Originally published on June 28, 2019, updated July 1, 2020
Liz Fickenscher had a great conversation with Michael Melgar and Tygh Walters, co-founders of SellerSmile. Their organization allows you to outsource all your eCommerce customer service needs.Watch the webinar above, or read the show notes below.
Michael and Tygh have the ability to dive deep into complicated topics but keep the conversation engaging, which is a wonderful trait and speaks to their passion for excellent customer service and communication.
They presented seven ways that eCommerce sellers, particularly those who are selling through Amazon FBA, can be proactive with their customer service, especially with Prime Day quickly approaching. In the video, they share a few key facts about Prime Day including:
Preparation is key, especially when it comes to providing quality customer service. Being prepared for an uptick in sales starts with smart listing management. Keep reading to learn about seven eCommerce customer service tips you can implement for your business.
You will have more traffic coming to your Amazon listings in the days surrounding Prime Day. Your product descriptions had better be accurate! Make sure:
In terms of your outbound messaging, there are some things you should ask yourself:
Prime Day and Q4 mean more eyes on your Amazon reviews and seller feedback, as well as an opportunity to get more of each. Have strategies for:
In the discussion with SellerSmile, they noted, "Remember, you're hoping the resolution will encourage reviewers to update their rating. You need to wow these customers more than usual."
Since you can't ask a buyer to change or remove a product review, Liz asked Michael and Tygh what sort of success rate they'd seen with people just voluntarily changing reviews. They did a case study with one client and the change rate was actually 5%!
Since reviewers don't get notifications when a seller comments on their review, the comments in the reviews are for future buyers to see what a conscientious seller you are.
There's a balance between personalized communication and speed of response that is important for sellers to keep. Michael and Tygh's tips are:
While you can't ask friends and family members to leave you product reviews (against TOS), you can ask them to test out the buying experience, and your products, so you can identify any problems ahead of time. Here are SellerSmile's tips for success:
Of course, the ideal scenario is to never run out of stock. But when you're ordering from manufacturers overseas or face other supply chain issues, it could happen. Tygh suggests:
Time is your most valuable asset, no matter what your business is like. We talked about how many Amazon sellers, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors can have a hard time letting go of certain tasks. That's natural, but shying away from outsourcing and automation can really slow down your growth.
Michael and Tygh built SellerSmile to help Amazon sellers by automating their eCommerce customer service tasks. They CARE about customer service, and it shows. Contact SellerSmile if you have any questions for them after you watch the video!
Liz: Hi, everybody, it's Liz Fickenscher from eComEngine. I'm super excited today. I've got Tygh and Michael from SellerSmile with me. We're going to talk about customer service for the Amazon seller. One of the things that I talk about a lot with the sellers that I work with is internal process, what's working, what's not working. One of the biggest questions that I think exists for people who sell on the Amazon Marketplace is how can you exceed customer expectation when you're selling on Amazon, because it's a lot more restrictive than selling on your own store or selling in a brick and mortar.
Liz: Specifically, I get questions around how the FBA seller can provide good customer service. So I'm really glad that you guys are here because the answers to these questions, and we've got Prime Day right around the corner, we've got Q4 rapidly approaching. So let's talk customer service workflow, but first tell me about SellerSmile. How'd you guys get into all this?
Michael: Yeah, Liz. Thanks so much for having us on. We're super excited. Tygh and I met at one of our last jobs where I had originally started as director of customer success at Seller Labs. So Seller Labs mixed tools, such as Feedback Genius similar to Feedback Five at eComEngine and that was really my first introduction into E-commerce. Prior to that, though, I had worked at an Apple third party retail store, where we were providing customer service for people who didn't know how to use computers and who needed help with really technical stuff.
Michael: A lot of that transferred over into Seller Labs because folks a lot of E-commerce sellers or average everyday people who maybe just got started, and now they're wanting to set up their outbound messaging or use one of our other tools. During our time there, Tygh and I found just, I guess, how challenging it is for an Amazon seller to be able to provide good customer service. It's surprisingly difficult because when you think about customer service, and this is an idea that Tygh and I talk about a lot, customer service isn't just replying to emails, there's so much more that goes into that.
Michael: A lot of what you'll notice we talked about is really more proactive customer service, things that really benefit the end user, the shopper, before they even decide to purchase from you. So if I could boil that idea down into one thing, and what SellerSmile believes in, is if you check this on amazon.jobs, their top leadership principle is customer obsession. They say leaders start with the customer and work backwards.
Michael: They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers. So in essence, that's what SellerSmile believes in and everything that we do, we do to try to learn from the customer, be able to provide them a better experience for Amazon sellers who we manage their customer service for and that's kind really what SellerSmile is all about.
Tygh: Michael, if I could put the spotlight on you for a second, we worked together, I noticed those qualities in you right away, you had empathy. You go the extra mile and you went the extra mile years ago for a customer to make sure they got the resolution that they deserved and needed. Those are the same types of qualities we're bringing into SellerSmile today with and those are the same qualities that Amazon is highlighting is what makes them successful. So in our mind, the more we can make SellerSmile like Amazon, the more that will find success.
Liz: That's awesome.
Tygh: So to kick off the context of this episode, we'll be talking about seven ways FBA sellers can be proactive with their customer service for Prime Day. When we talked about this episode in this content, there's context of Prime Day that needs to be understood. This year will be the longest Prime Day Ever. Amazon is setting another precedent going 48 hours. It's going to be bigger with more deals. There's more shoppers than ever before. All that aside, it's easy to get overwhelmed, but the advice that we're giving today about proactive customer service applies any month of the year.
