Lessons in Amazon Customer Service
Amazon has always placed customer service and a buyer-centric marketplace above all else. It’s understandable for high-volume sellers to unintentionally devalue this aspect of their business. It can be hard to maintain this level of customer service when business is booming – but when sales are at their peak, customer service should reflect accordingly.
Amazon sellers often view customer service as a major hassle. Truthfully, it can be a serious inconvenience, especially for high-volume sellers. Between the 24-hour response rule, having to decide whether to issue a refund or risk an account suspension, and understanding what you can and can’t say in a buyer message, it’s hard to view customer service as anything more than another Amazon metric to monitor. Unfortunately, Amazon customer service is moving towards algorithms and automation right alongside the rest of the marketplace.
It’s become increasingly difficult for sellers to maintain a buyer-focused business model when customer service is calculated by metrics. Amazon has grown tremendously since Bezos implemented his initial customer service standards, and many sellers forget that customer service must include a human approach.
Automation simply can’t properly provide the level of customer service required by Amazon and expected by buyers. Plus, without a human approach, the term customer service becomes a contradictory statement. Don’t forget that your customers are human. There are certain Amazon-specific lessons in customer service that every seller should abide by – both on Amazon and off. Amazon was founded upon the idea of starting with the customer and working backwards. It is still possible for sellers to maintain this standard, even on a platform driven by algorithms and numbers.
Handling Customer Service on Amazon
1. Avoid automated customer service tools as much as possible. If automation tools are essential, make sure they are tailored to fit your orders. Tools that send automatic follow-up messages are incredibly convenient, and they do take a lot of weight off of the seller. Even better, sending a message to your buyer a day or two after they get their order acts as a great barrier between the buyer and Amazon. When buyers receive a friendly follow-up, they’re much more likely to respond to you directly if there is any problem. This helps keep Amazon out of the situation so you can resolve the situation with the buyer and avoid any actions by seller performance.
For sellers who must use automated messaging tools, it is so important to make sure the messages are both accurate and appropriate. Message timing is especially important for sellers with varied products and categories. Let’s take hair dye for example: when a customer buys a bottle of hair color, they will need more time to let you know if they love it or hate it. Sending a message (automated or not) one week after delivery is more appropriate in this case than sending it the day it arrives. If your customer gets a message the same day asking how they are enjoying their new hair color, that message is inevitably written off.
For high-volume sellers who need to use automation tools for buyer messages, it’s so important to actually take the time to customize the messages. When your messages are automated, they need to fit the actual products. Neglecting these details will let your customer service fall below standard. They lack that human approach, and your customers will notice.
2. Take the time to learn from your customers. Guess how I learned about the first point mentioned above regarding the message timing? A customer pointed it out. There is so much to be learned from your customers, and it’s incredibly worthwhile to actually engage in a conversation. Of course, if you are an ecommerce business owner, it’s impossible to do this regularly on your own. What’s more, it’s equally impossible to find an employee who truly understands the importance of Amazon customer service and the repercussions of neglecting it. What’s the big deal if two days go by before a message is answered?
If you have an employee managing the customer service for your Amazon account, they must understand that it needs to be treated with the utmost respect. It is quite difficult to explain an Amazon account suspension to someone who isn’t familiar with it, so the best way to drill that point home is to simply state that neglecting customer service will cause your business to fail. If your customer service manager doesn’t understand this, you’ll need to find someone else who does to fill the position.
3. Be aware of what NOT to do. Amazon is extremely specific about what sellers can and cannot say and do when it comes to buyer messages, promotions, and other seemingly miniscule details in regards to customer service. First and most importantly, any action, word, or even suggestion that diverts a buyer away from Amazon is strictly prohibited. This includes your business phone number and email, website link, any suggestive phrases that may give a customer even the slightest thought of making a purchase elsewhere. This could be anything Amazon decides is a reasonable diversion of traffic towards any platform other than theirs. Other major violations include offering discounts or free items in exchange for reviews or positive feedback. Amazon has implemented even stricter penalties for incentivized reviews, so this is something to avoid at all costs.
When it comes to your buyer messages, the algorithm will detect and log all correspondence regardless of whether or not the messages violate TOS. However, messages that are potential violations will be automatically flagged by detecting the type of wording that suggests review solicitation, traffic diversion or disclosure of business contact information.
4. “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” -Seth Godin. These words speak volumes about how Amazon sellers should structure their business models. It’s a direct reflection of starting with the customers and working backwards – if you have a solid base of buyers who trust you, they will trust your products as well. Focus on quality. Don’t lose sight of the big picture – or the daily details. And always, always remember to put the customer above all.