We’ve partnered with Tamebay to bring you a 10 part video series on how to expand your e-commerce business internationally. In this video, we’ll share a few tips on how to avoid Amazon suspension, as well as how to reinstate your seller account in case of a suspension.
Amazon, a mainstay for online sellers all over the world, allows you to access over 151 million shoppers every month, but with great opportunity though comes high seller expectations. The marketplace is known for protecting customers with strict quality and content regulations. Failing to meet those rules, even by accident, may lead to account suspension which can cost sellers a huge amount in sales.
While Amazon doesn’t release the exact number on how many accounts are suspended, taking a peek into forums reveals account suspension happens more often than you’d like to believe. Retailers selling on multiple Amazon marketplaces are especially prone to suspensions simply because there are more accounts to take care of.
Each Amazon suspension forum thread represents a seller who’s eager to have their account reinstated. And while there are lots of articles teaching how to file an appeal, the best way to combat Amazon suspension is preventing it from happening in the first place! To that end, here are 4 tips to stop that from happening:
Tip #1 Prioritize customer service
You’ve heard it all before – “respond to customer emails and claims as quickly as possible”, “make sure the items arrive in time”, “be generous with return policies and offer free replacement” but unfortunately, common sense isn’t always common practice. We often find sellers falling behind in providing good customer service, especially those with a decent amount of sales.
Tip #2 Beware of cultural differences
This is especially crucial for retailers selling on foreign Amazon marketplaces. Mishandling it may not directly cause account suspension, but could lead to potential negative feedback and a high claim rate which can result in your selling rights being revoked.
Subtle cultural interactions with customers can be a make-or-break for online sellers, so not only should your customer service team know Amazon and its regulations inside-out, they should also know how to handle customers from different cultural backgrounds. For multiple reasons, customer service should always be handled by native speakers. Wrong choice of word or mistranslations can potentially turn happy buyers into unsatisfied ones. An InterCultural Elements (ICE) in-house French customer service representative recalls a seller once replying to a customer’s question and mistranslating the product to be “showerproof” instead of “waterproof”. It’s no wonder the seller never heard back from the customer and why their umbrellas never picked up in sales.
Claim rates tend to be higher in Spain and Italy compared to France, Germany and UK. Spanish and Italian customers are also more likely to leave negative feedback, as it’s considered more as “offering constructive criticism” in southern Europe. British and German buyers on the other hand prefer to work their problems out and seek solutions to their issues than simply leaving a negative review.
Where the culture calls for a personal touch in communications, such as in Spain and Italy, initiating rapport with customers is an advantage. Using “Estimado Jose (Dear Jose)” instead of “Estimado Sr. Pérez” (Dear Mr. Pérez) in your emails can make the customers feel welcomed and cared for. Yet when you initially address buyers on a first name basis in France or the UK, it could appear awkward, culturally insensitive and even considered offensive for some. In countries like Japan and Germany where the use of language reflects social hierarchy/status, ensure you use the honorific form when addressing your customers to show respect and appreciation. There’s a Japanese saying “お客様は神様” which translates to “customer are gods”. Japanese buyers expect the highest respect and best service from sellers. Causal greeting forms or addressing them using first names are completely unacceptable. Moreover, according to a Japanese representative at InterCultural Elemenets, “what we’ve learnt throughout the years working with Japanese customers is that they expect exactly what’s promised and often don’t accept explanations as to why expectations weren’t met. When a delivery is late in Japan, most sellers would refund immediately, whereas in other Amazon countries, it’s fine to ask the customers to wait for an extra day or two”…
There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to providing customer service for various Amazon markets. Be sure to tap into the local culture before getting started or have a trusted company with cultural expertise and ecommerce mindset help you handle customer claims and questions before they escalate to negative feedback that could potentially cause account suspension.
Tip #3 Up your account performance
While this might seem like a no-brainer, we’re often surprised by sellers not knowing what to look out for and/or how to maintain their account health.
With customer satisfaction their overriding goal, Amazon monitors your account and evaluates its metrics. Low account health means a seller fails to meet one or multiple Amazon standards and can result in suspension. Pay attention to the following:
- Order defect rate
- Cancellation rate
- Late shipment rate
- Policy violations
- Valid tracking rate
Amazon states that as a baseline rule, the seller should have an order defect rate of less than 1%, a cancellation rate of 2.5% or lower, and a late shipment rate of 4% or lower. If you struggle in keeping those numbers low, dig into the reasons and consider cutting under-performers (products that are high in returns or have the most complaints) from your inventory and switch to a more reliable shipping company to boost your ratings. We recommend you monitor those metrics daily. This is difficult and yet vital for sellers selling a large number of products in multiple Amazon countries. As warnings and those readings can pile up quickly and ultimately result in your account being suspended.
Tip #4 Upload your tracking numbers
As obvious as it may seem, this directly affects your valid tracking rate as a seller. However, as we’ve pointed out, common sense isn’t always common practice, and uploading the tracking numbers is one of those things that most sellers know but try to cut corners on.
For some items, sellers might think it’s not worth using carriers that provide a tracking number. Depending on the listing tool you use, it can be time consuming to have to manually upload every tracking number to Amazon. But bear in mind that the valid tracking rate is one of the direct measures of your account health; and in case of a suspension (especially when it’s caused by delivery issues), it’s best if the seller can provide a tracking number which has been uploaded to Amazon to back up your appeal.
What to do when you’re suspended
You’ve just received the dreaded suspension email and you’re shocked, worried and panicking all at the same time. We understand how inconvenient it can be to have your selling rights pulled out from under you, but what you do at this point will determines whether Amazon reinstates your account or not. When it comes to Amazon appeal, imagine you’ve only got one shot at getting your selling rights back. Appealing on a previously denied appeal has a much lower rate of success, so better make the most of it!
Do your research
What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? How do you solve it? Could Amazon have made a mistake? How do you prove it? Look for warnings in your inbox, review your performance metrics, check your account health and revisit customer correspondence.
Only when you’ve identified the real cause of suspension can you create a plan of action that prevents the issue from happening again in the future.
Draft up a plan of action
Provide Amazon with a viable action plan. Address the cause of suspension head on, explain how you’ll fix the problems, and how you’ll ensure the same issue doesn’t happen again. Amazon deals with a high volume of requests each day, so your appeal letter should be facts only; the faster you get to the point the better.
Here are a few tips for you:
- Use bullet points
- Use the language of the Amazon marketplace of which your account was suspended from – this doesn’t mean machine translation, nor someone who “knows the language”, but rather native speaker to ensure cultural subtleties are understood and appropriately responded to
- Create a plan which includes viable solutions to show you’ve got all aspects covered
- Assume that Amazon is going to check you’ve implemented the plan of action
Prevention is the best cure for Amazon suspension. Keeping Amazon customers happy is the best way to keep your account selling right. Ensure you tackle shipment issues and customer service issues as quickly as possible, and be aware of cultural differences while doing so. The marketplace has become increasingly strict with rules and regulations, and it’s definitely made it even harder for sellers to keep up. Having an in-house customer service team is your best option as a seller, but this also means significant hiring, training expenses and maintaining the team. There are also companies like InterCultural Elements offering the customer support you need, helping you maintain the account health and preventing Amazon suspension from the early stage. In this way you can fully utilise the potential Amazon had to offer, focus on making more sales and achieving other business goals with a peace of mind.