clear rules about how you are and are not allowed to communicate with your customers. You're permitted to ask for feedback and Feedback Five helps you do that, but you're also allowed to address customer concerns or complaints because Feedback Five imports your orders, you have a place to monitor the feedback or product reviews you receive from your customers and respond to them when they have concerns or when they leave you negative feedback or leave a negative product review. And you receive alerts from Feedback Five so you can address the problem immediately. It's the kind of customer service we all want, right?
Liz: So when you combine great customer service with a timely response, you make it easier for your customers to update or remove negative feedback. That will increase the likelihood of them doing that. And your solicitations, while Feedback Five comes equipped with email templates and campaigns that are ready to go, you can go the extra mile and customize the content of your emails that you send, solicit feedback and product reviews, and you can set campaign rules for those emails so that your customers get the right communication at the right time. Again, just to reiterate the bottom line is to think like Amazon and always put the customer first and provide excellent customer service.
Liz: Feedback Five has offered product review management for a while now. So we've been doing feedback management since 2009, product review management for a little bit less time than that and we also offer the ability to match buyers to reviews. Our PRM feature can help you monitor product reviews on ASINs that you're currently selling or considering selling. And this is important so you can address concerns right away if the review is one for one of your private label brands or for one of your orders. Feedback Five would inform you through our buyer match feature, and you can contact the person who actually left the review, if there's a match rather than hunting through all your orders to find the right person. Opening the lines of communication, this way enables you to address your unhappy customers who may have left a negative review, so you can fix their situation and make them happy.
Liz: You can thank your happy customer for their positive reviews too. Feedback Five's product review management feature helps you be a more proactive, more responsive seller. And remember the golden rule, treat your customers the way you want to be treated. Before I turn it back to Chris for questions, I think we've got several of them. I want to share with you some special offers from Chris. Any comments?
Liz: So Chris, do you want to tell about your promotion?
Chris: Yeah, I can do mine first. The sneak peak for Frustration-free Amazon is designed to give you a slice and the taste and the flavor of what we're doing there. In other words, how it looks and how it will feel for you to guide yourself through my recommended steps, my methodology towards a successful POA, of course. We all understand that sometimes they do bounce back. Plan of action, ask you for a second revised version we've accommodated that as well in our product, because we have as many followup steps for you to take, as we can think of the different kinds of suspensions, of course in order to do a revision, if you need one but primarily building a plan of action with root causes that make sense and proactive solutions in your plan of action that will convince Amazon that you've reviewed things thoroughly, what's going on, and you've also taken a preventative action to prevent this from happening again and get you reinstated. So that's what Frustration for Amazon's for and certainly if there's any questions about the digital product, I'm always available to answer those.
Liz: Awesome. And for eComEngine products, we're offering a 30 day free trial. If you use the coupon code that you see on the screen for Feedback Five. It's FB5-ECC for e-commerce crews and the same for RestockPro and then 150 free credits with eComSpy. So I'm just going to leave this up and we're going to turn to questions and Chris is going to answer some of your questions. So Chris, take it away.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, a couple of these seem like they're edged case or one-offs. So I'm going to stick with things that will impact the majority of people listening. I'm going to start with the, "How do you get approved for multiple accounts?" This is kind of a big and tricky subject because Amazon itself, I think wasn't sure how they wanted to deal with multiple accounts that had been created potentially years earlier without being detected and had sold without metrics misses or policy problems. But multiple accounts itself can be a policy problem if you haven't set it up correctly. If you haven't asked bottom line seller performance for permission to have multiple accounts and given them legitimate reasons for approving you to have more than one, what are legitimate business reasons?
Chris: Well, typically for accounting purposes, two different legal entities, different owners, different texts, ID numbers, not just one of these things, all of these things typically because you need to prove to them that you're not gaining a competitive advantage by having a second account, especially not selling the same or similar items. You need to show them why they should have an extra account to keep an eye on. Otherwise, you're just creating additional work for them if they have two or three of your accounts and you haven't gotten permission for them now is the time before they really scrutinize what's going on out there or build a tool that'll do it. You need to figure out, "Should I be deactivating listings on a certain account, if I've already got multiple accounts?"
Chris: If you don't have multiple, you want a second one come up with those legitimate business reasons, present them to seller performance in a meaningful way that will make sense to them, which will probably result in them granting you a second account if it looks like and feels like a legitimate business reason. If it just seems like it's a lower level, matter of convenience to you, or if it looks like you're going to be selling the same things on more than one account, and it's just you and a family member want to sell separately, you don't know what kind of response you're going to get to that. So put some time and effort into this particular issue and ask them to annotate both accounts so that there is not confusion down the road about whether or not you've been approved to have multiple accounts. So, that's an important distinction to make.
Chris: There's a question, "How do you contact seller performance rather than seller central?" I guess that means seller support. Seller performance is the team you contact by email. So email@example.com. If you're talking about the UK it's firstname.lastname@example.org. For policy issues, you're doing seller-performance-policy@amazon. Obviously if you send it to seller performance, they're theoretically going to transfer it over to the appropriate team, if it's a policy issue, but why give them the opportunity to lose your contact which could cost you a couple of days. I mean, it's best to send it to the proper place first.
