People are used to trading blindly from Amazon because they know that Amazon will always bend over backward to keep them pleased. It goes without saying that if the customer comes primary, this automatically puts sellers next in line (or last).
In other words, if there was ever an ultimatum that forced Amazon to select between a customer and an Amazon seller, the Amazon seller will bite the dust almost every single time.
This post is meant to be a complete guide to suspensions. I’ll primary explain the different “types” of suspensions for you.
Then, I’ll illustrate a step-by-step approach to hopefully getting your account reinstated. Once that is completed, I’ll cover things you can do to try and stay on Amazon’s good side moving forward, so you can minimize the danger of further issues. This blog will also refer to real-life cases where a seller got suspended and was able to get their account reinstated.
Alright, then. Let’s begin
Suspended, Denied or Banned?
With Amazon, these conditions aren’t really used interchangeably. Each one is a different case and is used in particular circumstances.
This is the initial “step” among those three terms. When you get suspended, it means that Amazon has canceled your ability to sell on the platform. Your current listings are not openly visible and you perceptibly cannot publish new ones. When you’re informed of a suspension, you’re generally given an extensive reason and are allowed to “appeal” the decision.
This takes place after you submit an appeal to a suspension. It principally means that you failed to encourage the Amazon Seller Performance Team (we’ll call it ASPT) rep that you understood the problem, have taken liability for it and have taken or are planning to take remedial measures to make sure it does not takes place again. This is not the end of the World, though, as you’re permitted to submit multiple appeals.
This is generally considered the end of the road and it takes place after submitting multiple appeals that constantly fail to win the ASPT over. In these circumstances, they generally send you a strong-worded “bye bye” email that ends in something along the lines of “We may not respond to further emails about this matter.”, which really is just a gracious way of saying that they’re done wasting time with you.
While this is “officially” the end of the World, some sellers have reported that an email to Jeff Bezos helped them to get reinstated. I’ll cover this in additional detail later on but in any case, it’s significant to note that this must only be used as a last resort when you’ve exhausted all other choices and have nothing to lose.
Step 1: Investigating the causes behind the Suspension
There are four main categories for the causes that could lead to an account suspension:
- Poor Performance.
- “Seller Code of Conduct” Violation.
- Amazon Restricted-Product Rules Violation.
- The “Unspoken Rules”
Let’s crack them down.
Amazon follows three main metrics in this area and provides suggestions as to what your numbers must look like to prevent suspensions or at least scrutiny. No good can ever come from the Seller Performance team snooping around inside your account, even if they don’t choose to suspend you.
Thus the three metrics are:
- Order Defect Rate (below 1%).
- Late Shipment Rate (below 4%).
- Pre-fulfillment Cancellation Rate (below 2.5%)
These are perceptibly all percentages. The primary one Order Defect Rate “ODR”, relates to the percentage of chargebacks, negative ratings (1 and 2 stars) or A-Z guarantee claims. High ODR percentages generally specify product quality issues or a description-item mismatch. For example, claiming features that don’t exist or don’t function as described, or raising the buyer’s expectations in the description and images then under-delivering on the assurance.
The Late Shipment Rate “LSR” is measured by dividing the number of shipments that are confirmed to be “shipped” after their ship date by the entire number of orders. Amazon customers are familiar to super fast shipping, particularly with Amazon Prime’s one and two-day shipping options spoiling them. Items that are confirmed shipped after their ship date also cannot be tracked, which can cause a lot of customer pain. That’s the reason why Amazon does not compromise on this.
A relatively simple method to solve this issue if you’re struggling with it is to use FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon so that you save yourself the annoyance of fulfilling the orders yourself and leave it all to Amazon.
Lastly, the Prefulfilment Cancellation Rate “PCR”. This is measured by dividing the number of orders canceled by the seller before confirming shipment by the number of total orders in that time. Order cancellations are annoying because customers generally “set and forget” Amazon orders and just wait for delivery.
Cancellations can be greatly tiresome because the customer may require to re-order from another seller, plus the added trouble of the time taken for the refund to reflect on their card, and the time they wasted ordering from you.
The Seller Code of Conduct
Amazon’s selling policies & seller’s code of conduct are 7 principles (as of writing this) that all sellers must adhere to. The principles are purposely very broad to cover a lot of situations, so it’s safe to say that there are thousands of “unspoken” rules that could lead to a suspension.
Among the 7 principles, as per the Amazon help article, are “adhere to all applicable laws and stand by all Amazon policies”, “keep your account information current”, “never fake yourself”, “act practically at all times”.
As you can see, these “principles” are too wide that they sound like the kind of recommendation your parents give you during elementary school. That is a bit terrifying because it gives Amazon a lot of power and flexibility with their “banning options”.
Amazon Restricted-Product Rules infringement
Amazon currently has more than 35 restricted product categories. Selling in each of these categories may have its own subset of policies, such as a pre-approval requirement from Amazon. Infringing these policies is a definite reason for account suspension.
