In the first part of this two-part series, we addressed product safety warnings and inauthentic complaints left by buyers. If you’ve been tripped up by one of the increasingly common safety complaints, leading to an ASIN suspension, our second part details how to begin (and successfully navigate) the process of appealing.
Nine years ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos proclaimed that any time a customer needed to contact Amazon, it represented a “defect” in the online retail giant’s operations. A decade later, with “buyer experience” the main cornerstone of Amazon’s business model, internal algorithms have tightened the screws on third-party sellers even further. Expect higher levels of enforcement nowadays, and on into the future.
With the Help of AI, Safety Complaints Are On the Rise
As we pointed out in the first post in this series, the advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data modeling have led directly to many amazing benefits for ecommerce sellers. Unfortunately for Amazon sellers, it’s also led to a big increase in safety complaints, too.
That’s because monitoring safety complaints is, in most cases, no longer a manpower issue. Amazon has unleashed the incredible power and bandwidth of artificial intelligence and machine learning at the problem.
That means that it’s pretty easy for an upset buyer (or an unscrupulous competitor) to make a false claim and leave a product review, or seller feedback, with incendiary words such as, “it caught fire” or it “overheated” or “choking hazard.”
If that happens, you can count on a very uncomfortable message from Amazon, looking into what is going on with your products- asking you to provide proof of safety testing, inspections etc., prior to their sale in the marketplace.
Amazon isn’t Messing Around with Product Safety
Via compliance team investigations, in addition to their bots, Amazon monitors products sold on their website for product safety concerns. Messages sent out indicate, “we may remove the product from the website, reach out to sellers and manufacturers for additional information, place relevant warnings on the product detail page, or take other actions depending on the situation.”
Amazon also states that they:
- Monitor public recall alert websites for potential product risk
- Attempt to learn of recalls directly from manufacturers and vendors
- Immediately suspend all impacted product offerings from their website
- Quarantine any related inventory in their fulfillment centers
- Reach out (individually) to any customers that purchased the affected products
Finding Complaint Causes Involves a Little Forensic Work
When you receive a performance notification from Amazon, you need to be sure to read it very closely. Amazon says that sellers can find the offending product listed at the bottom of their original message.
But here’s the tricky part: Amazon’s notification will occasionally reference what the complaint is, but it won’t always divulge the origin of the complaint. You’ll need a little forensic work to determine causality.
It’s time-consuming to identify the root cause when investigators give you little to go on. And sometimes you won’t be able to find it, if it came to Amazon outside of the communication channels Amazon shares with their sellers.
But, you should start your investigation in Voice of the Customer. Look at all recent feedback and reviews of the product for anything indicating a safety issue. Next, look at return reasons.
Finally, call Account Health and see if they can see any notes on the ASIN that they can share with you. REMEMBER, you are looking for investigator notes, not the Account Health rep’s opinion. Otherwise, you may get sent down the wrong rabbit hole by an incorrect opinion.
Keep in mind that if the complaint came through Amazon customer service, an abuse report, or a government agency (such as the CPSC), you won’t be able to see that in Seller Central. In that case, you will need to rely on:
- The notification provided by Amazon
- Complete examination of the legal safety requirements for your product, and 3. Proper guidance from a 3rd party lab (if Amazon is requesting safety testing documentation).
Getting to the Bottom of Root Causes
If you’re able to make clear to Amazon that you show that you understand exactly what led the buyer to make a complaint, you’re halfway to fixing the problem. At the very least, strong Root Causes will keep the Amazon investigator reading your POA, and prevent them from tossing your correspondence into the growing pile of ignored seller appeals.
When responding to Amazon’s complaint, you need to come out of the gate quickly and get to the point.
- Accurately describe the root causes that led to the issue
- Tell Amazon what precise actions have been taken to resolve the issue
- Detail the exact steps you have implemented to prevent future issues
Writing an Amazon Plan of Action (POA)
The three bullet points above are the structure you need to stick to when writing a plan of action. Using your own format or straying from theirs could mean it’s ignored entirely, so details matter here. You don’t want to kill the odds of acceptance.
Each of the 3 sections should consist of clear bullet points addressing the issue. Don’t include any extraneous information- write like an Amazonian.
As always, make sure that you follow Amazon’s best practices for writing your POA.
Here’s exactly what Amazon says that they want to see in your plan of action:
- Be clear and concise. Your plan of action should be factual and direct. Focus on the facts and events that lead to the issue rather than providing an introduction of your product, business, or customer. Remove other questions or references to ongoing support cases from your submission. Avoid using emotive language.
- Provide an explanation for all issues. Some deactivations are the result of a combination of issues (for example, a High Order Defect Rate can arise from negative feedback and undelivered orders). You must provide a root cause for each designated problem area as cited by Account Health when you compose a plan of action.
- Include supporting evidence for all items. Make sure you submit supporting evidence for all of the products or ASINs that are under review. You can find the list of products at the bottom of your original notification. Make sure to check the time frame requested for the documents because some require invoices from the last 365 days.
- Highlight areas in your supporting documents. You can make your response more relevant by circling or highlighting the area within your documents that is most important such as ASINs, Supplier details (for example, name and supplier website) or clauses within your Terms and Conditions.
Implementing the POA
Always keep in mind that Amazon isn’t a “set it and forget it” business.
Successfully selling on Amazon is something of a moving target. Whether it’s listing optimization, or actively maintaining the overall health of your seller account, or ensuring compliance with Amazon policies and all laws, selling requires constant care and attention.
Follow through on each step in your plan of action, and take the time to do a full audit of your Amazon product listings, from backend keywords to the quality of materials (and differentiation) that you use in your packaging. As Amazon’s marketplace continues to mature, buyers are becoming more sophisticated by the day. Remember, it’s up to you to keep pace.