Chris: I'm just going to keep going through this list, Liz. I had an interesting question here about the next level of escalation. Who do you contact before you contact Jeff? I addressed that in the middle of the webinar today in terms of ask for a senior investigator or a manager to review your case and present some solid reasons why you need that to happen. Don't just do it for the sake of it. I'm not sure that'll be taken seriously, present some arguments about why you think you've provided everything they've asked for. Maybe even give them a couple of bullets off of your plan of action, highlighting how you've addressed everything and you just feel that it wasn't properly reviewed by investigators. Clearly if you've sent them nine or 10 emails and investigators are sifting through all those account annotations, it's easy for things to get missed.
Chris: So send fewer contacts, be more concise. If you're not getting through the way you need to escalate within the team that you're writing to first in this case, seller performance. If you're not getting anything out of that, yes, then you can go to Jeff, which is the jeff@amazon email. I'm not sure about who is the next level of escalation if you're asking beyond Jeff, because Jeff's at the top of the company and executive seller relations is the team that handles a lot of this stuff. So there aren't too many ways of getting around executive seller relations if you've gone through them and seller performance. They're probably kicking things back to you because something's missing in your plan of action. So make sure you're reviewing the details of what you're sending them, even things like, look at the format. Make sure that you're not sending them long paragraphs that they can't sift through.
Chris: You're sending them numbered lists, bulleted lists, maybe an introduction paragraph, which is like a few lines long and a quick conclusion at the end, at the bottom, but don't have... this is not a prose, creative writing workshop. This is not a prose exercise. Make it easy to read, easy to digest, preferably a page to a page and a half maximum, unless you've really got some details that you have to get into. Let's see, examples of causes, I guess that says account suspension causes. Anything under the sun, these days it's mostly policy violations or item quality complaints from buyers. We've seen lately a spike in people getting suspended for notice claim of infringements, trademark violations. We could do an entire webinar just on that. Sometimes parties that aren't even related to the brand are submitting rights owner complaints to Amazon, and those claims of infringement aren't necessarily being vetted currently in a way that would screen out parties that are not the actual brand or an agent for that brand.
Chris: That's one reason people are getting suspended and it's hard to come back from those suspensions, of course, because Amazon typically wants you to resolve the problem with the rights owner before you even appeal. Again, that's a longer conversation, but infringement claims, item quality complaints, too many of those, maybe anecdotal complaints from buyers that you can't even see on your account that they get from people who didn't return the item to you, or didn't ask for a refund, but that did contact Amazon and asked for their money back. So you have to be familiar with your account on an intimate level.
Chris: I don't recommend Amazon account managers delegate too many important core responsibilities that deal with performance and policy teams to lower level or lesser trained employees. I recommend that everyone stays on top of this stuff all the time, every day, and even down to customer messaging responses, for example, make sure your messages are going back out to buyers on weekends, not just during the week. Amazon's a seven days a week operation, 24 hours a day and you want to cover most of those hours to keep you away from things like suspensions. Liz, did you see anything in here that looked particularly interesting to you?
Liz: Sorry, I was reading questions.
Chris: Yeah, go ahead.
Liz: Sorry. I think that, they're all interesting. I think you just got a really good one now, just now.
Chris: I'm trying to scroll down. There's some questions that just came in a minute ago that maybe I haven't read yet and I'm doing this on the fly so just bear with me. Just to follow up to the multiple account issue. You've already had two, you've had them for awhile. I understand that that can be, should I bring it to their attention now? It's a judgment call actually, if they're not hassling you about it right now, I recommend people be proactive by looking at, listings, consolidation, make your own evaluation. Are you selling the same items on two accounts? I mean, does it look like it could be perceived as a competitive advantage to an Amazon investigator if a competitor reports you? Because don't forget a lot of people have been flying under the radar with multiple accounts for awhile and they think that they're through this and it's not an issue for them. It's somebody else's problem, but maybe you haven't been reported by competitor yet for having two accounts.
Chris: Well, that creates a reason for them to flag you. Maybe you haven't listed the same ASIN on both accounts yet. But if you did, then that would be something that be reported and then you'd have to explain that. So just because it's worked for a couple of years, doesn't mean it works for the next couple in front of us. They could have tool changes that result in more investigations from multiple accounts. They've already sent out some email blasts about multiple accounts saying, "Hey, if you've got more than one account, realize that this is outside of policy." Obviously, they haven't cracked down by shutting everybody's accounts immediately, who they think are doing this, but there's enough public information out there that you can make a risk assessment on whether or not you're going to queue up for an investigation and just understand that you might not get a warning.
Chris: They might just take one of your accounts away. So that'll create messes for you in terms of products in FBA that you've got on the other account. Historically in the past, they would send a warning, but I've also seen things that they warned for in terms of either again, claims of infringement or other policy violations, where in the past they sent warnings. Now they go straight to things like suspension and I think we can all agree that that's where things are trending. And then I can kind of answer any other questions about multiple accounts later. That's a large topic. Let's see, "Product is under investigation, should we send any emails or wait for an answer? I've been waiting about two weeks."
