Think Amazon account suspension is a rare occurrence? Think again. The company takes no prisoners when it comes to poorly performing accounts and bad actors. In this guide former Amazonian, Peter Kearns, vice president of client solutions for 180Commerce and a former Amazonian, breaks down the essential insider tips on how to avoid and appeal Amazon account suspensions.
It’s well documented that Amazon has a counterfeit problem. In fact, 50 percent of account suspensions in 2017 were as a result of “inauthentic items” (or knockoffs). Despite this, a recent Guardian investigation found that the marketplace is still flooded with fakes.
But your account could be at risk of suspension even if you sell genuine items. For this reason, the best offense is a good defense and you must prepare now.
Why Amazon removes selling privileges
If you’ve ever encountered the unfortunate situation of being temporarily suspended from Amazon, you probably received an email like this:
It’s easy to see why an Amazon seller would immediately start panicking upon receiving a message like this—and it appears that Amazon Seller Central is the first port of call for voicing any concerns.
However, there is always a reason behind every account suspension. Here are three areas to look out for if you find yourself in that position:
1. Poor customer service score
In order to ensure its millions of third-party marketplace sellers are providing an exceptional customer experience, Amazon has established the following performance targets:
- Order defect rate: you’ve received lots of negative feedback < 1%
- Pre-fulfillment cancel rate: < 2.5%
- Late shipment rate: < 4%
For example, if you have been late shipping several orders or received lots of negative reviews, your selling privileges will be removed. Amazon has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to customer experience and it remains their number one expectation as the leading global online marketplace.
It’s that obsession for excellence that will stand out to Amazon.
2. Disregarding Amazon selling policies
If one of your items is listed on the restricted products page, your Amazon account will be suspended. For example, due to child safety measures, you are required to ask special permission if you want to list fidget spinners or invisible ink pens.
3. Misrepresentation and inauthenticity
You can also have your selling privileges removed for listing an inauthentic or counterfeit item on your Amazon profile. Similarly, if you’ve set up alternative accounts for when you get suspended this is seen as a big red flag by Amazon. In this case, you’ll be lucky to be reinstated at all.
How to avoid Amazon account suspension
1. Understand the foundation of Amazon’s business principles
Jeff Bezos and his team at Amazon created 14 leadership principles that they have stuck by since the start. Similar to a department store consisting of several different concessions, there’s a certain standard each Amazon seller has to meet to be part of the unit.
Online sellers are expected to understand the principles by which Amazon lives in order to sell on the marketplace.
In relation to Amazon account suspension, the principles that stand out are customer obsession, ownership, relentlessly high standards and trust. They are there to help sellers understand how Amazonians communicate as a unit.
Here are the prominent ones to get you through Amazon account suspension:
2. Take performance metrics seriously
Amazon has high expectations when it comes to meeting its performance metrics, which have been established from its core leadership principles.
Ultimately, if you can keep your performance metrics afloat, you should manage to steer clear of any suspension. But that’s easier said than done. Here are three of the top metrics to really keep an eye on:
- Order defect rate: This measures your ability as an online store to provide a good customer experience. It comprises three components—A-Z guarantee claim rate, negative feedback rate, service charge-back rate over short- and long-term periods.
- On-time delivery: Self-fulfilled orders that buyers received on time.
- Late shipment rate: The number of self-fulfilled orders not confirmed as shipped by the expected ship date.
Once you’re logged into your Amazon account, you can review your account health board:
3. Keep an eye on your listings
As multiple sellers can offer the same product on Amazon, it’s not unheard of for a listing override to happen. This is when a detail page of one of your products displays information that you did not contribute yourself—it’s been updated by Amazon or another seller.
In other words, the image, description or title was changed by someone that also has access to your detail page. This type of change could lead to sending the wrong items to customers.
If Amazon catches wind of “missing items” or “wrong item sent” as feedback from your customers, they could temporarily suspend your account. To monitor this, online sellers must make sure to regularly audit all their ASINs. This will show Amazon that you’re in control of your online store.
In addition, certain products (anything that appears on their restricted products list) require permission from Amazon to be listed. If you discover that one of your products is prohibited, taking it off the marketplace will help you avoid temporary suspension.
4. Improve your communication
If there’s one thing you can do to prevent suspension, it’s to be communicative all throughout the process.
Firstly, if you receive Amazon policy notifications on your account, make it your mission to be responsive so that you’re still on the radar. For example, if you’re sent a reminder to view a customer complaint, make a point of reviewing it.
Not only is this important for your relationship with the Amazon policy team, but it will give you advice on products that should potentially be removed from your store.
In addition, make a point of regularly asking your customers for feedback and you will be able to provide a better experience in the long run and thus hopefully avoid getting suspended in the first place.
5. Don’t wait to be contacted by Amazon
You want to be able to identify any issues with your account and notify Amazon before it has to reach out to you. This will allow you to earn the company’s trust as a seller and show that you recognize the error you made with your account.
If you receive that suspension notification first, you should be ready to reach out to your Amazon account manager. A point of contact is paramount for when you run into trouble.
Remember, it could take up to two days for Amazon to reply once you appeal your suspension, which could be detrimental to your business.
6. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Amazon is conscious of online sellers that piggyback on generic product ideas so avoid this strategy at all costs. Piggybacking is the process of becoming an additional seller and simply jumping on the bandwagon of an original seller’s listings. The idea behind it is to avoid any lengthy setup procedure.
It’s not only Amazon keeping an eye out for this. If other sellers notice you piggybacking on their listings, they can report you as counterfeit. You may find people praising this strategy for international selling, but if you take this route, don’t be surprised when your Amazon account gets suspended.
7. Look for patterns in your account
There are a couple of indicators to look out for if you’re worried about your account being suspended. In the webinar, Peter discusses four particular areas:
- Customer returns: Is there one particular product that getting more returns than the others? This could be a sign you need to take it off your online store.
- Seller feedback: Have you failed to address recurring negative seller feedback?
- Product reviews: Have customers expressed concerns about certain products that are faulty?
8. Treat Amazon as your number one customer
Remember, your number one customer is Amazon itself. There is no other platform out there that allows you to reach an audience of 300 million consumers worldwide at such a small price. Treat selling on Amazon’s marketplace as a privilege.
Appealing your Amazon account suspension with a plan of action
Getting your Amazon account reinstated all boils down to the plan of action in your appeal letter. This is the email you will send to the Amazon seller performance team when you get suspended. It’s important to remember that your writing style is essential in the process of getting your Amazon account reinstated:
Just be aware: there’s no guarantee that Amazon will reinstate your account upon receiving your appeal letter. If you have not provided a viable solution and comprehensive understanding of your errors, your account will remain suspended. Here’s how to go about dealing with it.
1. Resolve any outstanding support tickets
Your first instinct will be to reach out to someone in order to get your account reinstated as quickly as possible, but first, you should be focusing on fixing any outstanding issues. This means responding to all support tickets and maintaining the health of your account.
Remember, if your account has been suspended, this leaves you at higher risk of the permanent removal of selling privileges. Before communicating with Amazon, avoid any reason for it to doubt your worth as a seller.
2. Find out the root cause of your suspension
As in the Amazon leadership principles, you will need to find the root cause of your suspension by diving deep into your account and spotting the main issues.
To frequently audit your account, you need to take every issue into your stride by asking yourself the five whys. As explained by Peter, this process involves continuously asking yourself “why” until you have found the root of the problem.
Why did your customer complain? Unfortunately, their package was broken.
Why was their package broken? The UPS driver dropped it.
Why did it break when he dropped it? The item was not packaged correctly.
Why was it not packaged correctly? The online seller did not have the right facility to package it.
Solution: Find adequate packaging for this item and have it fully prepared before sending onto FBA.
This exercise works for all types of issues you may encounter in your time as an Amazon seller. Ultimately, Amazon wants to know that you fully understand the root cause of your account suspension, and thus you will take the necessary steps you took or will take to prevent it happening again.
3. Address the issues in a plan of action
Once you have a deep understanding of what you did to violate Amazon’s policies, you need to draw up a plan of action.
Your format should look like this:
Be specific, professional and outright about what you plan to do to prevent the violation from happening again. This means including every defect that contributed to your low seller status. For example, the number of cancelled orders, missing items or negative feedback complaints.
Let’s say you received multiple negative reviews on one particular product and that’s why your account was suspended. You could write something like:
We have identified and understood that one of the products has been unsatisfactory for a subset of our customers. For this reason, we will remove it completely from our Amazon store. Our plan of action when we receive negative feedback on another product in future will be to make quick decisions to get it removed. However, we will make every effort to avoid that scenario. We strive to have top quality products on your marketplace.
Similarly, with other types of suspensions, you should clearly identify the issue, how you immediately dealt with that problem and how you plan to eradicate the problem in future. Take for example, if you had a product listed that was listed under prohibited products for Amazon.
After analyzing the current situation regarding the suspension of my account, I recognize where I went wrong. My selling privileges were removed because I made the following mistakes:
- I listed a product that is prohibited from sale and listing on Amazon: an ‘invisible ink pen’
- I didn’t act within the 48-hour time frame to review and delete this listing that did not comply with Amazon policies.
Having evaluated these issues, I plan to:
- Read and learn all details in the Amazon Restricted Product Policy
- Pay better attention to my account notifications from Amazon
- Remove all restricted products from Amazon immediately.
4. Send the appeal to Amazon
Once you have finished your plan of action for your account suspension, you can proceed to Seller Central > Performance > Performance notifications > Location suspense notice > Appeal.
5. Wait for a response from Amazon
Then it’s just a waiting game. It should take up to 48 hours for Amazon to come back to you with an answer. Many believe that knowing someone on the inside can get you an answer quicker but that’s not the case.
Sellers should expect to be contacted via email about the status of their account. The harsh reality is if a seller is suspended for 30 days or longer, there’s a chance they might never be reinstated.
It’s important to remember…
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a small online store, Amazon does not want you to sell on its marketplace if you’re not willing to provide exceptional customer service.
Ultimately, if you understand the leadership principles behind Amazon, it will help you make a framework for your appeal letter. If you’re lucky enough to get reinstated, prepare your team for any changes you need to make—you don’t want to be a repeat offender!
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