Tygh: Prime Day is an excellent time to start doing these things. Do your customer service audits, make sure your ducks are in a row, because then when it comes down to it, you're not overwhelmed with the volume that comes in Prime Day, and in reality, Peter Kearns says this, and I like it. He says that Prime Day is really prep for Q4. This is a way to stress test your systems with the volume, the inquiries, the promotions that are all flying around. If you're running well on Prime Day, you can guess that you'll be running well in Q4.
Tygh: Now we talk about proactive customer service. Jeff Bezos has a quote. He says, let's see. Jeff Bezos says, the best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you. It just works. So in a way, it's not this glitter and celebration and something that's totally unexpected and over the top. A lot of times, customers aren't aware that they've had a customer service interaction because it was designed and proactive, and they got their product in one or two days, and everything's working great.
Tygh: So some of the strategies that we're talking about are going to make sure that type of situation happens much more often. We're looking for places of friction, trying to reduce that, trying to meet the customer, where they are and have a great experience shopping.
Liz: That's awesome, great.
Michael: A lot of E-commerce sellers might be doing their customer service themselves, a lot of these tips will still apply to them but it'll make it even easier if you are working with a customer service team to enact some of these tips as you scale, because it's something that as you scale, obviously, there's more people that have to stay and keep in the same loop and make sure that you guys are all on the same page. So some of these tips will apply to a team and to an individual customer service.
Liz: All right. So we've got seven to cover. Let's get started. Who goes first?
Michael: The very first one, Is I'll pick it off. Very first one is reviewing your listings. So there's a heavy focus on, whenever an Amazon seller setting up their listing, making sure they have the proper keyword, proper search terms for buyers to come to their listing, and we see an equal amount of importance, making sure that your listing is providing the information that is necessary for your shopper to complete their purchase.
Michael: So, if we think about this in the context of Prime Day or Q4, there's going to be more people coming to your listings. Even if you're not running Prime Day deals, even if you're not running an actual promotion, there's still going to be more people on Amazon and increasing the likelihood of people coming to your listing. So what does that mean? That means you have to ask yourself questions with looking at your listings, things like, does your listing clearly state what's included? Does your product images include other items, other things that are sold separately, things like that.
Michael: Does your product packaging copy match what is on your listing? So this is oftentimes a really interesting issue where your listing might promise something, or maybe your packaging says, hey, don't forget to do this, and then when you go and check, there's an obvious discrepancy, maybe from when there was an update, and we just never got back to changing it. So something like that to keep in mind.
Michael: Does your product listing clearly explain all available sizes or variations? If that is something that your product offers, you want to make sure that your listing clearly states that information, maybe even include a sizing chart. If there's such thing for your products, make sure that that information is one of your product images, if it can be. Are there specific aspects about your products that your buyer should know? For example, does your product tend to run larger or smaller?
Michael: Is there a difference in material in comparison to other similar products, things like that, we see a lot of that with a lot of our clients where maybe their product is in a similar niche. So other customers are going to say, oh, well, I was expecting this but it might just be as simple, a copy that you need to be able to explain. Then really any common questions, any sort of FAQ, try to make sure that that information is listed somewhere on your listing because again, if someone purchases something that they didn't realize wasn't going to work for them, that's going to create a negative customer experience, and that creates a refund, a return, hat have you, it's going to hurt your metrics, but it's also going to make that customer probably not want to shop from you again. This is how you can avoid that situation.
Liz: That's awesome. Speaking of metrics comments, eComEngine makes Feedback Five, and we do a lot of thinking about seller reputation and it seems like all of the product listing details, the description, packaging, copy, all of the stuff that you just mentioned, also would impact your seller feedback. I know that you guys are going to talk about reputation management in terms of how to respond and react to feedback and customer reviews because that's obviously part of the workflow but doing things to avoid bad feedback at the front end, like making sure your listings are completely up to date. So you don't get dinged for something not being as described or your packaging is a proactive way to manage your seller reputation, right?
Michael: Exactly. In fact, through being able to clearly describe what is included with your product, that it's definitely going to impact your seller feedback because, as many Amazon sellers probably know, seller feedback is about the experience buying from you. So your listing is a part of that and you will see that information. Again, that can be of consequence of perhaps not having a clearly defined outline on your listing about some of that information. So definitely can impact your seller feedback and in a positive way as well. If you did a great job explaining it, that's just something else that will hopefully contribute towards a positive feedback there.
Tygh: On this note, there are so many touch points to juggle things that a seller is exposed to, that can affect your seller feedback and affect your public reputation. We're going to be covering many of these kind of coming up with the next points, but certainly there will be more in the future that Amazon debuts. The idea is for a seller, think about all the touch points, they see my brand name, they go through to buy my product or to learn about it and research it and that's what we're really trying to control to make it consistent and speak the type of message that we want to, to our buyers.
Liz: From the beginning to the very end. I like that a lot.
Michael: I think the word consistency is a great word to describe that as your customer, their trust in shopping from you can be impacted by seeing that consistency and if it is inconsistent, it might be indicative of like, okay, I don't know that I want to shop from them because I might have trouble if I do have an issue with this product. The second tip that we'd like to talk about today is reviewing your outbound messaging. So this is perfect, especially if you use a tool like Feedback Five.
Michael: Take time, we saw this a lot when we worked with Feedback Genius even, where sellers would set it and forget it. That is a problem. That's something that should be in the past now, because with as many updates to Amazon's TOS with the types of messaging that you can send to your buyers, it becomes increasingly important to really spend time reviewing your outbound messaging in a more consistent basis.
Michael: Especially for Prime Day and Q4, you definitely want to take time to review your outbound messaging to see what you're currently saying and to really note any potential opportunities. For example, one of the best ways that you can use it as productive customer service is, first off, do your customers know how to contact you? Your email should clearly state, hey, if you have any problem whatsoever, feel free to reply to this email.
