Think of the most recognizable brands that we as consumers can find on Amazon – Nike, Levi’s, Adidas, Dewalt, etc. Apart from these businesses investing in marketing and ads they have systems and processes that boost their success across the retail and e-commerce landscape.
With effective standard operating procedures (SOPs), many brands have put their Amazon FBA businesses at the forefront, and they’ve been able to quickly scale and manage their exponential growth.
Today, running a business without an SOP will leave it disorganized. Disorganization will not only steal your time, but you’ll lose customers, and sales and earn a damaged reputation.
Whether you’re new to Amazon or you have an existing seller account, without standard operating procedures in place your Amazon business is at risk. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you learn the proper standard operating procedures and performance standards to improve your business.
What are SOPs and how are they beneficial?
An SOP (standard operating procedure) is a document that describes a brand’s business processes. You may consider SOPs as the blueprint or guide that explains your core business principles and answers various how-to questions. Standard operating procedures outline the necessary steps you or your employees must take to complete multiple day-to-day tasks.
With an SOP, you can better manage your Amazon business and carry out your business operations according to Amazon’s terms of service, industry regulations, and state laws. They can also help you provide timely, exceptional service to your customers, make it easier to delegate tasks to virtual assistants (VAs), and ultimately leave you with a well-organized efficient business whose process is as important as its customer service.
What common areas in your Amazon business are best for SOPs?
Pretty much every area of your Amazon business can benefit from an SOP. Here are our six favorite complex processes you can streamline with the help of an SOP:
#1 Fixing stranded inventory
You can standardize your inventory management processes with an SOP containing information like inventory tasks and how you can execute each task. If you have stranded inventory in a fulfillment center for whatever reason, you are confident of your process – which will also include the Amazon warehouse and inventory management guidelines that are required by Amazon to resolve such an issue.
#2 Customer service messages
Documenting all your customer service processes in an SOP is a great way to establish new processes and systems, and can also provide you with valuable customer data. Any team member (old or new) can read through and understand your expectations and standard for all customer-related conversations or issues. They will also find out the necessary tools to satisfy customer demands and gather information to make informed decisions.
#3 Creating FBA shipments
Creating Amazon shipments should involve a standard process with multiple steps so that your shipment experience is consistent and organized in a comprehensive approach. You’ll log your inbound and outbound expected dates, carrier info, and more. You can document your methods as a step-by-step guide for ongoing use.
#4 Shipping out MFN orders
If you fulfill your orders yourself, an SOP will help you save time, deliver timely, and mitigate risks like product loss or shipping damaged goods. Since an SOP highlights the necessary checks you and your team must carry out and the shipping procedures to follow, you’ll be able to boost your business credibility, improve productivity, and get good reviews.
#5 Amazon FBA Reimbursements
Amazon has a reimbursement policy that FBA sellers must comply with when requesting a refund for goods lost or damaged by Amazon. Creating your own SOP for an Amazon FBA reimbursement process can save hours of time and help you maximize your reimbursement. Specifics like staking your claim using the Contact Us page in Seller Central within 90 days can be laid out in your SOP so that when you outsource this task you have a process in place.
#6 Appealing suspended ASINs
You can experience an ASIN suspension when a buyer complains about your listed products on Amazon. Though you can’t control complaints, you can investigate and appeal the suspension. With an SOP, you can document the possible reasons for ASIN suspension and how you and your team can prevent or appeal it.
How to create an SOP
Now that you’re ready to create an SOP for your Amazon business, here are the steps to follow:
Make a list of your business tasks/processes that need SOPs – Identify every aspect of your business that requires strict processes and highlight them. It may be best to start with areas you’re knowledgeable about or problems you’ve experienced on the job yourself.
Consult experts – Amazon has a lot of moving parts. Since you can’t know them all, we recommend you consult in-house experts to help you further identify what aspects of your business need procedural documentation. In a case where you run the business alone and can’t pay an expert, you can follow some on social media for insights and ideas.
Write out every step – Sounds like a basic step, but this one is crucial. Once you’ve identified the tasks to standardize in your business, write out all the steps required to carry out such tasks. Do this like you’re explaining to someone without knowledge about the tasks. No detail is insignificant.
Provide additional information like pictures and videos – Add screenshots, pictures, videos, graphs, and other details in your SOPs to improve readability, aid better understanding, and help navigate your highlighted processes.
Compile and train other team members – Train your team members on your standards and business operating procedures after drafting the SOP so that your services remain consistent and you can deliver excellence to your customers.
Review and update over time – Stay up to date with Amazon’s terms of service and guidelines for sellers and ensure your SOP is not obsolete. Make adjustments in line with your customers’ demands or your discretion – so long you don’t default any rules.
An SOP is a vital document that can make or mar the success of your business. When writing one, avoid rushing. You should also avoid writing without structure, grammatical and business errors, plagiarism, and false information. SOPs are not set-it and forget-it documents and will need to be updated as your business evolves. At any stage, these documents should be created with value in mind.
The goal of every business is to make profits and scale. However, as your Amazon business scales, you must have processes to ensure it can accommodate the growth.
With adequate documentation through SOPs, you can keep your company running in your absence because new hires and existing team members will have all the information they need to carry out their daily activities.
Ultimately, as your business grows, you’ll save time, boost productivity, speed execution, mitigate risks, streamline complex processes, and achieve Amazon Seller success.
What was your experience when drafting your first SOP? Do you think an SOP is vital for a one-person Amazon FBA business? Share your thoughts below.
Contact us for more information about our Account Support services and Reimbursement services, which are heavily based on SOPs to ensure high quality and consistency with every interaction and task!
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.