Getting Stricter – The Amazon A to Z Guarantee, by CJ Rosenbaum and Robert Segal from the AmazonSellersLawyer.com. Amazon Sellers Lawyer is a legal team that is dedicated to defending sellers’ rights by applying legal strategies to protect their accounts and handle account suspensions, complaints and policy violations. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors only.
Most of Amazon’s policies are in place to guarantee that buyers feel comfortable and safe shopping on the internet; their policies reflect a dedication to providing the best possible customer experience to the buyers on the platform. But what about the sellers? These policies are strict, often overly so, and require you as a seller to pay close attention to a variety of criteria, including an array customer satisfaction metrics as well as requirements for timeliness. Not only are these policies strict, but they are constantly being modified or updated, and a simple violation of just one of Amazon’s multitude of policies could result in your seller account being suspended. The most recent change in policy has not been officially announced, but our law firm’s close relationships with our seller clients have provided us with insight via an email from Amazon Services that has been circulating to sellers:
“Beginning November 14, the response time to an A-to-Z Guarantee claim notification will decrease from 7 calendar days to 3 calendar days. This means that you will have 3 days to respond to Amazon via Seller Central to any claim filed against you by the buyer. Failure to respond to a claim in this timeframe will result in the claim being decided in favor of the buyer. Responding directly to the buyer or calling Seller Support does not qualify as an official response to the claim.”
Here, Amazon has imposed yet another new reform on its policy that places even more responsibility and pressure on sellers to adhere to their strict standards. As a seller you may be wondering whether these reforms are actually necessary to provide the ultimate customer experience on which the Amazon platform was founded. Does limiting a seller’s time to respond to A-to-Z guarantee complaints also limit a seller’s ability to focus on other aspects of customer service? The remainder of this article will discuss what the A-to-Z Guarantee is, how this policy change will affect you as a seller, as well as an outline of how-to handle these types of complaints going forward.
The Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee: What is it?
According to Amazon, the A-to-Z Guarantee was implemented to increase buyer confidence when shopping on the Amazon website. As a part of this policy, Amazon will guarantee purchases from third-party sellers when payment is made via the Amazon.com website or when Amazon payments are used on a partner website. Eligible customers may receive up to $2,500 of the purchase price, including shipping charges. Buyers can file claims for a plethora of reasons including: order not received; product not as described; returned item not refunded, refused return; service not as described; and poor service quality.
How will this policy affect MY seller account?
It is important to understand the way Amazon enforces its policy, which is why we recommend that you respond immediately to your customers A-to-Z claims as a seller. If you do not respond to notification of a claim within the allowable time period (soon to be 3 days), then Amazon will grant the buyer’s claim, and the full amount of the claim will be deducted from your seller account in accordance with your seller agreement. Then on top of this, Amazon will increase your order defect rate, a metric provided to sellers in Seller Central. If your order defect rate rises above 1 percent, then your account will be suspended.
If you are following the best possible practices as a seller, Amazon’s new policy should not affect you as a seller, but it certainly can, given Amazon’s high standards for order defect rate. Running any business successfully requires above average time management skills, and this policy update will certainly affect how some sellers manage their time. Most successful sellers view resolving claims against their seller account simply as a cost of doing business. By issuing a full refund to the buyer, you can instantly resolve the claim. However, even the best sellers cannot always guarantee this action is taken immediately.
Response time will be limited to less than half of what it is now, and sellers will be forced to change their business practices in order to comply. Typically, accomplishing the same goal in less time requires more resources for a business, which means more costs. This raises the question of whether it is really fair or necessary to the customer service experience to require faster seller response times when sellers already have so many other policies to adhere to.
How Should I Handle A-to-Z Claims Moving Forward?
As savvy seller, you should realize that Amazon essentially operates under the assumption that the customer is always right. So what does this mean for you in terms of the A-to-Z guarantee? It means that even if you do respond to a claim against your account within the allowable time period, that Amazon will almost always side with the buyer and issue them a refund with funds taken from your seller account.
So then what should you do? Be proactive. Anticipate Amazon’s actions and understand that dealing with A-to-Z complaints is simply a cost of doing business. If you unsuccessfully contest an A-to-Z claim (which is almost always the case), your seller account will receive negative feedback which can subsequently result in your account being suspended. By staying proactive and simply issuing refunds immediately upon receiving an A-to-Z claim, you are protecting yourself from even greater future harm. While this practice will prove to be frustrating at times, it will ultimately limit the potential greater damage your account would face from these claims.
If you let Amazon handle your A-to-Z claim, you are almost guaranteed to lose. When you lose, your order defect rate will increase. Amazon’s policy requires maintaining an order defect rate of less than 1 percent or else your seller account may face suspension. So even though it may be frustrating to bear the costs of issuing returns due to customers unwarranted reasons, it will not be as frustrating as handling an account suspension which will halt your sales and cost you substantial time and money to correct.
What to Take Away from this Article
At the end of the day it is crucial to remember that the customer is king when selling on the Amazon platform. Because Amazon will almost always side with the customer, you should protect your account by simply issuing refunds to any customer A-to-Z claim in order to avoid any unnecessary increases in your order defect rate. Ultimately a suspension will cost you more in both time and money than it would to issue a refund or return to individual customers and a healthy account is the key to staying successful on the Amazon platform.