Michael: With tools like Feedback Five, if they reply to your email, it'll go directly to your seller central buyer seller messaging. So they can contact you literally by replying to the email. If you offer a warranty, is that information clearly stated on your outbound message? Make sure to explain that because again, it's increasing buyer confidence. If you're sending a message after the order has been confirmed or it's been shipped, you can say, hey, your order has been shipped today.
Michael: Here's some quick information about your batch of purchase. If you need to use your warranty, here's how long it goes for. Here's how to submit a claim if you need it, things like that. You're not necessarily encouraging your buyer to go do that at that time, but you are giving them this information so that if they have a problem, they know what to do. Kind of like similar to your product listings, if you have common product questions, FAQs, things that you frequently hear in your buyer messages, trying to see if you can go ahead and include it in your message.
Michael: Some of the best outbound messages that I've seen, say, hey, you just ordered this product. We wanted to give you some quick tips on how to use it. See our attached PDF, it'll show you how to set it up, it'll show you how to get the best use and your buyer knows what to do the moment that they get their order because you can even send that message before the order even arrives. Lastly, make sure that your messaging is obviously compliant with Amazon's TOS.
Michael: You want to make sure that you're not asking them to leave you a review, or you're not trying to influence their review to only ask for positive review, things like that. Really take the time, and we obviously have opinions on what we believe is stated in some of the TOS and compliance messaging but we totally advise you to take the time and read it for yourself because you might have a different interpretation of what Amazon is stating by this, but some of that can be black and white as well.
Liz: I know that I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to TOS. I'm very hyper aware of TOS and what I recommend is that you bookmark those different pages, the review page, the feedback page, the community guidelines, because it's not all in one place, is it? That tells you like, okay, when you're communicating with the buyer, here's what you can and can't do. It's a bunch of different places on Seller Central and the wording can change sometimes.
Liz: So what I recommend is bookmark those pages in Seller Central, visit them often, memorize them if you have to, and then be willing to switch if Amazon does change the wording a little bit, because it's your job as a seller to know the rules. You can't very well get in trouble for your buyer seller messaging, and then submit your POA and say, oh, I didn't know. That doesn't work.
Michael: It's easy to get into trouble with that, and there's even tools that allow you to monitor any page changes. You can literally just sign up for a tool that will send you an email if there's even like a slight word change. With Amazon's TOS, it's worth doing so.
Liz: We have that set up with, I can't remember the thing we use, but...
Tygh: You want to be an early adopter of white hat tactics. Always.
Liz: Definitely. So do you guys recommend sending all of this information in the same email? I know that there are rules about and definitely varying opinions on how many emails you can send per order. I know I like to stick with one because as a shopper, I don't want to get more than one email, but it seems like warranty information and FAQs and all of a sudden you end up with a really, really long email that you're sending to a buyer. So how do you guys recommend splitting up your outbound messaging into different...
Michael: Yeah, that's a great question, and what you mentioned there is as a shopper, I know what I would prefer. So start there first. If you were a shopper, do you want to receive back to back review requests? You're not going to want to receive that because they are shopping from you. They're shopping from other sellers. They're shopping from other storefronts altogether. They're getting emails all day. So your email really needs to stand out.
Michael: So one of the ways that we believe that your email really sends out is by being helpful, so you're including that information right up front. Now, the less emails the better, we would advise one email per order, if you can make that happen. If you have a really good reason to make two emails per order, I would really make sure that you have a really good reason and that it can be something that you can combine into one. In that case, I think it would depend on your unique product, because if your product constitutes sending information later in the experience, then maybe that makes sense.
Michael: So for example, let's say that maybe you sell a product where a shopper won't really know how they feel about it until weeks later-
Michael: Yeah, like supplements, for example. That could be one example, where you're not going to want to send them a message right away to ask them, hey, will you go leave us a review and tell us how it went? Because it doesn't really make sense to do so at that time. So I think in that regard, it will depend, but in general, you want to keep them to a minimum one is preferred. Honestly, if you can get away with it, make your More about customer service and I've seen a really great method be like, PS, if you're ready to leave your thoughts, share your thoughts with the Amazon community at this link here. So it's almost like-
Liz: I love that.
Michael: It's an afterthought. It's an afterthought because your buyers, again, they're getting hit up with review requests all the time.
Liz: Great. So just to wrap up, we've got warranty information we've got to share with buyers, we've got product information, sometimes we've got unboxing instructions. I know that I had one customer who wanted to send the unboxing instructions prior to the person receiving the order because he was afraid that it would get damaged and there'd be a lot of returns and all that kind of stuff. So what he ended up doing was he created a GIF of him unboxing the item and he just included that and said, here's a simple two second thing that will show you how to unbox my item. Then once you have a chance to take a look, I'd love it if you'd share your thoughts with the Amazon community.
Tygh: That's brilliant.
Liz: It was super and it was very, very clever and very succinct but still helpful. I think that what I see in the Feedback Five world in terms of conversion, open rates, that kind of stuff, obviously, and we'll talk about this later, subject line matters, but the more brevity and it's helpful as you can be if you can combine all those elements into your buyer seller messaging, that sets you up best for success.
Michael: Certainly, that's something we didn't touch on, but keeping your email as concise as possible is really important. A quick win is just make sure that you're using an extension like Grammarly, make sure that your email sounds correct and you're not just sending a blabber of confusing words. So that's going to make a really big difference for your buyer as well.
Liz: We also have people on staff at eComEngine who can help you tailor your messaging and I know you guys help with that, too. So if you don't think you can write a good email, ask for help. There's help out there.
Michael: Yeah, definitely
Tygh: Copywriting is a skill that some people aren't born with, and there's a sort of a science to it and done right, it can really influence a lot.
