Season 1, Episode 129
Consultants Make Mistakes Too
Recently, there has been a growing concern over the mistakes made by consultants in the Amazon space, leading to significant financial losses, wasted time, and increased difficulties in resolving issues. In this episode, Chris and Leah provide insights into how sellers can effectively vet and collaborate with consultants, ensuring that they make informed decisions and avoid costly errors.
[00:00:00] Chris: Hi everybody, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe. I’m with the famous Leah McHugh, wonderfully talented, famous Leah McHugh.
[00:00:16] Leah: In a very niche part of the internet, I am famous.
[00:00:20] Chris: Well this is what we’re talking about today where, there are things you -it’s funny because I planned this for a different episode, but we’ll talk about it briefly now.
Because today instead of just talking about mistakes sellers make and focusing on them, we want to talk a little bit about things we see consultants making, that are mistakes that lead to dollar loss, time loss, maybe even sometimes an increase in difficulty and resolution. And this is something you see, dare I say, even more than me, because you are in a niche where you’re working on stuff where you’re kind of alone in figuring these things out, doing it quickly, and understanding the mistakes that happened before. Is it just consultants throwing things at the wall to see what sticks and they’re not sure what’s going on? Maybe we’ll just start with you because it’s definitely endemic to what you see almost every day, right? Part of your job is reversing the mistakes of a prior consultant and then starting the case over and not really building off of something someone else did that somehow got stuck. Is that fair to say?
[00:01:25] Leah: I mean, I do occasionally build off of something that somebody else did that got stuck. But in general, yeah, I’m either starting from scratch or trying to reverse previous mistakes.
[00:01:36] Chris: Right. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but what I see when I’m talking to you about client work, and what I hear when you’re telling me about this case, that case, this client, whatever is people were hired. They opened cases that went nowhere because the case system wasn’t the place to go for it. They had people emailing, I don’t know, Jeff and executive seller relations, just hoping it would trigger.
Well, is their approach just like, we don’t know what’s going on. We haven’t figured this out. We haven’t researched it. So they either haven’t put the time into it or they just don’t know. They don’t have the expertise. So they just try stuff. Hoping that they’ll get an answer back that helps point them in the right direction.
Is that what’s happening?
[00:02:17] Leah: I think there is a trend, I guess, in the consulting and the agency space that if a client asks you to do something, you should just do it. And so what’s happening is a lot of people are doing work in areas that they aren’t actually experts in. You know, they’re just like, I’m an Amazon expert, so anything to do with Amazon, I can help.
And what that tends to result in is like, I’m sure there are areas where people are experts in it, but then they end up working in areas that they aren’t experts thinking that maybe what they know somewhere else on Amazon will apply to that situation. Whereas, I personally, I love telling people that like, that is not my area of expertise, but I can send you to somebody else that knows what they’re doing.
Whereas I think particularly around account management agencies, I think there is this pressure to help their clients with absolutely everything that comes up on their account. And what that results in is mistakes because they aren’t necessarily experts in that particular area specifically.
I mean, obviously I see specifically around product compliance, and listing compliance, and brand registry. That’s where I see a lot of mistakes because those are the areas that I specialize in and I’m working in every single day.
[00:03:37] Chris: So it’s an obligation they feel. So they’re pushing themselves out of obligation due to the payment they’ve received, or because the seller didn’t ask them, “Hey, are you guys Amazon experts and everything?” Or, “Hey, can you guys try to help us with this?” Like the seller didn’t really understand that the company they’ve gone to either didn’t have prior experience with it, or didn’t have the expertise level for it.
[00:04:00] Leah: Yeah, I just think, especially as there’s more…
[00:04:02] Chris: everyone wants to help, right? Like everyone, if you ask for help, who wants to say, sorry, can’t help you.
[00:04:08] Leah: Right. And so I think there’s this pressure, particularly when there’s a lot of competitors in the space. I think there’s this pressure to be able to work on everything. And what that often results in is subpar work because they don’t necessarily know that specific area. I see this a lot with, legal matters as well. Somebody is just like, “well, they’re an attorney, so they can help me with this.” And I’ve seen many letters written by attorneys that are citing the wrong FDA policy or citing the wrong product type for the particular product that they’re talking about. Because it isn’t their area of expertise, but they’re just like, yeah, I can write a letter. That’s what I do.
[00:04:49] Chris: That’s true. That’s worth talking about for a second because we do see random emails come in, or contacts from sellers who say, “Oh, by the way, I’ve already got an attorney working on this. I attached a PDF of the letter they wrote and they didn’t tell me where they sent it or they just mailed it to that, Terry Avenue address at Amazon.”
And then we’ll sit down and read it, and it’s like off topic. Or you’re like, did they just give the client a template that was copy and paste that they use before because they thought it was a similar situation? Or did they not understand the situation? But then that just makes me think, is the seller just saying it’s a lawyer and all I have to do is hand the keys to the lawyer and let them drive because they’re a lawyer. And they’re not like fact checking the lawyer or they’re not getting a second opinion from a second lawyer.
