The last thing you want is for a bad batch of product to ruin your credibility, damage your relationship with Amazon, or worse — hurt someone. In order to maintain the highest level of excellence, you need to develop best practices for quality control to protect your business and your customers.
Whether you have a private label or are a reseller or dropshipper, one of the biggest issues you’ll face as an Amazon seller is quality control. It’s something you’ll always need to be monitoring. There can be no automation for this.
If you’re already getting complaints around product safety, used sold as new, authenticity, or not as described, you may have a quality control issue.
Start with a Good Sample
Quality control begins with your sample. It’s exciting to get a new product, but if you get into such a rush to bring it to market that you skip this step, you could end up regretting it. You really want to take your time and get a “gold standard” sample that will serve as a benchmark for future production.
Test your samples rigorously and learn from any mistakes along the way. As you make changes, make sure communication is ongoing with your manufacturer or supplier. Keep track of all of the modifications so that you know exactly which changes were made and when. Ultimately, this sample should represent the very best version of your product, and they need to understand that this is what you expect them to produce.
If you’re reselling/ dropshipping make sure you do a test order, and check the products thoroughly. Try to break them, to see how they stand up to different scenarios. Get a friend with no experience with the product to test it as well. Check to ensure the products 100% match their description.
Be Confident In Your Supplier
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to get a pre-audit of the factory. During this process, an inspector will go through the facility looking for any potential red flags. These professionals are experienced and understand exactly what to look for. Once you receive your report, you’ll know where you stand and what to expect.
If your product requires safety testing, enlist a 3rd party to run the necessary tests and provide safety documentation.
Finally, no matter how you are sourcing, make sure your supplier can provide proper supply chain documentation.
Get On the Same Page
Create and maintain specifications for your products.
One of the worst things you can do is assume that your supplier has the same standards as you do. From the very beginning of your working relationship, you need to communicate exactly what you want in as descriptive of terms as possible. Make sure everything is in writing so that it can be easily referenced by either party. If you meet in person, follow-up immediately by sending an email recap of everything that was discussed and ask everyone to confirm receipt.
You might feel like you’re micromanaging, and on some level you are (and you should)! If your product is blue, for example, specify the exact shade of blue you are looking for. Don’t use vague terms, be very specific. You don’t want to waste time and money on something because the expectations weren’t clear.
Expect Problems Every Single Time
No one’s suggesting you live your life bracing for disaster, but you should also assume that every production run/ order will have some sort of problem. When you’re expecting it, it’s less likely to catch you off guard. This is especially important during Q4 when temporary workers might be hired by factories to fill a higher volume of orders.
Stay on top of things, be completely engaged, and accessible at all times. Make sure the supplier understands that, even if it’s bad news, they can approach you for guidance at any time. It’s a huge time investment, but that comes along with the territory. After all, you have no business without your product, so make quality control your biggest priority. You never know when things could change.
Never Skip The Final Inspection
At the beginning of your working relationship, let your supplier know to expect a final inspection of the products they’re producing. This sends a very clear message that quality control is important to you. If they know that an inspection company will be evaluating their work, they may pay a little more attention to detail.
During a final inspection, random units from a production run will be analyzed. You’ll receive a full report, including pictures of your product. Come up with a plan of action in the event that the inspection fails and communicate this with your supplier. Be sure to include this in any contract to avoid any confusion and protect you in the event you need to seek legal representation.
Stay Vigilant About Quality Control Testing
You don’t want to wait for negative product reviews to roll in to know there is something amiss. Regularly, order your own product and inspect it- test it, smell it, inspect the packaging and assess the product to make sure it’s exactly what your listing describes, that it’s compliant in every way and that its’ completely meeting or exceeding expectations.
Conduct ongoing safety testing to ensure that every batch of product is safe.
You may have finished developing your product, you may be happy with your supplier and you couldn’t be happier with the service they’ve provided, but you don’t want that sinking feeling that occurs when a buyer discovers something wrong with your product before you do.
When manufacturers get comfortable, sometimes they start to cut corners. Maybe they had to substitute the fabric you normally use for something cheaper because they ran out during the busy holiday season. Maybe they’ve earned your trust and are hoping you won’t notice they’ve started using lower quality materials. Whatever the case, when you check out of the quality control process, these things can happen. You have to keep your eyes on your supply chain at all times.
What if I still get complaints?
Quality control begins with your supplier but ends with you. If the product reaches you in excellent condition but customers are complaining, look at your own operations for the cause.
- Pull some inventory from FBA to inspect it. Look to customer complaints and return reasons for clues.
- How are you handling the products before sending them in to FBA? How are you handling returns? Do your systems need to be improved?
- Is your product packaged for ecommerce? Your product goes through a lot before it reaches the customer- it’s shipped, packed, and handled, multiple times. Make sure your packaging can withstand the journey. Do the drop test– drop your product from 3 feet in the air, on every side. If the product and packaging doesn’t sustain any damage, it’s well protected. If it does sustain damage, you need to improve your packaging.
- Make sure your listing accurately describes your product and sets customer expectations in line with what they’ll be getting. Include safety information in your product detail page.
- Know your problem products. If you check everything, fix any potential issues, and you’re STILL getting complaints, consider pulling your product. Is this product worth risking your business? Weigh the risk vs. reward and decide for yourself.
Take Quality Control Seriously
There’s nothing more important to Amazon than making customers happy, so keep this in mind on every level of business management. You must meet or exceed Amazon’s customer’s expectations for quality.
Don’t take any risks with your reputation or your business. Be directly involved in ensuring that the product you sell is the very best. Closely monitor product reviews for problems, and continually look for ways to improve. It’s a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end!