Have you noticed that great seller metrics can’t keep your merchant account out of trouble with Amazon?
Even sellers with great metrics and a flawless track record are facing increased investigation due to the kinds of buyer complaints they receive.
Once investigators look you over and start thinking suspension, it’s difficult to slow them down regardless of the exact nature of or merit to the complaint. So says Jochen Schall, a former member of Amazon’s Transaction Risk Management Services/ Merchant Risk Investigation team. Jochen left Amazon late last year and offers insights into why certain internal teams operate the way they do.
I spent some time talking to Jochen to find out what Amazon’s strategy is and how Amazon marketplace sellers can cope with policy and performance team actions.
How are Amazon Policy Teams dealing with buyer complaints on a seller account? Are they able to sort genuine from misleading complaints?
Jochen: There are hard hits and soft hits. Soft hits are not supposed to be taken into consideration however I have seen investigators create a manual account suspension, regardless. There is a calculation in place called PPM, which gives investigators an idea if the seller should be suspended, which is solely based on policy. The problem is that the investigators are not doing a good job vetting complains.
Some warnings say that the listing has been removed until Amazon’s concerns are resolved, after a buyer complaint. Some leave the listing active, and ask for more info. Other warnings ask for a “Plan of Action” to have the one ASIN reinstated. Is there a reasoning behind what warnings take on certain kinds of messaging versus others?
Jochen: If a seller has more than a single complaint against the same ASIN, usually it gets removed.
If it’s a counterfeit complaint (whether right or wrong), it gets removed/blocked. Counterfeit allegations have the highest weight, however the understanding and questioning of such a complaint is fairly inferior. Usually the warning notice includes the request of a plan of action. This means sellers have to write in to get their listings back, and in some cases investigators do not reinstate listings without further review.
However there is an underlying issue – there are various automated warnings which are solely based on keywords, and some keyword generate a large amount of false positives. For example, items that are not shipped in their retail packaging but in bulk packaging can bring in a lot of counterfeit complaints.
Are there any automated suspensions on the policy side given the number of automated warnings sent?
Jochen: Performance suspensions are manual almost all the time, very very few are automated, same goes for policy violations. However the focus in recent months has been strongly on the policy enforcement, as management wants the best and highest buyer experience.
Chris: The vetting of complaints is intrinsic to the investigation of item quality concerns on a seller account. Buyer complaint keywords are essential to any investigation, yet buyers throw around words like “not authentic” or “Not legit” and even “fake” quite easily without having the accuracy of those allegations appropriately screened during an investigation. This is something sellers need to be conscious of, before considering piggybacking listings that are mostly the same item, or sell as “New” liquidations, closeouts, and resealed returns from a supplier. Or sellers could be facing a lot of blocked listings and lost revenue on Amazon this year.
Read the first part of this interview, Why you should be worried about Account Suspensions.