Chris: If you've been waiting for two weeks, that's a long time. I mean, their cues are way backed up right now. To me that means it's time to follow up and certainly you don't want to follow up 24 hours later if you haven't heard and start blanketing them with emails passing each other in the night, because that can be very confusing for them and it won't necessarily move things forward for you. But two weeks is a long time. There's a possibility that your contact was resolved without a reply. Sometimes investigators annotate your account based on what you've written and they either skip a step and forget to send you a response, or if you've sent them 10 or 12 messages about his particular product and they told you that they're not going to answer you anymore and of course, you've waited two weeks after that, you can't really expect a response there. You're going to have to escalate that. So, that kind of depends on the situation a little bit.
Chris: I'm trying to just scroll through the list and see the ones that aren't one-offs. Let's see here. There's a question about negotiating flat rates with Amazon. I don't really have an answer for you there. You can reach out to me later and I'll try to find somebody who can talk to you. Flat rate contract pricing. That's not really something that's seller support or seller performance related. So I'm going to stick to those questions. There's no getting set up on Vendor Central. You have to be invited to do Vendor Central. That's considered first-party. Most of what I'm talking about today is third-party marketplace accounts issues. So if Amazon wants to buy from you and have you as a vendor, they will send you an invitation for vendor central. Just keep in mind that you don't have much control over that relationship when you do first party. So Amazon makes the rules and it's not the same flexibility that you have as a three piece seller. So just to kind of go through that.
Chris: Let's see. More questions about the Jeff emails. Is there anything else that I should cover? One more question maybe, Liz. Okay. Yeah. So just to cover the Jeff issue again. Don't go straight to Jeff. I mean, I've seen people jump the track and do a Jeff escalation successfully. Obviously, anything that happens a certain amount of the time will be successful some of the time. Is that a high percentage play? If your plan of action is maybe so or if you've got a hastily written email, asking for an escalation because you're wonderful and you've sold on Amazon for years. No, it's not a high percentage play. That's a low percentage play. So all the work I do in my consulting and advising with sellers is to maximize the percentage of chance that they will have a higher level person in an escalation review and accept the content, which means, again, there's two things if you're escalating, you need to have the plan of action and you need to have a reason for the escalation, whether we call that an email or an escalation letter and who exactly it goes to depends somewhat on the case.
Chris: Just don't go straight to Jeff, understand your situation. Try to get some information back from them if possible on what exactly was missing from your plan of action. If they're not going to give you that you have to dig deeper and you have to find some solutions on your own, to the proper solutions to your problems. You may have presented some solutions, but maybe they were too vague. They might be looking for details that will convince them that they can confidently reinstate you and that these issues won't crop up again. So if you're low on detail or if you're not convincing them, because it seems like your solutions are a bit off the mark, then they won't reinstate. They'll send a general denial or they'll send a follow up asking for more information. So maybe I should take a moment to talk about these requests.
Chris: We still need more information. Well, what does that mean exactly? It means that they are saying something's missing from your plan that you need to provide. They're not necessarily going to tell you what's missing and then have you simply write an email about that and then reinstate you. I mean, that's not how this works and that's not how it should work. They are going to tell you that you need to go back, look at the causes of the problems again. Obviously, with item quality complaints of buyers, there's a variety of sources of those types of problems, but want you to craft something holistic. They think there's a systemic issue with your account. These aren't one offs, or maybe they're are one offs, but there's too many of them and they need you to figure out what's going on with your item quality or why you're shipping late or why you're getting too much negative feedback.
Chris: And it gets down to the nitty gritty at that point. They want you looking at your operations, not just your account, not just trying to make customer service amends after the fact. A plan of action is meant for you to show them that you're taking preventative steps, proactive steps, so that the kinds of issues you've had in the past won't happen again. Otherwise, you're taxing their resources more and they spend more time looking at your account in a world where they ideally, never want to look at your account, unless it's a category manager who wants to talk to you about expanding your selection, or somebody wants to talk to you about selling in a different category. That's related because you've had success in the category that you're in.
Chris: Those are the kinds of conversations they want to have with Amazon sellers. They don't want to handhold in seller performance. They don't have the resources for it, they don't have the time for it, they don't have a head count for it and that's what on your side, you need to make sure that your written correspondence with them is as tight as possible, the first time out, or the second time out. By the third time, they're starting to tune you out if you're not giving them what they need. So I think that's it for the questions now. I mean, I'll look at them up afterwards and I'll throw it back to you, Liz.
Liz: Okay, great. If you did submit a question and you didn't get an answer, I will make a list of those and I'll get them over to Chris. Hopefully, we can get a blog post together for you guys to answer any unanswered questions. If you need to contact Chris just let me know and I'll put you in touch with him. Thank you very much today. Again, we did fill up. So if anybody hears from anybody who wasn't able to get in, we did record and we are going to be sending out the recording. So really appreciate everybody's time today. Again, if your question wasn't answered, we will address that a little bit later and I hope everybody has a really great day. Thanks for joining us and thank you, Chris so much.
Chris: Thank you Liz.
Originally published on March 17, 2017, updated June 17, 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.