Welcome back to Part 2 of this interview with Joshua Price of SuspensionExperts.com to talk about how to write your Amazon appeal letter.
Getting your Amazon account suspended is the elephant in the room that most people either ignore or run scared from. But the truth is, of course, like any good business you have to look at the reality and deal with it. The best way to do that is to work with an expert to help write your Amazon appeal letter.
There are various different grounds for suspension, which Joshua covers in Part 1 of this interview. The two broad areas to cause your account to get suspended are performance and policy. The performance side is about customer-facing operations, which Amazon monitors with customer metrics and data. The policy side is about Amazon’s rules and regulations, and keeping to them.
Joshua deals mainly with inauthentic suspensions and intellectual property rights and complaints. Those are the most common for larger sellers and they are policy issues. For small sellers, it’s always going to be your Order Defect Rate (ODR) because you just can’t avoid those suspensions if you’re doing lower volumes of orders.
Amazon will tell you the reason for the suspension which will help you write your Amazon appeal letter. They may not be entirely clear but they do tell you and it’s in the first line of the notification. It will say something like “we’ve removed your Amazon selling privileges because of…” and for Order Defect Rate it will say “…because your order defect rate is above the 1% target.”
For most performance suspensions, it’s quite plain language in the notification. Amazon will use the terminology that will be reflected in your account health dashboard. E.g. late dispatch, cancellation rate etc. For most sellers, you’ll be familiar with these if you’re familiar with the account health side of Seller Central. In that regard, it’s easy to work out why you have been suspended, and you can log into your account and see.
On the policy side, they tend to use technical language and terminology, which won’t explain for most people what’s actually happened. For example, inauthentic complaints, intellectual property rights, owner complaint and a myriad of other more small and complicated policy issues as well. They’ll often use the language in the policies which is very legal and complicated language.
The first step for any seller is to make sure you’re familiar with the numbers and targets that Amazon is tracking in the Account Health part of Seller Central. You must do your research and know your exact numbers.
The Order Defect Rate (ODR) is the amount of negative and neutral feedback you get, which is the number of people that leave 1, 2 and 3-star reviews about your service. It’s not about the product, it’s about you as a seller. Then Amazon adds the number of A to Z claims in, which is Amazon’s guarantee program for dissatisfied customers. They also add chargeback claims, which is chargebacks from credit card companies, although that’s fairly uncommon.
Amazon adds all those up and divides it by the number of orders you have taken in a 30 and 90 day period, which gives them the ODR percentage. For both 30 and 90 day periods, the target is to be under the 1% order defect rate. Often, January and February are key times for suspension due to order defect rates. This is due to the large influx of orders over Christmas and the higher number of complaints over that period.
Once you understand the pieces of data that Amazon is using to calculate it, we need to look at why those customers have had those complaints. So this means going to the negative feedback section of Seller Central, reading the 1, 2 and 3-star reviews and understanding the common complaints. Usually, there will be a theme because they customers will explain that their feedback is about slow delivery or non-receipt, for example. If you’ve got a lot of people complaining about slow delivery, well there is the problem. Occasionally it will be varied, and that is a sign you have bigger issues. Doing this research is an important step in working out where the problem is so you can then plan for it and explain what you will do about it to Amazon.
The A to Z guarantee claims are one of the places you can look for themes, as well as the feedback itself. If it’s themed around one particular issue, you can guess that that’s the reason for the suspension. Sellers have to make that leap on their own because Amazon won’t state it explicitly.
After realizing what the specific issue is, it’s time to appeal. Your Amazon appeal letter is going to be 1 page maximum of explanation about what’s happened and how you’re going to fix it. Joshua typically likes to split the appeal into 3 parts. The first is telling Amazon what they’ve told you using their exact terminology, and the second is how you’ve come to your conclusion of what the cause is. Then thirdly, it’s important to give more detail about how you will fix that problem.
If you conclude that it’s the fault of the Royal Mail being slow for delivery, that’s fine but you can’t control the Royal Mail. So then come up with a 5 -10 point plan about how you will address the issue and make sure it will never, ever, ever happen again.
Everything that you write at this point in this plan needs to be what you have already done. It can’t be a promise of something you will do in the future, it needs to be definitely implemented and certain that the action you are taking will fix the problem.
For the issue of slow delivery, one solution would be changing your courier or whoever you use for shipping or adding an option for faster delivery to the account. This will mean you have to increase the prices for those options. Another solution would be about following and tracking orders. Also, keeping your customer service team following up on the orders. Making sure things are arriving on time and that you’re caring for customers. Following the parcel from dispatch all the way through to delivery.
