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How to make an appeal against Amazon account suspension effective and, well, appealing!

online-sellerHow to make an appeal against Amazon account suspension effective and, well, appealing!

In the unfortunate event of having your seller privileges revoked, as with all things Amazon, a process covering what you need to do to appeal is set out in Seller Central. But if this article simply referred you to this list, it would be very short indeed – and not particularly helpful.

Because it’s one thing knowing what you have to do, but another thing entirely to know how you should be doing it. And that is what we want to focus on here, with some ‘hints and tips’ we’ve gathered to make it more likely that your appeal will be effective and your Amazon account reinstated.

We use the Amazon process as a framework on which to hang our thoughts.
 

Step 1: Determine why your selling privileges were removed


“Read the notice you received from Amazon to determine whether your account was suspended/blocked for poor performance, or for one or more violations of our selling Policies and Agreements.”


What you should do:
  • Identify the exact reason(s) for the suspension and make sure you fully understand the problem. Incidentally, make sure you are checking periodically for any changes to Amazon Selling Policies and Agreements so you don’t transgress by default!
  • Take complete responsibility for the problem, and for any harm/inconvenience suffered by Amazon’s customers.

What you should not do:
  • Respond too quickly before you have got to the root of the problem and realise why in Amazon’s eyes you have ‘done wrong’.
  • Point the finger towards other sellers who are doing the same as you - but have not been suspended.
  • Rattle off a defensive (or worse, abusive) email.


Step 2:  Evaluate your selling practices


“Review your customer metrics and identify those that do not meet our performance targets. Evaluate your selling practices for those that may result in buyer dissatisfaction, and your inventory for items that are in violation of our Policies and Agreements.”

This is the natural follow-on from Step 1, moving from the ‘what’ has happened to the ‘where’ and ‘why’ it has occurred. It may mean digging deep into all aspects of your online business.


What you should do:
  • Scrutinise your inventory and selling practices to determine which element was responsible for the poor performance metric or policy violation.
  • If the suspension is the result of poor performance, the particular area causing the problem should be easily visible in the Customer Metrics displayed on your account. Find out exactly why the problem occurred. Here are three typical examples.
If your ODR is too high - you may have received a lot of returns and/or customer feedback indicating that the item(s) customers received were “not as described” on the listing. Check recent deliveries from suppliers: have the specs been changed? Were the items bought as part of a liquidation or ‘job lot’ - possibly sight unseen, with no assurance as to quality or state?

If your pre-fulfilment cancellation rate is too high, this may be the result of constantly running out of stock – or long delays in receiving new stock, so the customer delivery date keeps being pushed back. You need to assure Amazon you can improve your inventory management – and/or find alternative, more reliable suppliers.

If Amazon has found your late dispatch rate levels to be unacceptable, you need to examine your warehouse and logistics processes - and possibly take on additional resource or improve systems.
  • Respond to all notifications from Amazon, to ‘clean up’ any apparently outstanding issues.
Overall, your Customer Metrics may be a sea of green flags, but the Amazon notification may relate to a specific ‘defective’ item, for which there has been a number of returns. You may even have received a warning about this – but as you had no more stock of the item, omitted to delete it from your inactive inventory. To Amazon, this issue has not been dealt with.
  • If the account suspension is related to sales of a prohibited or unauthorised item – or one which needs but has not been given Amazon pre-approval - remove the item immediately and review your inventory regularly to ensure you don’t fall foul of Amazon’s selling policies in this regard again.

What you should not do:
  • Think that an apology and promise of not doing it again will suffice. Amazon wants to see hard evidence of what you are doing to ensure it will not happen again; which brings us nicely to the next step.


Step 3:  Create a Plan of Action


“Create a Plan of Action outlining the steps you will take to correct the problems you identified in Step 2. Providing a precise Plan of Action that can effectively address the problems improves the chance that your selling privileges may be reinstated.”

This is the important one. Your action plan should not just inform Amazon that you understand why your seller privileges have been revoked – but that the steps within the plan will resolve the issue that occurred and make it unlikely to happen again.

Your plan should be informative but concise. Just think how many appeals staff in Seller Central receive. Make it easy for them to grasp your case. Use bulleted points for ease of reading, for example; and if you need to link through to supporting documentation, make sure this is relevant and it is clear to which point it relates.


What you should do:
  • Be honest.
  • Admit to making a mistake or error of judgement in violating an Amazon policy or not monitoring customer feedback/performance levels as attentively as you should.
  • Provide a summary of what happened to cause the problem and identify the specific policy that was infringed to show you understand the ‘why’.
  • Itemise what you have done/are doing to resolve the issue(s) that caused the problem.
  • Reassure Amazon as to the steps you will take moving forward to avoid similar issues in the future.
  • Be specific when you refer to figures, percentages or timeframes. For example, to say “My returns rate increased from 0.85% to 7.25% over the 90-day period from 25 March to 23 June because I introduced a new line which was not well-received by my customers, and I therefore discontinued this in July” is much more informative than to make a general statement, such as “My returns went up last year.”
  • Demonstrate that now you are aware of the issue that led to your account suspension, you are pre-emptively addressing other areas where it could occur and investing the appropriate level of time/resource/money to do this. If you have been notified of a listing issue, for example, fix the listing(s) causing the immediate problem, but then check all listings.
  • Be realistic in what you include as actions to remedy the problem area – particularly as regards, for example, time needed to find new suppliers, replace an existing product line, implement new systems or take on extra resources. Amazon will expect you to deliver on your promises!
  • End with a summary (brief!) of all the positives that make you a valuable seller on the Amazon marketplace.

What you should not do:
  • Throw huge amounts of detail and supporting evidence at Seller Central in the belief that more is better – and they will sift out the important bits. Wrong! It will most likely be a case of ‘next please’!
  • Take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your action plan. By all means, get other views on what should go into your appeal letter from sellers who have been through the experience; it may also be helpful to peruse some of the sample letters available online. But don’t forget that your business is unique; the circumstances of your account suspension are specific to you and your history with Amazon - and your appeal needs to reflect this.
  • Be emotional! However worried you are about not being able to sell on Amazon ever again, you must keep things factual and business-like.
 

Step 4:  Send your appeal to Amazon


“Once you have created your Plan of Action, send it to Seller Performance with your request for reinstatement.”

At this stage, thingsare very much in Amazon’s hands.

Amazon says it will normally respond within 48 hours – but this may be a holding response, requesting further details or clarification; so you may have to resubmit your appeal several times before you get a final decision.


What you should do:
  • Watch your e-mail for a decision from Amazon.
  • Persist! If Amazon declines to reinstate your account, you can appeal the first decision.
  • In the meantime, start on the actions you have said you will take – as well as improving your housekeeping ‘best practice’ generally.You may find Amazon’s check list helpful here:
 
  • Shipment of orders – are you shipping your items within 2 days of the order date?
  • Communication with buyers – are you effectively responding to buyer questions and doing so promptly and politely?
  • Stocking inventory – are you consistently running out of inventory and cancelling orders?
  • Listings – are you describing your items accurately in your listing comments?

What you should not do:
  • Give up!


In conclusion…


Online retailers recognise the importance of the Amazon marketplace. According to a recent survey[1], over 60% of all sellers said their biggest concern was Amazon taking away their seller privileges, by suspending or permanently banning them from selling on the marketplace.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have your Amazon account suspended once, but fortunate enough to have it reinstated – you will now realise that the best advice anyone can give is to make sure it doesn’t happen again!
 
 
[1] http://www.webretailer.com/lean-commerce/amazon-sellers-survey-2016/#ixzz40W9I34Dy
 

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