Lately, we’ve been focusing on ways that sellers put their Amazon selling privileges at risk. It’s not because we’re pessimistic about being in an epidemic or because we’re sensationalizing to get attention. It’s because when we see suspensions happen, it strikes us with a cold, sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We understand the implications for you as a retailer — your reputation, your livelihood, your employees’ job security are all at risk when your Amazon account is suspended.
So that’s why we’re shouting from our podium to the balcony with warnings and advice to keep your seller standing in top condition. We want to see you thrive, and Amazon is often a significant contributor to your success. We also don’t want to lose sleep at night worrying about you.
If you’re reading this post because you subscribe and you’re in good standing with Amazon — well done. Perhaps take a few minutes to think about weak areas in your listing-to-warehouse-to-customer process that might put you at risk, then see if you could make any corrections.
If you’re reading this because you just got suspended from Amazon and Google brought you to our blog — deep breath, we’ll do our best to guide you through your next steps.
Your Roadmap During Suspension
Step 1: Understand the rules you broke
Read over your Amazon suspension notice with a fine-tooth comb. Go to Policies and Agreements to understand the letter of the law as it relates to your violation(s). If you still have access to Support, open a ticket to get more details on your suspension.
Step 2: Determine how your business broke the rules
Once you know which rule you broke, it’s important to find out exactly why. Check Seller Central performance and metrics. Evaluate your customer service and processes to identify issues that buyers experienced. Check your inventory for items that violate Amazon’s terms.
Step 3: Address the issues in a plan of action
In our experience, this is the most important part of the process. Now that you’ve a) identified why Amazon is taking action and b) what you did to invite that action, you’re ready to show how you c) avoid these issues in the future. This is your plan of action. Since this is such an important element of your appeal, we’ll elaborate below.
Step 4: Request an appeal from Amazon
Once you finish your plan of action, you’re ready to submit your appeal to the Seller Performance team. You can do so within Seller Central > Performance > Performance Notifications. Find the suspension notice you’re appealing and click the Appeal button for a vehicle to submit your plan of action. Then, wait for a decision to come from the Amazon team, which they state should occur within 48 hours. They’ll typically contact you at your email of record with a decision to either reinstate you or uphold your suspension.
Note: For more details, see Amazon’s page on how to appeal the removal of selling privileges.
Create an Effective Plan of Action
We hope this goes without saying, but you need to give your plan of action some serious thought. Just saying you’re sorry and that you’ll try to do better in the future won’t take you far with Amazon. You need to own your mistakes and develop a plan to avoid them in the future. Our suggestions:
Stay professional: Your plan of action isn’t the right forum to express your frustrations or complaints. Real people at Amazon are reading and evaluating your appeal, so keep your request professional — don’t take a sarcastic or confrontational tone.
Be specific: What specifically are you changing in your business to prevent the issue from happening again? Detail everything. Then ask yourself if there’s anything else you could possibly communicate, then include that also. Vague statements make it look like you’re hiding something.
Address how the fault occurred in the first place: Your violation might have some extenuating circumstances that shed light on why it happened. Detail this for Amazon, but don’t stop there. Show how you’ll prevent the same or similar circumstances in the future.
Look for other issues: Even though your suspension was likely tied to one event or series of events, other issues in your seller history could also have contributed to a degraded seller standing. Review feedback from the past 12 months (a report is available in Seller Central), read all A-to-z claims and download all Order Defect Rate component issues (found under Seller Central > Performance > Customer Satisfaction > Performance Over Time > Show order defect rate components > Download). Address these issues in your plan of action as well.
Quantify everything possible: Use numbers and exact time frames, including dates where possible. Avoid “many,” “a few,” “sometimes,” “several,” “occasionally” and other vague references that could indicate that you don’t have a handle on the details.
Show an investment: If you’ve failed to comply with Amazon policy in the past, your existing staff and processes most likely need an upgrade. Show Amazon you’ve made an investment and how that will pay off with more compliance in the future.
Create redundancy: Even within a well-meaning plan, there could still be single points of failure. Show that you’ve thought through your plan of action and identify areas where you have redundancy and checks and balances. Use different solutions to ensure maximum coverage: technologies like ChannelAdvisor, process improvements and manual reviews, like a schedule showing when and how often your team will review the steps of your new plan.
Consider fulfilment by Amazon (FBA): For sellers with suspensions that resulted from shipping issues, using FBA is a great future strategy and one that Amazon looks at favorably.
Make sure to share your plan of action with your team. See if those in other areas of your organisation (customer service, shipping, listing) can find fault — and get their buy-in for next steps. If you’re reinstated, your team will be delivering on the expectations you’ve set with Amazon, so everyone needs to be on board.
Although you can submit multiple appeals, your best chance of success is addressing all concerns Amazon might have in your first appeal and plan. Take the time to get it right initially and you should have the best chance of reinstatement.
Prepare for Reinstatement
Get your team prepped and ready for reinstatement. If Amazon reinstates you, this will be your last chance — you don’t want to fumble the ball. Also, make sure all your listings are deactivated when you submit your appeal. If you’re reinstated, inventory must be up to date, so you can turn on your listings after you’re sure your stock levels are accurate. Solutions like ChannelAdvisor can help ensure this automatically.
When Things Don’t Go Your Way
Once you’ve submitted your appeal, you’ll be on pins and needles waiting for a response. Sadly, we’ve seen some appeals that haven’t led to reinstatement, even when following these best practices and recommendations. This is especially true for sellers who open a new Amazon account after their original account was suspended, or sellers who repeatedly sell restricted products.
If you’ve appealed once and been rejected, you can submit additional appeals, but as mentioned above, they’re less likely to be successful. You might find that it’s best to complete your cycle of grief, find new motivation and look to the broader e-commerce landscape for other opportunities, which are abundant. You may want to read our “Broadening Your Horizons: Expanding on Marketplaces Beyond Amazon and eBay” eBook for some ideas on next steps. Our Sales staff is also happy to talk to you about which additional marketplaces might work for your product lines.
Blog post by Rachel Miller, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor