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5 Tips for Navigating the Amazon

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 10, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

by Rachel Greer, Cascadia Product Testing Solutions

Many vendors find communicating with Amazon when there's a problem an exercise in frustration, at best, and not worth enduring, at worst. And trying to navigate Vendor Central's "Contact Us" system can be the most frustrating experience for vendors, especially when there's already a problem with a shipment going out late or if a chargeback has been. However, there are ways to make this easier for you and the associate with Amazon trying to help you succeed.

Keep It Simple
The typical associate who answers any cases you submit has between 3 and 20 minutes to fully investigate your issue, provide you feedback, and do whatever internal tracking is required. This number trends downward each year. The associate reading your submission will be more likely to follow what you have to say if you use straightforward Latin based words (phrasal verbs like "put up with" are more difficult for non-native speakers than "endure") and keep your sentences short, with a focus on proper nouns rather than pronouns, where it can be hard to follow the train of thought. If what you're asking isn't direct, to the point, and relatively short, it may be too confusing for the initial associate to handle and they will then escalate it. Escalations always take longer because there are fewer qualified associates to handle them and you can be stuck in the no response purgatory for upwards of a month with some understaffed teams. You want the associate handling your case to be able to read it, understand your concern, have all of the relevant information to solve the problem in front of them (so don't just reference an order or shipment ID, provide a screenshot as an attachment in your case). And always be very polite! The associate tasked with reading your query is not the one setting the policy and making people feel bad usually doesn't make them want to help you.

Use the Right Dropdown Options
There are many possible options when using the Vendor Central dropdown menu, but which should you use to get to the right team? Some I/SIs go directly to operations teams who will answer your case quickly, sometimes within a day, but may not have the right expertise to handle your inquiry. Or, you may submit something to a queue that goes directly to a corporate based team who can definitely answer your query, but they have much slower response times due to their staffing. In addition to this, there are sometimes confusing overlaps with the I/SIs. For example, if you have a problem with your import shipment, you may be tempted to select "Shipments" then choose "#3 My shipment hasn't been picked up yet and I need help," and assume that will solve the problem; however, that may not work depending on the issue. If it's due to a product compliance delay, perhaps you were asked for documents on electrical safety listings or children's products, and for this kind of shipment delay, you must use "Issue Product Compliance >> Direct Import Submission."

Don't Spam the Queues
Each case is assigned in incoming order to the next available associate. If multiple associates are working on the same case, you will sometimes get less than optimal responses. Different responses may come from the same issue submitted, but were worked by different associates, or sometimes both associates may resolve the case as a duplicate, citing that the other case is being worked on or was already resolved. If you've already submitted a case, you can go into "Settings >> Case Log" and open your existing open cases to submit additional information. For example, the interface only lets you attach one file at a time of no more than 4MB; if you're submitting import documentation, it's important to attach all relevant documents and test reports to the same case rather than forcing an associate to go searching for your other new cases you submitted. Again, these associates are limited in the time they have to help you, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them.

Do Your Homework
The Vendor Central Resource Center is full of information to help you succeed with Amazon – it's just not text searchable or easy to navigate. Sometimes, items which seem "Legal" are found in "Operations" or vice versa. If you can provide the exact reference to the guide that you used to the associate reviewing your account, that will help them better troubleshoot your problem. Sometimes, internal policies have changed, but the external facing policy hasn't yet been updated and it helps them to know why you're facing the issue you're facing. Additionally, nearly all guidance you need to submit documents or ship successfully with Amazon can be found here; they are just usually owned by each individual team, so you may have to read through four or more manuals to make sure your shipment is properly labeled and compliant with Amazon policy.

Make Use of Experts
Sometimes, it's very difficult to reach anyone who is willing to provide you a phone number to call at Amazon. Everyone has goals to meet and phone calls are not a part of these goals. An experienced manufacturer's representative to Amazon or consultant team can help you with breaking down your concerns and issues into the most relevant parts and go to bat for you with whichever team you need them to at Amazon. Amazon is a very fragmented company and what works with one VM, or even with retail in general, may not work with the product compliance or vendor chargebacks teams (which are essentially operations teams with limited corporate support). Many consultants and rep groups supporting Amazon are based in Seattle and can advocate for you not just in e-mail or on the phone with Amazon, but also in person.

Every day you're not getting an answer or getting to the root cause of a stuck import shipment or labeling issue is a day you're not shipping to customers and making money. Following these steps will help you get closer to your goal of a successful partnership with Amazon and access to Amazon's many customers!

Rachel Greer has over seven years of Amazon experience, most recently in the Product Compliance team at Amazon, managing audits, product testing, and inspections for the global retail and private label compliance programs. Rachel is also experienced with product recalls, product safety/Andon Cords, and restricted/prohibited products at Amazon. She is focused on simplifying complex global regulations to help small and medium vendors expand their selection or go global with minimal recall/port seizure risks or product defects. Rachel holds an MA from the University of Oregon in Early Modern European History and an MBA from Seattle University with a focus in operations and international business.

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