Liz: That's true. All right, what's number three guys?
Tygh: Number three, create or update your reputation management strategy. Reputation management is the term that Michael and I have learned and we used to sort of encompass how you are visible in the public places that people are talking about your brand, and because it's those public discussions that generate the reputation, it's your mom telling you that she had a horrible experience with brand X, so you shouldn't shop there.
Tygh: Nowadays, now online, it's on social media. It's on review comments and public reviews. So as a brand, we have some flexibility and some access to these points and really serious brand owners that want to maintain their reputation should be active in those forums. So I'll talk about some of the main ways that we do that and we can go from there. In the context of Prime Day, you're likely to get more people on your listing.
Tygh: We see this as an excellent opportunity not only to make sales, of course, but to gain a lot of feedback. You're going to get more comments about what people don't like about your products and don't like about your listing. So keep that in mind. I'm going to talk about how to systematize that as well, but first, let's talk about reputation management. Number one, we're going in and publicly responding to product reviews, negative and positive, we recommend all of them.
Tygh: Some sellers are overwhelmed because they get too many and it's difficult, but the best brands are doing this. They're crafting unique responses also for the star rating. So think about your negative product reviews. These are negative or critical, we're talking about one to three stars. In this case, since it detracts from your overall score, we're advising sellers to go in there and be as helpful as possible in a customer service sense. Just like in buyer seller messaging, we're addressing the reviewer by their first name, we're acknowledging that they had some type of issue or problem. We're offering the solution if we can, right there in the comments.
Tygh: Sometimes it's just education and misinformation. If further action is needed, if they deserve a replacement or a refund, we try to take that communication offline into buyer seller messaging by directing them how to reach us there. That way we can keep the details of the situation private, but we're publicly very helpful and directing them the best place to get that help from our team.
Liz: Just to clarify, that's in the actual comment section. That's the only place you're actually really allowed to address those product reviews, right?
Tygh: Right. Thank you for saying that. So the way Amazon is set up is you can make a public comment on any and all reviews, and though it's sometimes more difficult to find that reviewer and send them a direct message, Amazon is set up where a reviewer doesn't always have to use the buyer name that's associated with their account. So you can sometimes give your best guess, but connecting to that buyer directly is a challenge. So we're trying to do whatever we can, in this instance a public comment is going to be the best with directions on how to proceed in that case.
Michael: What we've found with public review responses is that oftentimes, it's more helpful for other shoppers. It may not necessarily go anywhere with that reviewer who left that product review because like Tygh was mentioning, there's not necessarily a great way to connect them to an order. There are tricks to do that, but it's not something that's consistent enough to really work every time, but when shoppers come and they see this critical review, someone's complaining about an issue they had, if they see that you as a seller saying hey, we're so sorry this happened.
Michael: It's possible this occurred because X, Y and Z, here's what we can do for you. Send us a message here, we're happy to help you. That sort of response is something that's only going to give your buyers confidence. Something to keep in mind is, even if, again, even if shoppers aren't necessarily buying from you, and you're seeing increased reviews, they're coming to your listings, and they're first looking at your reviews to see what's going on.
Michael: So a critical review isn't necessarily going to be a turn off, but perhaps how you respond to it might be something that will push them to make a purchase. In fact, there was something that I found from Spiegel Research Center. One of their studies found that 95% of buyers go through online reviews before purchasing anything. So with that in mind that most buyers are looking at product reviews before they buy anything, make sure that you're making it a helpful response so they can see that if they were to have a problem, they can shop with you with confidence
Tygh: To expound on that a little Michael, you talked about some buyers not really caring about a negative review. It's just the cost of doing business in an online world. I think generally people understand that there are sometimes angry and sad people online shopping and they're just negative no matter what, or it's worse and it's malicious black hat tactics. I think shoppers nowadays are savvy enough to understand that they expect to find that no matter where they go, but Michael and I are fixated on resolutions. We love putting an end to things.
Tygh: So the worst thing would be to see a negative review. I'm suspicious, whether or not it's authentic, but the brand and the seller did not respond. They had nothing to say about that. To me, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would love to see some type of follow up and resolution because then in my mind as a shopper, I'm thinking, well, this was on the buyer. The brand did their best to reach out and I know they're going to do that for me, if I have that issue.
Tygh: To talk about the opposite side of this. I think this is way under emphasized by sellers, but talking about positive product reviews. Everyone's worried about avoiding negative reviews and how to get them converted, but we need to celebrate the positive ones. People love to be acknowledged when they're supporting your brand in a public space. Jeff Cohen says this, if someone gave you a compliment at a party, you wouldn't just sit there and node in silence.
Tygh: You'd say, wow, thank you so much, shake their hand, and we need to figure out a way of doing that digitally, in the public marketplace that is these product reviews and wherever else these conversations are happening. So we have templates that we start with, where we're reaching out and saying, thank you so much, we really appreciate this, whatever it might be. Of course, it's always in the tone of the brand, and we're trying to create really passionate people about our brand so they spread the word, and they can have a story of, you know what happened today? This brand reached out to me and they acknowledged my review. It's so cool, it makes people feel special.
Liz: That's a great point. So when you respond to reviews like that positive and negative, you're hoping that for the negatives, the resolution will change, that the person who left a bad review will see that they can contact you and they'll get a refund, or they'll get a replacement and they'll go in and they'll be like, that was a really mean review I left. I'm going to change that, but most of the time, that's not going to happen. Do you guys see that happen? What kind of success rate have you seen in terms of reviewers revising their negatives into positives?
