Sellers and vendors can save thousands – or millions – and get better results than just using SAS-Core
Amazon’s premium “support” services for sellers and vendors are an expensive, unmitigated failure. Fortunately, there are better options for your business.
The e-commerce giant recently stepped up its hard-selling techniques for both of its high-priced service packages:
Strategic Account Services – Core (SAS-Core) was designed for Amazon’s third-party (3P) sellers. The service costs $1,600 per month plus 0.3% of a seller’s total sales in the prior month. Fees each month are capped at $5,000.
Amazon Vendor Services is offered to top-tier members of the Amazon Vendor program. Pricing starts at $250,000 per year, but it can run to $1 million or more.
What do sellers and vendors receive for their hefty payments?
According to the hundreds of clients we’ve discussed this with, not very much!
Spoiler alert: many 3P sellers and vendors can pay much lower fees to outside agencies and get much better results. Most importantly, these agencies – including Riverbend Consulting – can be held accountable by your team. (Amazon and accountability don’t belong in the same sentence.)
Amazon’s rich pitch for SAS-Core
Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own Amazon account manager?
That’s the big draw for SAS-Core.
Amazon claims that these magical unicorns will work directly with 3P sellers in the SAS-Core program. They will “only” manage 12 to 15 accounts at a time!
Work closely with your account manager to “prioritize your next steps that can have an impact on your sales.” You get a monthly call to review your business plan and “come up with tailored action items each month.”
These amazing experts will provide advice in “key areas like fulfillment and inventory, account health, selection and conversion growth, merchandising and advertising, and global expansion.” Plus, they can help with listing creation and detail page recommendations.
How about one-on-one coaching and mentoring, too!
Wow. Those are some super-skilled account managers who know everything possible about running a successful Amazon account.
In case you missed the sarcasm, there’s a reason that the open market is filled with specialists. Particularly in the Amazon subject matter areas. Entire agencies are dedicated to Seller Performance challenges, PPC advertising, fulfillment and inventory management, etc.
The idea that a single person at Amazon has the in-depth expertise to advise across all of these areas in an in-depth, value-added manner is nothing short of ludicrous.
Broken promises on The River
Most 3P sellers we’ve spoken to who signed up for SAS-Core specifically wished to have Amazon insider help if and when they had a problem with a suspended account or ASIN. Since the SAS-Core team is supposed to help solve critical issues, their reasoning made perfect sense.
Unfortunately, many users of this premium service are sorely disappointed by a combination of Amazon’s internal policies. Lack of training and know-how on the part of SAS-Core reps. A lack of reasonable and fast internal escalation paths inside of Amazon. Lastly just plain old bad customer service similar to that you might see with Seller Support.
Examples of upsetting failures by SAS-Core that Riverbend has solved for clients include:
A 9-figure seller had their account suspended by Seller Performance. Their initial appeal was rejected, and they submitted a new one. They asked SAS-Core to escalate. SAS-Core demurred. Telling them they had to wait a full 72 hours before they could escalate. Before the 72-hour time period expired, we helped the seller escalate and gain reinstatement.
A seller’s most important ASIN was suspended, but no reason or appeal path was provided by Seller Performance. The seller reached out to their SAS-Core rep, who after two business days responded that they did not know the suspension reason but would try to find out. Before the rep provided any additional information, we helped the seller determine the suspension reason, appeal, and get their ASIN back up and running.
Amazon mistakenly provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds under the guise that products had been recalled – when they were not. SAS-Core said they had no way to help recoup those funds. Using a multi-pronged strategy, Riverbend helped the client get their money back.
A 3P seller with multiple best-selling brands in their category was dissatisfied with their assigned account rep. He was not responsive and did not know how to solve the seller’s critical challenges. The seller reached out to their rep’s manager, asking for a change. Amazon refused to assign a new rep – for more than a year. My team helped write escalations that got our client a new SAS-Core rep.
In all of these cases, the seller paid Riverbend far less in fees than they pay for Amazon SAS-Core. We solved their problems when these “Amazon insiders” could not or would not.
Amazon Vendor Services and the pot of gold
Amazon Vendor Services (AVS) is an invitation-only program for top-tier vendors. Only high-volume performers could afford the program’s massive price tag. AVS promises to improve listing content, improve listing searchability, increase customer reach and drive up conversion rates.
Recently, a vendor came to us with a serious problem.
They own several brands, all of which are part of Amazon Brand Registry. Despite this, unwanted and inaccurate changes are continually being made to their listings by third parties. The results have been disastrous. ASINs have been pulled down as restricted products, because inaccurate ingredient information was added to the detail page.
The vendor reached out to Vendor Relations to ask for help. Ultimately, a Vendor Manager said this: “These Brand Registry problems are frustrating. If you would like us to fix them, you can join our AVS program for $1 million per year.”
That’s right, folks. The Vendor team essentially said they would not provide basic, reasonable and critical customer service to ensure this brand’s listings are not being wrongly edited by others. But for a cool million, they might find the time to fix it all.
There are lots of words that might describe this “sales pitch.” However, the term “extortion” comes to mind.
Regardless, others who are part of AVS have expressed many pain points with the program. It features poor customer service, badly trained reps, extreme delays in addressing critical issues, and a refusal to address financial issues such as overcharges and underpayments by Amazon.
Forget spending $1 million with Amazon. A vendor can hire a firm like Riverbend to address many operational issues, plus hire an agency to manage their catalog, inventory and more. And they will have cash left over.
Pay for real results – and accountability
Agencies and consulting firms like Riverbend offer several critical advantages over these rich Amazon programs:
Accountability. It is literally impossible to hold account reps, account managers and other individuals at Amazon accountable. There are many reasons for this. The end result is all that matters. Even if you are an 8- or 9-figure seller, you do not have the ability to set standards or performance expectations. You are the little guy. You are at their mercy.
Results. If you submit a request for help, nobody at Amazon is focused on truly ensuring you get results. In contrast, at a consulting firm, we are deeply invested in helping our clients get the end result they need.
Customer service. The Service Level Agreements (SLAs) at SAS-Core and AVS have little meaning. At Riverbend, we adhere to our SLAs. We have employees whose sole job is to ensure that we respond quickly to clients – even if their assigned consultant or sales rep is busy. Another huge differentiator? You can get us on the phone! Amazon just doesn’t want to talk to you. Period.
Therefore, if you’re currently paying through the nose for one of these programs – or considering it – think again. Give us a call at 877-289-1017. Our team can talk to you about more affordable alternatives with better results and superior responsiveness.
Lesley is co-founder and co-owner of Riverbend Consulting, where she oversees the firm’s client services team. She has personally helped hundreds of third-party sellers get their accounts and ASINs back up and running. Lesley leverages two decades as a small business consultant to advise clients on profitability and operational performance. She has been an Amazon seller for almost a decade, thanks to her boys (19 and 13) who do most of the heavy lifting.