The Unspoken policies
By now it must already be clear to you which of the rules you had violated that is the reason for your suspension. You could piece together information from the emails they delivered you as well as your notifications in seller central and the content this blog post has covered so far.
You might be inquiring yourself, though, even if I get reinstated, with these very extensive rules, what’s to stop me from getting suspended again? There’s a section about this later in this post. Although, there is a single principle that must really help you stay on Amazon’s good side. In one sentence: How can I make (and keep) the customer happy?
Imagine customers as Amazon’s boss. There’s a cause why they’re so successful. If customers are Amazon’s boss and Amazon is your boss (you as in the seller), then the customer is officially your boss too.
In other words, as long as you keep the customer glad (preferably happy), you’ll rarely face any issues with Amazon, with some exceptions of course, such as selling trademarked products. But, as long as, with every business judgment you make, you’re thinking: is this in the best interest of customers? If your answer is yes, your connection with Amazon will have a greatly better possibility of being a “happily ever after”.
Step 2: Digging Into the Reasons behind the Causes
The significant task at hand now is to recognize what actually caused the causes for the suspension, alias “the reasons behind the reasons”.
For example, if it’s product quality issues, were the complaints coming in since you started the product or have they just recently appeared? Maybe the difficulty is with a particularly bad batch of products, or the seller is having quality control issues, or maybe the items got damaged somehow en route from the seller to your destination.
Are your shipments continuously getting delayed? Recognize the difficulty with your warehouse employees, shipping carriers or fulfillment centers. Try to be as particular as possible when getting to the roots of the problem.
Did this occur on specific dates, to specific customers, specific addresses or states? What was the accurate problem at your warehouse? Was a key employee ill or on a holiday? Exact information that shows you’re well informed in every aspect of your business is significant.
In any case, you require to go in and locate the exact difficulty. This will help you later because Amazon really likes information. They want to know that you are strict about your selling and that you’d go above and beyond to recognize and kill the problem all the way down to the roots.
Step 3: Plan of Action (The Holy Grail)
I’ve particularly added the “Holy Grail” part to this heading to specify how dangerous this section is. The Plan of Action (POA) that you submit to Amazon’s Seller Performance Team is carefully read and reviewed and plays a major role in deciding whether your suspension is to be lifted or not.
You need to be comprehensive but short. Simply being sorry and saying Amazon “sorry, lesson learned, it won’t occur again!” won’t be remotely sufficient to get your suspension lifted.
Here are the key points to write an effective POA:
- Clearly, illustrate the causes for the suspension to show that you know the violation.
- Take liability and do not make justifications, criticize Amazon or deflect blame.
- Recognize the reasons for the problems and clarify the steps taken to correct and avoid these issues from happening again in an action plan.
- Try to guide clear from extensive terms and estimations such as “often”, “sometimes”, “a little”…etc. Give them concrete numbers, dates, and facts that show you’ve made the attempt and that you’re in the left, right and center of what’s going on.
- Do not answer in a hurry and do not write weep stories or start pointing fingers at anybody (consumer, Amazon, other sellers…etc). Be brief, be proficient, and stick to the facts. The final thing you want to do is to get all overconfident, demanding, mordant or be a drama queen on Amazon.
- Make sure you address ALL infringements. Go through your account and see at older notices/warnings you may have missed or ignored. Make certain you get them resolved and documented if they aren’t. You actually don’t want to go back and forward numerous times with Amazon, it greatly increases your possibility of reinstatement if you get it right the first time.
Thus what type of template can you use? Something like this can work:
- Greeting and introductory paragraph thanking them for the chance to appeal, acknowledging and taking liability for the issues and problem caused to the customers and saying sorry for these issues.
- Recognizing the common causes for the suspension, and then listing the issues you’ve recognized in your business (as per step 2) that you believe have contributed to the suspension, preferably in bullet-pointed format.
- A line depicting that the actions you’re taking to correct those issues are as follows and also probably adding those issues in the bullet-point format right below that line.
- Thanking them for their valuable time and consideration, then your signature.
- Depending on the actions you’ve taken to correct the issue, you may desire to comprise a comprehensive plan at the end of your letter. For example, details about exact changes to internal processes and guidelines.
Once you’re completed, login to seller central and browse to your suspension notification, then tap “Appeal Decision” to submit your appeal. Seller Performance declares they can take up to 48 hours to answer to your appeal, but they seldom stick to that deadline nowadays possibly because of the sheer volume of appeals they receive on a daily basis.
Be tolerant and never send them consecutive emails/appeals without hearing back. If you do this, you hazard getting the dreaded “we’re done with you, bye bye” email. In that circumstance, your probability for getting the suspension lifted is almost completely gone.
By following the above steps, you would easily Get Your Suspended Amazon Account Back.