Michael: That's a great question. So that would be like the best outcome possible if the reviewer would respond back to it and change the review. Now, we did a case study with one of our clients on this and we found, and this is why we believe in this so much. We found that the conversion rate is actually quite low. It's 5%.
Liz: That's more than I thought it would be, honestly because they don't get an alert when somebody responds to their comment. So they would have to just, I believe, go to that Ace and look at the comments and look at that mean review I wrote, that was, oh, they responded, and then have that whole thought process. So I'm shocked that it's 5%.
Michael: It was still a surprising figure. To me, it was still disappointing, but still positive in the sense that, wow, it was actually more than I thought. Now, in terms of what the next best outcome is, is you will influence another potential shopper who sees you comment, and then they say, okay, I'm going to go ahead and buy from them, because they obviously explained how maybe this customer might have been confused with a feature, or they explained how they're going to help them. So I can pursue with confidence.
Tygh: Just a final note on reputation management in the context of Prime Day. I mentioned before that these are general strategies you should be following, but doing what we're calling a historical audit of your reputation management is actually something that could provide one time, specific value for Prime Day. So imagine your listings, if a shopper's coming to your listings on Prime Day, are their responses to these public reviews if they're reading them and which they most likely are?
Tygh: What you can do is you can go back to the beginning of your selling account and post a comment there. So no matter which comment is up voted, no matter which one Amazon says is most helpful, because it might be from a year ago, they're going to see that you've been responsive, and you've tried to offer a resolution in that case. So not only are we talking about going forward with this type of strategy, but look into the past if it's necessary, and try to be helpful there as well.
Michael: Go ahead, Liz. Sorry.
Liz: I do want to reiterate something that guys brought up before. Also, if you're asking for reviews or feedback as part of your reputation management strategy, this is absolutely the time to do an audit of the messaging that you're sending out. If you're going to have more orders, and there's something actually wrong with your email and it goes to more people, you have a better chance of getting flagged and Amazon is on high alert right now for review manipulation and people are actually getting dinged when they haven't done anything because something's close enough to an interpretation of TOS. You've got to get in there and you don't want that to happen at Prime Day or Q4, or anytime for that matter, but especially when you've got an opportunity for more sales, you definitely don't want your buyer seller messaging to get you dinged.
Michael: You want it to be a positive opportunity. You don't want it to be an opportunity waste, for sure. We're talking about maybe larger ideas here, but it might even be as simple as you might not realize you're using the incorrect call to action. Maybe you want more product reviews, or maybe you want more seller feedback, are you using the correct link? That's something that you want to take into account as well. Something as simple as that, but just to kind of wrap up our thoughts here on reputation management, you can do the same thing with your seller feedback as well.
Michael: With seller feedback, you can leave a comment on the seller feedback, you can request removal of seller feedback, but one of the-
Liz: Unlike product reviews.
Michael: Exactly. One of the upsides to that is that because you can manage your seller feedback through Seller Central or through another tool, it actually allows you to take the buyers' information like the order number or the Amazon buyer email address, and you can plug that into buyer seller messaging and send them a quick message. Hey, we're so sorry, we just noticed your seller feedback. We wanted to make sure that you got the help you needed. Here's what we can do for you and then, again, that's like taking a step further to really improve the resolution. You might create a future buyer from that.
Liz: That's great advice.
Tygh: Before moving on to the fourth tactic, I need to mention one more thing about product reviews. So Amazon recently debuted a new feature inside Seller Central. If you're a brand registered seller, you can now view this customer reviews dashboard. We were doing this manually before, using third party tools before. Now, Amazon is an option where you can view the product reviews on your brand, respond to them there, mark them as processed. This is all evidence to us that Amazon cares about this aspect of the shopping experience and they want shoppers to do it better and they want buyers to do it better at the same time.
Michael: Yeah, they definitely want to improve the overall review system by prompting buyers to leave better reviews. To get review prompts now, there's a review submission, it takes two days for the review to process things like that. Then for the seller, by connecting them closer to that shop or by giving them this reviews dashboard, they even have this action of marking a review as done. So it's like this gentle nudge to provide some sort of action-
Liz: Pay attention-
Michael: Hey, do something here. We see again, as Tygh mentioned, that's evidence that Amazon wants you to interact with these shoppers.
Tygh: Yeah. So the fourth way to be proactive with your customer service is to be fast, keep your response times low. It's a common source of customer service tickets that Michael and I experience where our customers just chiming in. Hey, did you see my email? Why haven't you responded yet? Are you still there? Am I with the right company? Certainly, that's three to four tickets in one interaction and it's a bad experience either way for the customer. So whatever it takes to be fast with your email responses, if you're doing it yourself, maybe you have to schedule multiple times throughout the day to keep your response time within hours instead of within days, maybe you need to hire a VA, maybe you need to build out a team or assign people on your current team to share this load.
Tygh: Since Amazon expects you to provide customer service 24 hours a day, every day of the year, even holidays, you have to be fast and you have to be flexible to meet your buyer with that expectation. Michael and I compare this to the expectations around shipping, prime shipping was the status quo. Now maybe it's going to be one day, it's same day shipping in metropolitan areas. The expectations around email communication, we believe are going to mirror that declining expectation towards faster and faster, less and less time.
Tygh: So the ways to do this, if you feel like you're slow or if you feel like you want to speed up, first of all, start with templates. You have common responses. There's the top five questions you get for every product, have those pre written and easily accessible, categorized in a certain way where you can find them and start with those. That's going to avoid having to type out a long email and all the repetitive parts, the greeting and intro, the signature, things like that.
Tygh: We want to automate the things that should be standard about the email, the grammar, and then we're going into that template and we're customizing it. One of the mistakes I think that sellers make is they respond, but you can easily tell that there's no unique aspect to that email, they probably sent that 100 times today, and I'm the 101. So there's sort of a simple formula we have towards writing good messages and keeping response times low.
