April 5th, 2022
Guest Blog: Appeal Wizards
Shock is the most common reaction we see from Amazon sellers who get an account suspension. They never saw it coming. “But I was doing everything right!” some say. “I never even got a warning!” others point out. “Other sellers are doing the exact same thing!” they complain. And it’s all true.
Unfortunately, Amazon’s rules are always changing, and their enforcement is not often consistent. Worse, in the Amazon judicial system, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Amazon might have suspended you based on a customer’s false claim about your product, for example, and the burden is now on you to prove that the customer is wrong, and your products are indeed authentic.
Luckily, there are solutions. And to make them simple, we’ve gathered here four tips for avoiding an Amazon suspension and keeping your seller central account in great health:
1. Take Care of Your Customers
This should always be number one when selling on Amazon, because it’s always number one for Amazon itself. Amazon’s vision is to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. Amazon has built its reputation and enormous value by delivering for its customers time and time again. And it expects you – its third-party sellers – to do the same.
The best way to ensure you are indeed delivering for customers in Amazon’s eyes is to check your customer service stats daily. Start by navigating to the Account Health page in Seller Central (it’s under the Performance menu item at the top).
Then, you want to focus on the column on the left marked “Customer Service Performance.” In that column, Amazon calculates an Order Defect Rate (ODR), which means the percentage of your orders that resulted in some kind of defect: negative feedback, an A-to-Z Guarantee claim, or a chargeback. If this number is greater than 1%, then you are at serious risk of suspension. This means that at least 99% of your orders must be free of negative feedback, A-to-Z claims, or disputed credit card charges. Anything less, and Amazon thinks you are not taking adequate care of your (its) customers.
So, how do you keep your ODR below 1%? Well, to take care of your customers, you have to listen to your customers. Make sure you read every piece of customer feedback (whether left in a review or in a message to you) and take it seriously. Remember, Amazon will assume the customer is right, so your customer’s perception is your customer experience reality.
If one customer complains about confusing product directions, for example, that might just be a confused customer. But as soon as a second one does, make sure you’re digging in to see if you can improve your directions and avoid future complaints. The fastest way to have a high ODR is to have an issue that affects multiple customers.
2. Ensure Quality Shipping
The column on the right in your Account Health dashboard focuses on shipping, another key component of Amazon’s customer-focused strategy. And while Amazon tracks this data separately from customer service performance, you’ll quickly learn that shipping plays a key role in your ODR, too.
While there are three metrics on the dashboard, if you click into the Shipping Performance details page, you’ll see a total of four components.
- The first, “Late Shipment Rate,” measures whether you are late in putting the package in the mail. The goal is to be late less than 4% of the time.
- The next is “Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate,” a measure of whether you are canceling orders after customers make them. Amazon wants that number to be less than 2.5%. Issues with both of these numbers usually stem from inventory. If you do not have enough inventory, you might not ship in time, or, worse, you might have to cancel the order altogether. Drop shippers also often run into problems with these metrics, so pay close attention to them if you are drop shipping or using retail arbitrage as a business model.
- The next metric is “Valid Tracking Rate,” which measures whether customers have a tracking number they can use to see where the package is. Amazon expects this to be at least 95%.
- Finally, “On-Time Delivery Rate” measures how often you meet the estimated delivery date, and must be at least 97%.
All of these are about managing customers' expectations. Don’t list on your product page that you can deliver it in two days – as they’re used to with some Amazon products – if you will be using slower shipping. Make sure, instead, that you make promises you can achieve.
While falling below Amazon’s expectations on any of these four can independently get your account suspended, notice that all of them are likely to impact your customer service performance, too. Customers who don’t get their orders on time are more likely to leave negative feedback or dispute the credit card charge, which directly impacts your ODR.
Note, too, that all four of these only apply to FBM (fulfillment by merchant) – or those sellers who ship their goods separate from Amazon. If you use FBA (fulfillment by Amazon), you are not held to these shipping requirements, because the burden is on Amazon itself.
3. Avoid Policy Complaints and Violations
The middle column in the Account Health dashboard is often the most confusing for sellers, as it can feel like the one that is most out of your control. Diligent sellers can usually achieve low ODRs and strong shipping metrics. But even the best might be hit by a customer authenticity complaint or a suspected intellectual property (IP) violation that they never saw coming.
The best way to avoid any surprises is to ensure you know Amazon’s policies. But if reading pages and pages of legalese makes your head spin like most non-lawyers, then there are simpler steps you can take to protect yourself.
The first is to always have strong documentation. Make sure you get legitimate business invoices for your products from suppliers who are authorized by the brand owner or manufacturer. If necessary, based on the product you’re selling, you may also need written permission from the brand owner to sell it. Much of this won’t be required to actually begin selling, but it will become critical in proving your innocence if you receive an IP complaint or other policy violation.
Another simple step we’ve already mentioned that works not only to avoid policy complaints, but also in taking care of your customers, is to pay close attention to the details of any customer complaints. Most authenticity complaints stem from misunderstandings. Your description might be outdated and no longer perfectly matches your product. Rather than telling you that, customers will question the product’s authenticity. So, if you get feedback that your description was misleading, act to update it right away.
Likewise, bad packaging often leads to goods damaged in shipping, which leads customers to question the quality of your product or whether it’s actually new, like you claimed. Pay close attention to any customer feedback that indicates potential quality issues and see if you can trace those back to shipping.
4. Lean On Experts for Support
If all of this is beginning to sound like A LOT (Check multiple metrics daily? Keep some below 1% and 2.5% and others above 95% and 97%?? Understand dozens of policies???) know that there is support! At Appeal Wizards, for example, we offer account monitoring services. Our Amazon Seller Central experts will watch your account for you, making sure to fix issues as they arise and flag for you what needs attention, and what can safely be ignored. That way, we worry about complying with Amazon’s ever-changing rules, and you can stay focused on what you do best – selling.
Whether you want to enroll in ongoing account monitoring support, or just have questions about the information above, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help. You don’t have to go it alone in taking on the great goliath that is Amazon. We help sellers do just that every day, so you can safely avoid the shock (and resulting pain to your bank account) that is an Amazon account suspension.
Appeal Wizards is an Amazon compliance company, helping third party sellers get their products and stores reinstated after a suspension and navigate Amazon's ever-changing rules so they can stay online going forward.