Like if you got sick and your doctor said one thing but it was serious enough, you’d probably get a second opinion, or you’d ask more questions, right?
[00:05:47] Leah: I mean, I think that’s both an attorney problem, and an agency problem, and a consulting problem that I see is that people don’t really ask questions. And I think a lot of times it’s especially on the areas that I work in because they are fairly complex. I think a lot of time the seller Doesn’t know what to ask.
[00:06:03] Chris: It’s blind trust too, isn’t it? Kind of like, you’ve been anointed.
[00:06:06] Leah: In order to effectively delegate something to someone, you at least have to have some understanding of what it is that you’re having them work on. Otherwise you have no way of identifying whether they know what they’re doing or whether they’re doing it properly.
And so, a lot of the times they don’t know. I mean, I’ve seen people get in trouble as well. I mean, so it’s not just like, once they’re in trouble they have somebody doing things the wrong way. I also see people getting in trouble because they hired the wrong person to do things. And, an example that I’ve been seeing a lot lately is, they hired the wrong person to advise them on intellectual property.
And so they either are, one infringing on other people’s intellectual property, or two, they’re reporting infringement before their trademark is finalized and an attorney is helping them do that. And any IP attorney would know that you can’t. You have nothing. There’s nothing to infringe upon until it’s accepted by the USTPO. But I’ve seen numerous cases where somebody’s had their brand registry revoked because they were reporting infringement before their trademark was finalized, and they were being advised by an attorney to do so.
[00:07:14] Chris: I think we talked about that in a past episode and we’re going to have to cover it in a future episode, because we’ve got large numbers of people getting their brand registry revoked, because there is no due diligence. They’re just kind of like, I don’t know. I’m not an IP attorney. I’ll just ask one to do this for me.
[00:07:29] Leah: Well, and the other side of that is that I see people who are losing it because they hire a service to register their trademark that isn’t actually an attorney. And then, that service either uses another attorney to do it who’s been sanctioned by the USTPO, or the service itself has been sanctioned by the USPTO. And then they have brand registry revoked because they’re the person that filed their trademark has been flagged as abusive by the government. So, you know, there’s both sides to it. It’s getting in trouble in the first place, and then getting in trouble trying to fix things. I see both of them a lot. And you know, I see it with agency work to. Which is, it’s done with the best intentions.
It’s just, they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. Or we see a lot of people get related to other accounts because of, an employee, or an agency, or a consultant, or a warehouse in common. Because, you know, simple things like not using the same email address for every account that you log into, those steps aren’t being taken because they just, you know, they don’t know.
[00:08:36] Chris: Yeah. I mean, the key, one of the key takeaways from today is have some familiarity with the source material. If you’re the CEO or the business owner or the main investor in an Amazon brand. Because I constantly experience people even asking me. Well, you know, Chris, you used to work there, you know more about this than I do, we just want to hire somebody to do all the thinking for us and do all the decision. I’m not saying they say that, but I’m paraphrasing.
[00:09:01] Leah: Well, that’s what I was saying before. If you don’t know a little bit yourself, then you have no way of knowing if they’re doing a good job. And I used to say this back in the day when I worked with website clients as well. You need to have at least some understanding so you can at least judge other people’s work.
[00:09:17] Chris: Right.
[00:09:17] Leah: You know, if you don’t have that base level, how are you going to know if somebody’s doing a good or a bad job? And, you know, I’ve had those conversations as well where somebody comes in and, and they’ve been working with a consultant.
And the consultant isn’t even citing the correct government agency. You know, they’re like, this is regulated by the EPA. And I’m like, Nope, definitely not. Definitely regulated by the FDA. And so they’re sending in appeals and they’re doing all this work with like a completely incorrect government agency.
And one, that doesn’t exactly show Amazon that you know what you’re talking about if you’re sending in totally wrong information. And two, obviously you’re not going to get anything fixed.
[00:09:52] Chris: And it invites greater scrutiny of your Amazon account and business. What I see in terms of consultant mistakes is, and then I start questioning of course whoever hired them, you know, did this ring true when they sent this document to you to send to Amazon in terms of an appeal? I just see Template mill, copy and paste stuff that’s off topic.
[00:10:17] Leah: I mean, I can see that too, but that’s just like, that doesn’t even register with me anymore.
[00:10:21] Chris: No, I want to put a positive spin on it because some sellers do tell me, you know what, I paid these guys some money. I looked at it. I didn’t send it in. I do have those conversations. I want to give those people credit. But there are so many others that are still blindly trusting and blindly sending in appeals. And they’re sending things into Andy Jassy, or this executive, or Jeff, or executive seller relations, whoever.
And I take them a step back and say, did you actually read what this says? Or did you really just because you paid somebody assumed well, you work with Amazon every day, so I can just copy and paste this into an email and send it to somebody. Or I can send it through seller central. Because these people I hired are reputed to be good at this, or to send these out every day, they obviously know what’s going on. Don’t make those assumptions. Do due diligence on the appeals that you paid for, or the people that you’ve paid. You know, for some unknown reason, I still see people or I hear people telling me, they had such great reviews and like no one seems to take those with a grain of salt. But not even that, they’re not looking at the text and the language in the appeal and asking any questions. I mean, are you giving them inline feedback on it. Or let’s say you’re not making comments because you don’t feel sure of yourself, are you asking inline questions about what about this piece? What about that piece?