Tygh: Start with that template. Greet the buyer by the first name, go in and type what you think they'd like to be called, acknowledge their experience. If they talked about their son using the product or their grandmother using the product, that's a great thing to quickly reference in your email. Make sure that they think feel heard that this is a problem in a situation and that they are right for their experience. Don't tell them that they're wrong, or they're incorrect at all and then close with the first name.
Tygh: We see it all the time people love to interact with a person. It's Michael, it's Tygh, it's Hannah and they sort of formed this bond throughout an email thread with that person and they appreciate seeing that consistency that Hannah knows my case, and she's responded every time since we started this conversation.
Michael: Like Tygh mentioned, you're going to get really common product questions that you're already aware of what those tend to be. Go ahead and document those, write up a quick explanation on some of those common questions, but also think about other common scenarios like whenever you have to explain to a shopper how to do a return or how to cancel their order, what their options are if they wanted to exchange something.
Michael: Go ahead and document those common processes, because whenever you do need it, it's ready to go, that's beneficial for you in terms of saving time, but as you scale as you have a team, it'll be even better for them because you're ensuring that everyone's answering questions accurately. Because by having these documented, you're avoiding the potential that someone's just going to go off documentation and just kind of write their own thing. Everyone's kind of on the same page instead.
Tygh: That's a great point, Michael. As you know, so we work with a team, we have a small team, we're all remote and we're responding on behalf of our clients and these brands. One of the things that makes them slow down, I've noticed is when they don't know what to do, or there's confusion. So having that flowchart of which template is the correct one to use, that actually affects the response time, so keep that in mind as well. Probably one of the things that has sped our team up the fastest in terms of the amount of tickets are able to process per hour is routing all of our communications into a third party ticketing system.
Tygh: There are several options out there, XL code, Desk by Salesforce, just got sunset now it's Service Cloud. We use Help Scout, Zendesk is a big one but this offers a lot of functionality and we're not going to get into too much, but tagging, auto categorizing, one click workflows, it helps our team respond quicker compared to the tools and the functionality that's offered directly when responding in Seller Central.
Michael: Even if it's just yourself, you might be tempted to say, oh, I don't need all this because I just respond to an email here and there. Believe me that as you scale, you're going to want to have that work done before you get to that point.
Liz: Well, and having that template in place and having the workflow and knowing which kind of template goes to which type of problem and having all that set up, that does save you the time to personalize the email like you guys were talking about before. So that that gives you time to read the email that came in, understand the objection, address that person personally as a person that understands their situation. So if all of that automation is set up, then you have time for the personalization, but if you don't and you're just starting every email from scratch, it takes forever. Trust me, because I've done it.
Michael: The instructions component of your message, you send that enough that can be a template portion but you addressing, oh, I'm so glad that this worked for your father or what have you. These are things that you can take the time to really personalize, as you mentioned. That personalization is going to make a big difference because again, your shoppers get so many emails every day. If you can stand out to them, that's going to make things really stand out for them in the future. Perfect example of this is like chewy.com. If you guys ever shopped from chewy, they incorporate their brand into it. They use the word, woof and stuff a lot. It's a little cheesy, but what people remember it and then they come back to it.
Tygh: Right on and maybe a final comment on the speed of responses and how that plays into training. When Michael and I first started SellerSmile, we had this onboarding process for new clients and it would be drawn out because we wouldn't exactly know which questions to ask right away because we hadn't experienced those scenarios. Over two and a half years, we've gotten to the point where we know which questions are the most important that set our team up instantly to know how to respond.
Tygh: Because a lot of times there's escalations between tier one and tier two, maybe the customer service team between the business owner. That drags tickets out, unnecessarily. Be fast, incorporate for everything right away. When we onboard now, we have this entire survey that our client or the seller fills out, and then based on the responses, we know what to do in maybe 80 90% of the cases right off the bat.
Liz: That's awesome advice. All right. Well, I want to be conscious of time. So let's move on to number five. You guys ready?
Michael: So number five is test your shopping experience. This was a little bit different than our other tips because it can apply to both your Amazon or off Amazon shop as well. One downside to being like an E-commerce owner or working with the company on a day to day basis is that you just get used to stuff. There's things that you might just see every day you're like, oh yeah, I know about that and you just put it in the back of your mind. So there might be this obvious, glaring detail about your listing, about your website, about your packaging or something that you're just not paying attention to but your shoppers see every single time and it makes a difference to them.
Michael: So what we mean by this, by testing your shopping experiences, you want to get a friend or family member to go through the process of buying from you. Now, I say this with a caveat in that this is not for the purpose of them to leave a review. This is for them to go through and just tell you what they found. You can come back to them and ask them questions like what stood out to you, was there something that was confusing to you or did you check out other competitor listings, was there something that they said that you thought was better that explained this feature a little bit better?
Michael: Did you have any concerns before you made your purchase? Was there anything that you're kind of holding back on? Anything that you feel like our listing sort of explained better? Do you know everything that's included with your purchase? Things like that. What you're trying to do is find these obvious issues that you just don't pay attention to because you spent so much time in your day to day Amazon management and what have you. So this is a very easy way to learn about perhaps some really quick wins that you can make, really quick changes that you can make, to your listings, to your messaging, to your packaging, things like that.
Tygh: We need to emphasize in this case, this step of the process should be completed by someone outside of your business organization. The industry jargon for this is journey mapping, going from the start of the process all the way through, maybe to a hypothetical refund or return or just a great experience. The fact is, we're all influenced by our biases, the product owner and the business and brand owner knows their products the best. So, in some ways, they're the most blind to the most obvious things. Someone outside, someone who doesn't know E-commerce and shopping, they usually have the most insightful ideas and suggestions because they just have a completely different context.
