Earth’s most customer-centric company. The unofficial creed of Amazon.com. A place where the customer comes first, last and always.
Amazon sets a high bar. In most situations the customer usually gets the benefit of the doubt. This tendency translates into:
Acceptance of late returns, past the 30-day window
A blind eye to used items, opened items and even old, nasty items that are returned for an exchange or refund
Refunds, concessions and gift cards for even the smallest misstep – or no misstep at all
While it can be frustrating for third-party sellers, Amazon’s customer-focused policies have created a loyal customer base willing to:
Pay subscription fees for Prime delivery
Accept a premium for items that are delivered quickly
Give third-party sellers a willing and able group of millions of potential customers
What does this mean for third-party Amazon sellers?
Amazon expects its third-party sellers to offer the same kind of high-end customer service assistance that it does.
If a seller doesn’t live up to those standards, what happens? Warnings, suspensions and other costly enforcement actions can be the result of:
A-to-z claims against merchant-fulfilled sellers
Negative feedback that is ever-harder to remove
Negative product reviews for private-label sellers
Fewer repeat sales to happy customers
As every good seller knows, A-to-z claims plus negative feedback creates a high Order Defect Rate. And this can create an account suspension.
Best practices for Amazon customer service
Don’t put black marks on your Amazon account by mistreating customers. Follow Amazon’s lead to provide amazing customer service. This will reduce your risk – and your blood pressure.
Answer customer messages quickly. Shoot for an average response time under eight hours. Amazon answers even faster, so a long wait makes customers antsy.
Write excellent customer service messages. Chances are, your company receives the same five to 10 customer questions time and again. Create high-quality templates to answer customer questions, and require your customer service folks to use them every time. Ensure the tone is friendly and concerned. And provide the exact information they requested. If you don’t like your customer service messages, hire someone to write templates. (Call us!)
Apologize when needed. Don’t hesitate to take responsibility when the customer is unhappy – even if it wasn’t completely your fault.
Pay for quality shipping – especially overseas. Not all package delivery services are created equal. Ensure that you choose reliable, high-quality carriers. Cheaper is not always better.
Look for trends. Even when your customers don’t reach out to you directly, they are leaving clues about your business. High returns show dissatisfaction with specific ASINs. Bad feedback or negative reviews reveal problems with orders or products. Run reports weekly and uncover the biggest problem areas. Solve two problems a week, and soon your business will be more profitable than ever.
Hit the refund button – fast. Don’t make customers beg for refunds. If they are unhappy, just give the money back, if at all possible. This will head off all manner of complaints and customer service problems. Set a price point cutoff. If The price of the item is below X, your customer service team is empowered to immediately provide a refund.
Never, ever argue. Customers can be frustrating. And let’s face it – not everybody is honest. Some art trying to get something for nothing. That simply doesn’t matter to Amazon. Treat every customer as a valuable, important person – no matter what.
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.