[00:11:47] Leah: Well, and I think a lot of people in the industry as well, they don’t want their clients asking these questions. And so they don’t make space for that. So if there are any questions asked of them, they’re like, no, this is how it’s done. We know what we’re doing. Whereas, my approach with our clients is, I don’t just send them something with instructions. Like I send them a draft, and they need to read the draft, and they need to confirm that everything is accurate before I send them instructions on where and how to send it in. Because it’s a two way street. It’s not just you hire somebody and they take care of it. I mean yes, there are services that do that, but I personally think that is a red flag. You need to know what is happening on your account, whether it’s an employee, or a consultant, or an agency. Whatever that is. If they’re not forthcoming in information, that is a problem. So everything that I do with our clients is a two way street of communication. They tell me what they think. I take a look. I tell them what I think. We compare notes. And if I’m citing any sort of policy, like this is TOS compliant. This isn’t TOS compliant. I don’t just say that. I give citations. If I’m citing a policy, I give them the policy page. I give them the policy warning. Whereas other agencies are just like, yeah, no this is allowed, it’s fine. Like I want to see citations.
[00:13:04] Chris: The two way street’s important for us just as much as the seller, of course, for what you could describe as our own selfish reasons.
But we need to know you’re reading things that we work with you on, number one. Number two, If there has to be a subsequent appeal, or an escalation, or anything else that we do, we need to know that our communication is solid, we’re on the same page.
[00:13:25] Leah: Right.
[00:13:26] Chris: So we like questions because it shows that you’re engaged and involved in the process. Because this isn’t the type of thing, especially if there’s millions of dollars at stake, this isn’t the kind of thing you can just roll over, go to sleep, and we come back and knock on your door one day and say, by the way, it’s done. You know, like a cake that was baking in the oven,
[00:13:46] Leah: Like within a week, this will be resolved. And it’s like, no, that’s not how this works.
[00:13:50] Chris: Right?
There has to be some involvement and you should want to be involved. We understand everyone’s busy. It’s hectic. It’s anxious. It’s tough times in the industry, but you can’t just shut your brain off, shut your ears off and be like, I took a look at it. It’s fine. I get emails back from people when I send them work that we do. And they’ll say, yeah, I took a look. Looks great. No specific feedback. I mean, you don’t have to give inline feedback to everything, but are you really reading it?
Are you really engaged? These are important questions.
[00:14:20] Leah: Well, and I think another way that we differ from some other people in the space as well is, when I’m working on a project with a client, I’m in communication with them, like every 48 hours minimum. There isn’t just a like, let me know when you hear back, there’s a back and forth every like minimum 48 hours, because I need to know what’s happening on their end.
I don’t always have insight into what’s happening on their end, and they need to know what’s happening on our end. So there’s this constant checking in with each other. So they’re updating me on what they’re seeing, and I’m updating them on what I’m seeing and we’re adding that into the strategy.
And so the next steps, and if we don’t get something back within this period of time, we’re going to do this. There’s this constant back and forth of communication, which I just don’t see or hear from a lot of other people in the space. I mean, certainly we do work with agencies who are like that and are very hands on and are very forthcoming. And they know absolutely everything when they ask a question, and I love working with them. But we also see people that come to us and they’re like, well, I don’t know, the agency did it. And then they ask the agency and the agency is like, well, I don’t know, that employee is not here anymore. And it’s like, what?
[00:15:26] Chris: And we at e commerce Chris, love that you follow up with people that way.
Yes. Ownership appreciates your efforts.
[00:15:31] Leah: Snooze function in your email inbox.
[00:15:33] Chris: Yeah, I mean, you and I have talked and we’ll do a separate episode on it some other time. We do hear from sellers who hire people that get two appeals in two months.
[00:15:44] Leah: Yeah. Which is like, insane to me.
[00:15:46] Chris: And I, it’s like they email once a week and say, have you heard back from Amazon yet? No? Alright let us know when you do. Just like you just said. And that’s crazy. I mean, there are things you can be doing. You don’t spam them every five minutes, but the idea that you just sit and wait for those of you who have heard this podcast before, or read my articles before, or Leigh’s articles, or talk to us in person at conferences, you know that we think that’s garbage and we don’t understand it. Unless it’s just divided attention or people being lazy or whatever it is, but that shouldn’t happen because amazon is not a set it and forget it marketplace. It never will be and the appeals process isn’t either.
So any questions on this follow up with us we’ll be as I’ve alluded to it, covering this topic a couple more times, at least in the next quarter or two. We understand that there’s a lot of confusion and disorganization in the appeals process on both sides.
So thanks, Leah. Talk to you soon.
[00:16:41] Leah: Thanks, Chris.
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