Liz: That's a great point, but you definitely can't get that person to leave your review because Amazon's got some amazing stuff going on. I've been hearing from people who, two people left a review from the same household. So both reviews got wiped and people who work in the same office building, people who are friends on Facebook. They're watching because there's been so much bad actor behavior, and there's been so much review manipulation. Like I said before, high alert. So, unfortunately, those are not review opportunities, but there are some things you can do with that information you get. What do you guys advise to put all this information that you get into some sort of improvement plan?
Michael: Sure. So there's different ways that you can go about maybe seeking improvements for your business, but what you find out maybe through this or maybe even just from watching your customer service directions or reviews, what have you, we did a whole kind of series on getting actionable insights from your customer service, this is one way to do it. You might not necessarily need to act on everything that you hear, there might be a squeaky wheel sort of thing or maybe a very vocal minority just saying, oh, this is a big problem. Maybe that's not your intended shopper, right?
Michael: So you can kind of take that feedback with a grain of salt, but on the other hand, if you're hearing a lot of your shoppers say the same thing, when you tested your shopping experience, this person brought it up, this group brought it up as well. These are things you want to take into consideration and see what steps need to happen to incorporate this into your business. Is this something that you need to create a project for in the near future?
Michael: Is this is something that you need to resolve ASAP? You need to approach your supplier and say, hey, this piece of my product isn't working as we thought it was. Here's all the proof. We have these, what we're saying, X, Y, and Z. These are things that you can approach your supplier with, things that you can come back and update your outbound messaging with. There's so many different outcomes but do take that feedback, maybe store it in a document, store it, we use Trello, for example.
Michael: Any potential future project, it goes into Trello and then we come back and talk about it at some point and try to flesh it out, try to understand what the root cause of that issue is, and then determine an action plan from there.
Tygh: Just to add context to that too, Michael, we take a product management approach when we're talking about documenting, implementing feedback into your business. So categorize it, all your feedback should be able to be put into some type of package or bucket. Try to prioritize those projects, rank them from the most impactful in your business to least impactful and also give them an estimate of size. Is this a one hour project or a one week project? That's going to help you decide what to do next, and which projects are going to have the best effect on your business moving forward.
Tygh: The sixth way to be proactive with your customer service is, have a plan for your inventory. One of the most common sources of customer service inquiries that we see is when a product is out of stock, or there's question about the stock situation. The obvious reason is that someone wants to buy a product that you don't currently have for sale right now. The backside of that problem is that you made maybe dozens or hundreds of sales of that product weeks prior.
Tygh: Some of those situations are going to require a replacement in most cases. If you don't have stock to send replacements, now you have customer service cases that are open for two, three, four weeks however long it takes you to get that inventory back into FBA or into a position to send. So we're speaking primarily in the context of FBA sellers, but I can't claim to be even halfway knowledgeable about this, but there's so many different creative strategies to use with your inventory, keeping some extra house or at your office where you can send in one off cases.
Tygh: Maybe there's another third party center or solution that you can use in complement with Amazon FBA. We heard just recently Shopify announced their fulfillment network is coming out. So the strategy that you take with your inventory should always be in the context of, how can I always have my products for sale, especially the best sellers, and if not for sale, how can I have some type of reserve to send in these one off exceptional edge cases when I need to.
Michael: Keep in mind that, if someone's contacting you about a product that is out of stock, that is literally a lost sale. You're in the business of making sales and so having inventory is a must have. You should have ordered yesterday. So the important thing becomes, after that, managing customer expectations, like assuring them that you do want to get them the product that they are looking for. So you want to be really concise. You want to be clear with when that might be back in stock. You want to even have a system in place for like coming back to them and following up and saying, hey, this is back in stock, here's a link to it, things like that.
Liz: That's a great point. We spent a lot of time at eComEngine thinking about inventory management and supply chain because of our tool RestockPro, which is a good fit for a lot of sellers and then, depending on where you are in your sales journey, maybe a tool like InventoryLab is better for you if you're doing more RIOA and then if you're doing multi channel, then there are other options. Beyond the third party tools, like you guys mentioned, there are a lot of different strategies you could use to make sure you've got product somewhere.
Liz: So even if you don't have, say you got an IPI score that made it so you had the amount of space you have in an FBA warehouse is restricted for now and you're going into Prime Day or going into Q4 and you can only send in a certain amount of product at a time because that's a situation that some sellers run into. There are prep centers that some let you store product in their warehouses.
Liz: There are, like you said, third party tools, I think ShipBob is one of them that will store your inventory and then ship it into Amazon for you as you're allowed to. So there are lots and lots of options out there. So that barring your manufacturer can't make more, that you should never run out of stock.
Michael: I think, as we mentioned, if you do run out of stock, and you don't have really very many options, the important thing will be to manage your customers expectations, use apologetic messaging, make them aware of the fact that we're so sorry that this isn't in stock. Here's what we can do for you. Maybe you might even go a step further, offering them a promo code for a future purchase, right? You don't have to do that, but you're doing something that is what we call delightfully unexpected.
Michael: You're showing them that you really care about them being able to complete their purchase. They took the time to reach out to you, especially on Amazon, it's not always easy to find how to reach out to the seller. If they took the time to reach out to you, then you should take the time to show them you're doing your due diligence, you're following up with them later, you will have maybe like an ongoing list of when people are trying to find a product that's out of stock, and then you can come back and follow up with them when it is back in stock.
