Season 1, Episode 31

Managing Expectations in Q4 on Amazon

As we swiftly head into the deep end of Q4, we’re all getting busier. And Amazon isn’t exempt from that. But how should you manage things on your end, as Amazon response times get longer and longer? Leah and Chris discuss how you should plan for Q4 to mitigate issues caused by slow moving Amazon teams.


Show Notes


[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. This is Chris McCabe and Leah McHugh coming to you from the Seller Performance Solutions podcast. It’s been a little while since you only had to listen to the two of us talking to you. Leah, how are you doing?

[00:00:24] Leah: Good. How are you, Chris?

[00:00:26] Chris: Good. Good. Good. We’re post Seller Velocity Conference, now. We’re talking about Q4.

We’re talking about managing your expectations from Amazon teams in Q4 most specifically. Because we’ve been speaking with a lot of sellers, as we often do, not just the appeals process, but about their frustrations and difficulties communicating with, and just interacting in general with Amazon’s internal teams.

And I guess we’ve hypothesized in our private conversations that maybe there’s just wider misunderstanding over where that comes from, why it’s worse in Q4, or maybe people are just kind of temporarily forgetting that it’s Q4.

[00:01:04] Leah: I think it’s one of those things where sellers are also busier in Q4. So it’s more important for them to get timely responses, but at the same time, Amazon is also busier and they don’t really care if you’re getting timely responses. So even the last few months, not even in Q4, we were seeing slower response times, and also them giving you up front that you’re going to get a response in five to seven business days or even seven to 10 business days, and they weren’t even meeting that.

[00:01:39] Chris: That’s the compliance team work that you were doing, right? That was compliance team.

[00:01:44] Leah: Compliance team have been very busy this year and they’re just getting busier as we head into the busiest time of year. Again, it’s that catch 22.

You as a seller, can’t afford to wait forever for them to respond whenever they decide to respond to you.

[00:01:59] Chris: Even when they tell you to wait, we understand that lots of different teams say, wait 48 hours, wait a week, wait however long. But we should all hopefully understand by now that they love to over promise and under deliver when and not deliver when it comes to communications.

[00:02:17] Leah: 
Yeah. I’ve seen cases just never get responded to, or they just get that automatic response of, "we’ve sent this to the, the responsible team and they’ll get back to you shortly." If you don’t push, they’ll not respond or they’ll respond with just a completely unrelated answer and mark it is resolved.

[00:02:34] Chris: Right. And in all fairness, I understand why compliance teams need at least a few days, maybe upwards of four or five days because of the glut of those cases, and also because it’s detail oriented work in ways that seller performance reading a plan of action isn’t. Like documentation review, other compliance issues that they have to go through. So those, those might take five days.

[00:02:58] Leah: Yeah, but also slowing you down is the fact that you’re not speaking directly to the product compliance team. You’re going through seller support who may or may not route it it to the right team. More often than not we’re seeing just a nonsensical response from seller support and they never actually transferred it to compliance where it was supposed to go.

So then , if sellers aren’t aware that that’s what happened, they’re waiting days for a response from compliance thats never going to come because the case was never transferred to them.

[00:03:27] Chris: And that’s a given, I mean, most sellers that we talked to and most sellers that are listening to us now that haven’t spoken to us before probably now understand seller support, loves to tell you things, whether it’s verbally or in writing that are never going to happen.

And you’re already skeptical. I hope you’re skeptical, when you see this stuff or hear this stuff from them and you’re ready to follow up, even before you hang up on that call. What concerns me is that if it’s, let’s say non-compliance related where there aren’t other teams that need to review it, where there aren’t a series of documents to go through.

You’re talking to account health reps that say, "oh, you’ll hear back in 24 hours or 48 hours." Are they just guessing or are they just telling you that to make you feel good that you’re going to hear back within a reasonable amount of time? Are they aware that you’re probably not going to hear back within 48 hours. I think I spoke to a rep about 48 hours ago with my client. And I pretty much knew that they weren’t going to resolve it in 48 hours. It was too complex. Seller performance sent the totally wrong message to our client. It was just too convoluted, confusing. The rep could barely sort it out.

There were no account annotations. We know that they knew that there were no account annotations from the previous investigation. So why were they expressing confidence so that it would be resolved within 48 hours. I suspect that they kind of knew that that had no chance. So if you’re getting these estimates, again, manage your expectations, don’t take this at face value. You have to be skeptical.