If you are using the Fulfilled by Amazon program, late or slow delivery shouldn’t happen. Amazon has put a few steps in place to avoid that. For example, if you receive negative feedback for an item that was fulfilled by Amazon, that negative feedback can be removed if Amazon were at fault. That takes it off the metrics. It’s very important that you know you can do that and that you are meticulous about cleaning that up. Otherwise, you are needlessly exposing yourself to suspension risk.
If it’s definitely Amazon’s fault, while it’s never ideal to point fingers at Amazon, the suspension would probably be dropped. It’s fine to say ‘I think there’s a problem here, can you have a look at it for me please?’ If there is an error people can get reinstated almost immediately.
The FBA option is brilliant and it does solve a lot of these problems on the performance side. If you are worried about the performance side of things, especially if you don’t have access to the resources on your end to be able to meet Amazon’s targets, then having access to Amazon FBA is a great option. It doesn’t mean you’re totally safe from suspension. There are a huge amount of policy issues that can still affect you. Plus, because you don’t have the stock yourself sometimes it is harder to fix problems, too.
Most of the performance issues are going to be from merchant fulfilled accounts. Cancellation rate is often a big one if you don’t manage your stock correctly. Another one is the late dispatch rate. Amazon gives you 48 hours once the order’s placed to send the item. If you don’t do that then the target is missed.
In theory, performance issues shouldn’t have anything to do with your defect rate. Customers are the ones making the complaints and they don’t usually understand the intricacies of channels for complaints and feedback. As well as being able to remove negative feedback for orders that were fulfilled by Amazon, you can also remove negative product reviews left as service feedback. Therefore negative feedback generally doesn’t have any impact on the ODR if it’s a product issue.
However, A to Z claims can and do impact. There is an increase in customer support being encouraged to open A to Z claims to resolve issues. This is leading to some problems in this area. In theory, if everything is followed correctly, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you’ve got an ODR suspension because of lots of product complaints, then you need to treat it like a suspension due to a safety concern or inauthentic item. There is plenty of information about this kind of thing in much more detail on Joshua’s website, www.SuspensionExperts.com
Inauthentic items is an issue that comes under the policy category. Amazon has it written in their policy that you can’t be selling fake, inauthentic, counterfeit items. It’s also the law, so it’s something most sellers will try and avoid for obvious reasons. However, Amazon uses the term inauthentic very freely in Joshua’s opinion. They assign it to things when they have received complaints that may suggest it was inauthentic. Even if it definitely is a genuine product from a reputable supplier or manufacturer. For example, if you received a product review on an item and the customer said something along the lines of “the packaging was different from one received in a retail shop” that would trigger alarm bells for Amazon that perhaps the item was counterfeit.
Amazon will ask for invoices in response to their initial notification about an inauthentic item. It’s really important to have your invoices ready to be sent, having made sure all of the information is correct. Often we think that maybe the invoice is just for accounting and it doesn’t matter if there’s an error in details here or there that the supplier made. It matters so, so much. Maintaining proper invoices will help you when you need to send your Amazon appeal letter.
The billing address on your invoices must be the same address as you have on your Amazon account. That really streamlines the process. The second thing is to have the items very clearly identified, without codes or SKU things that don’t make sense. If possible, have the item almost the same name as on the Amazon listing. The third thing is the quantity must be very visible on there. Many people buy from China and therefore get invoices that may be unclear. They may also have missing details or may not even be in English. It’s at that stage that you need to be fixing those problems, long before you need to send them for your Amazon appeal letter.
If you’ve got the inauthentic suspension, Amazon will send you the specifics for what they require. As we well as the invoices, you need to provide them with a plan and explain why you received the complaint in your Amazon appeal letter. Again, it’s about doing your research, making that leap and making the problem smaller. Even if the product is genuine, you need to explain why someone might have complained. For example, it could be that it was damaged while it was being shipped. Or maybe the wrong item was shipped to them. So then provide a plan of action that reflects the issues that the customer describes and eradicates the problem of inauthenticity.
If you are using FBA and the item is damaged in shipping or they’ve picked the wrong item in the Amazon warehouse, FBA has made those mistakes. However, for every item that ends up in one of Amazon’s warehouses, it came from the seller from Amazon’s perspective. While they do make mistakes, there’s no way for them to prove or for you to prove that it wasn’t your error in the first place. So that’s typically where we want to go with this type of situation. Amazon FBA do an amazing job most of the time and you’re just one seller. You can’t point fingers at the whole system because you’ve got no evidence to say that it actually was them.
Regardless of your personal opinion and whether it was or wasn’t the fault of Amazon FBA, you’ve got to bring it back to something you can solve so that you can get the account back. We can’t fix it if it’s out of our control. The good thing about going through the process of fixing what is in your control is that it’s making your business stronger as a byproduct and genuinely protecting yourself more long term.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this episode where Joshua explains the policy violation side of things.
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