Tygh: We don't want to downplay the difficulty of staying in stock. There are so many moving parts. If you're in a typical situation, your products are coming somewhere from Asia on a boat, and it's not always easy to get that product in on time and there are certainly financial restrictions in terms of staying in stock before you've even made the sales. So of course, take everything into consideration and make the best business plan for you but just understand the bar that you're trying to get to and aim for is completely in stock 100% of the time.
Michael: It's okay to be transparent with your shoppers. Most of the time they're going to understand, but it shows them that you obviously care enough to explain why perhaps it's not in stock and when it will be back in stock.
Liz: If your message is good enough and there are situations where that can work in your favor because it does seem like your item is in demand. So you can always look at the bright side and-
Michael: It's a good problem to have.
Liz: It is. All right. Are we ready for number seven?
Tygh: Sure, sure. The seventh point for proactive customer service here is to outsource and delegate. So a lot of entrepreneurship material will contain this advice. For someone that's really energetic and ambitious, like a typical Amazon FBA seller, a lot of times their weak point is being able to trust others. They're perfectionists and they want to manage it all because they're good at it, typically but they're always reaches a point where you grow too large to do everything and the best companies have the best networks of people assisting them.
Tygh: So think about your team. Do you have a team right now? If not, how do you want to build that team? Is it a partner in the business that you can offload some of those tasks to? Maybe it's a consultancy, that is handling some aspects of your business if you're not an expert, maybe it's a virtual assistant. Just like with inventory management, there are certainly a lot of creative resources and opportunities for sellers just to think about when it comes to helping get an assistance with the workload that it requires to run their FBA business.
Tygh: So let's talk about time and it's the most valuable asset because especially for the business owner, whatever they do on an hour per hour basis results in the continuance of the business. We tend to give the advice of think about the most valuable thing that you could be working on as the brand owner. Is that answering your customer service emails or is that developing a new product line, or is that updating your brand image, or is that getting financing for the next round of inventory?
Tygh: Some of those things are going to push the needle way more than other tasks in your business will. It's just a fact of the matter of how it is. So always be thinking about that. Where can my time be spent? Where should it be spent? Where are my talents best suited for and move towards that area, at the same time finding help and assistance with the areas that are either less important, less urgent, or maybe just not your strong point.
Michael: A way to think about this too, is how much is your time worth? That's really the question that you should ask yourself. This can go with like, whether you're managing PPC ads, whether you're doing your own design, or whether you're putting up your listings. Again, are these things that you can outsource? If so, what steps do you need to take to do so? What is the price that you're willing to pay for those things? Again, how much is your time worth? Then that will help you decide among the many options that you have available to you.
Tygh: Yeah. Michael and I, we experience a range of clients on a day to day basis and we believe the most helpful clients are actually the ones that step back and allow us to do our thing. It gets a little bit more difficult when a seller wants to be more involved in the situation and typically, maybe they're not offering a lot of value either when it comes to that. Maybe it's handled or we know what to do, but there's some just aspect of they want their input, they want to see what's going on and there are ways around that. We can see, see our clients on our messages. So whenever they want, they can look in and see how we're interacting with their customers. Again, we do it in our business, we outsource and delegate and you should be doing it too as an Amazon seller.
Liz: I think that there's a point with an entrepreneur that has worked so hard to build this business. They've worked so hard against just staggering competition to be successful on the Amazon Marketplace and it's really hard to let go. It might be easy to do in an automation tool and isn't someone in the software space. Obviously, the sense of ownership doesn't reach into that as much, but I imagine with what you guys are doing because you are representing that brand, you are representing that seller, that you do get people that it's hard to let go.
Michael: What you just touched on is that it's a very emotional thing, and that's possibly one of the reasons why you want to consider outsourcing. Because if a customer is reaching out to you and says this product sucks, a good customer service agent will say, we're so sorry to hear that you feel this way. We've just issued you a refund. We sent you a replacement. Let us know if you have any trouble in the future. Meanwhile, you might feel really connected to your product so you might not want to answer as helpful. So it allows you to kind of step away from that and just offer a better customer experience overall.
Liz: Yeah, you don't want to be like, no, it doesn't. What do you mean? You're stupid. Emotional responses are not good customer service most of the time.
Liz: Well, I think we're right about time. This has been great. You guys are awesome. In the spirit of, it's good to outsource this. Obviously people can outsource their customer service workflow to SellerSmile. So let's cover how to get in touch with you for all the people that are now, you're hired. Let's go.
Tygh: Yeah. Thanks Liz, you're awesome too. We've really enjoyed this, let's do it again in the future. There's so much to talk about. We can go deep on a lot of things. The best place, we created a page if you're listening or watching this, go to sellersmile.com/liz, L-I-Z. You'll see our video embedded there, and next step is to get in touch with us if you'd like to have a discussion or maybe figure out a way that SellerSmile could help you in your business.
Tygh: If you'd like to reach us directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. That's T-Y-G-H or email@example.com. Hit us up in an email and let us know what your thoughts are, even if you just want to tell us how much you enjoyed this video. Finally, we're active on social media. @sellersmileteam, you'll find it there on Instagram and Twitter and all the other places.
Michael: We provide outsourced E-commerce customer service management seven days a week for Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Shopify, Etsy, again, your own webstore. We also provide reputation management services. Liz touched on earlier, our feedback service management. So if perhaps someone from eComEngine, if you need more help than that, or you want to just completely just do away with having to manage it, that is a service that we offer.
Michael: If anything, even if you just have a tough customer service, challenging question, feel free to reach out to us because we love to hear about those. We have a podcast where we love to talk about those. So yeah, just talk to us. We're a bit geeky about customer service, and that's the reason why we do this.
Liz: That's how we should all be, customer obsessed, right?
Liz: All right. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it. We'll see you next time.
Michael: Thanks a lot, Liz.
Originally published on June 28, 2019, updated July 1, 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.