[00:05:00] Leah: Yeah. And when we say follow up, we’re not saying to the email in every couple of hours, like don’t spam the queues. But if you’re going days at a time and you’re not getting any response from Amazon, particularly if the action taken against you was incorrect in the first place, if they took your listing down incorrectly.

And first of all, verify that it wasn’t correct before you start telling them that it was incorrect. But if they took your listing down incorrectly, you shouldn’t just be waiting five to seven business days for them to get to reviewing your case. We really aren’t waiting more than 48 hours at a time before we start emailing again or emailing somewhere else and escalating that case because otherwise it could just take forever to get a nonsensical response. And then you’re just back where you started from seven days later.

[00:05:46] Chris: And then on top of that, holiday peak rolling in. So the estimates that you’re getting October, November are going to start being very, very unrealistic, not just the unrealistic ones, which we saw all summer, which we’re way past summer now.

But like you said, this is nothing new. We’ve seen backlogs and delays on account reinstatement appeals on listing take-down appeals, going back to what, June at this point. We’re in month four or five of this. So this is more indicative of the chaos and disorganization within the ranks of these teams, and on top of that peak holiday. And then on top of that, we’re hearing things about management changing around. Some of you read the news and you hear about people coming and going. Maybe you don’t hear about specific people all the time, but we hear about people who are coming and going through the manager or VP ranks. That impacts things like escalation paths and avenues to resolution that were previously utilized. Some of those people are deluged in escalations and they can’t respond right away.

[00:06:53] Leah: And if management is changing, oftentimes it impacts the team that is being managed by them. If they decide to start changing SOPs around on them mid Q4, that’s obviously going to slow things down because no one knows what the hell is going on.

[00:07:06] Chris: Yeah. They could be taking a whole squad of a dozen people with them and those 10, 12, 14 people might’ve been the ones that they delegated previous reinstatement escalations to. This is why strategy is so important.

This is why, first of all, like you were saying a moment ago, you’re not supposed to be escalating something that has has low quality content that has no chance of being accepted as an escalation. So don’t put the cart before the horse. But beyond that, don’t just say, Hey, we did this three months ago. We’re going to do that same strategy, the same content, the same copy and paste for a new escalation and assume you’ll get the same result this month. That’s not the way Amazon is. Three months is like an eternity.

[00:07:49] Leah: I understand we’re all busy, this time of year. Logistics this year are very complicated and you’ve got a lot on your plate. But the best thing that you can do in terms of dealing with these teams is not have to deal with them in the first place.

And I know you can’t 100% seller-performance-proof your account because sometimes they do take wrong actions, sometimes it’s abuse. But in terms of what you can control, make sure that there’s nothing in your listings that could get you in trouble. Make sure that the quality of your products that’s coming into Amazon is high, so nobody’s going to think that your products are used when you’re selling them as new. Make sure you’re not infringing on anybody’s intellectual property. If you do all of these things now, it can save you so much time and so much lost revenue later, when you’re trying to fight to get a response from these teams because something went wrong.

[00:08:42] Chris: Yeah. And the mad scramble approach works pretty much 0% of the time when it comes to the appeals process, because it means you don’t have a strategy. Your strategy is whack-a-mole, mad scramble, we’re not sure what we’re going to do, but the first idea that comes into our head is going to be how we appeal next. That’s what leads people to us to take over and try to revamp it and retrench your strategy, which of course, you know, you’re, you’re hurting your odds of acceptance of an appeal if you insist on doing it in a haphazard, chaotic fashion. We understand that that’s how Amazon reads your appeal on the inside.

So you definitely don’t want your haphazard approach to butt heads with theirs because that’s not going to turn out well. You at least have to make sure that your game is tight on your side.

[00:09:31] Leah: A hundred percent.

[00:09:32] Chris: So once again, just to tidy this up for the listeners for Q4 strategy purposes, manage your expectations.

Don’t say last time I had to appeal three months ago, they responded within 48 hours, this time they didn’t. What does that mean? Understand that there are a lots of moving parts here, and things are changing. They’re changing weekly sometimes. So. It might be an apples and oranges situation to the last time you appealed. Think through some of these other factors. Otherwise you’re going to be frustrated quicker. Thanks again for listening and we will be publishing lots of content like this throughout peak holiday in Q4. Leah, thank you again.

[00:10:12] Leah: 
Thanks Chris.

[00:10:13] Chris:

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