How Do You Communicate with Amazon? The (Relatively) New Case of the Pre-POA (Plan of Action)Chris McCabe
Interested in Pre-POA, Amazon communication best practices, and how to avoid seller suspensions? Read on and also catch me live at the Seller Velocity Conference in NYC on April 26!
Some sellers see the new Plan of Action requests as evidence of Amazon’s seriousness surrounding the “Pre-Suspension POA” process. How do you interpret crucial account communication from Seller Performance and then put together the right response to save your account? It’s important to understand the best methods for communicating with the Amazon teams assessing your POA. According to the Outreach teams handling the calls to sellers and to the messages requesting these plans, you may only have two real chances to get this right. It’s imperative that you understand the dos and don’ts.
What is a Pre-POA anyway?
Amazon added this process as a reaction to past criticism that it was treating sellers too harshly, or not giving enough warning before suspending seller accounts.
Did Amazon truly believe it had not provided enough warnings? In most cases, performance notifications had been sent in advance. The warnings may not have been taken seriously by the sellers, but in reviewing thousands of performance notifications over the last ten years, I usually find a warning notice once I look inside the account. Sellers were indeed notified. The Pre-POA program represents Amazon’s newfound interest in helping sellers understand what they’re doing wrong before things get any worse. Instead of waiting until the problems lead to an inevitable suspension, Amazon gives you an opportunity to lay out your improvement plan.
Where did the Pre-POA concept come from?
Based on my team’s research, Amazon merged two existing concepts into one for this new initiative.
- About two years ago, Seller Performance developed a pilot program to reach out to certain sellers by phone if they had appealed their account suspensions without submitting a complete and “viable” Plan of Action. Amazon assigned trained investigators to about 20 different sellers. Those investigators reached out to sellers regarding deficiencies in their previous POAs. Based on pre-selected criteria, Seller Performance considered those particular sellers close enough to acceptable appeals to warrant further conversations. Amazon wanted to try a new method of speaking with sellers to clarify what Plan of Action pieces may have been missed. Sometimes it worked and the sellers got reinstated shortly thereafter. For many, it was a welcome change of pace from vague pre-written, standardized language in the email messaging approved by Amazon Legal for outbound use.
- Pilot programs were also launched in the past to contact certain “at risk” sellers who had metrics trending out of range. At first, established and higher-revenue sellers were identified and contacted, but over time, the pilot came to include seller accounts that were usually within range but recently spiked out of the norm. Quite clearly, any such program can expand to include not only metrics evaluations but policy violations. If you’ve had very few inauthentic complaints and then you suddenly accumulate three, or you’ve rarely had any notices of infringement and then two hop along in rapid succession, then why not explore the reasons for new trouble? Internal teams opened up possibility that Amazon could alert sellers to the need for operational improvements now instead of after the roof caved in.
Now we have the Pre-POA system, freshly hatched and expanding to include more sellers each week. While many submit Pre-POAs and wait emails indicating acceptance, some are seeking answers on the nature of this process and how to handle it. If you’ve never been suspended before, you likely have some questions. If you’ve never written a POA before in order to get an ASIN or your account reinstated, it never hurts to learn! Be smart and be prepared for anything in Amazonland.
Okay, so this Pre-POA stuff may really be here to stay . . . Now what do I do? What do I avoid?
- Do make sure you take this seriously! Just because you haven’t been suspended yet doesn’t mean that you’re untouchable.
- Do form a list of action items that you’ll be able to complete (just as you would when reviewing your own account health for potential suspension risks). Not sure how to do that? Check out the ecommerceChris membership for an easy standard operating procedure that gives you the 4 steps to writing a successful plan of action.
- Do use your POA bullets to directly address the specifics mentioned in your notification from Amazon.
- Nailed for complaints about inauthentic product? Get as much verifiable about your suppliers’ legitimacy and present that in your bullets.
- Nailed for safety complaints? Study your past buyer reports of health hazards, fire risks, injury, etc., and then form proactive solutions that will concretely and permanently resolve those concerns.
- Do resist the urge to appeal or reply immediately. Take time, cool down, dig into root causes, form legitimate solutions that not only sound good but that will also convince a Seller Performance team member that you’ve done your homework.
- Do remember that POA solutions only work when you accurately pin down the causes of brand or buyer complaints! If you don’t address the causes and issues described and on hand, Amazon may not even read your POA.
- Don’t waste appeals. You get two cracks at this. The pre-POA squad at Seller Performance won’t be giving out extra chances. If you rush one or submit something incomplete, you’ll be down to your last strike.
- Don’t expect leniency or extra chances just because this is fairly new. You’ll find yourself lacking that empathy and failing to meet Amazon’s criteria for an acceptable Pre-POA.
- Don’t stray from successful styles or formats for a Plan of Action. Keep it to a page. Unless you’re hit with “inauthentic” or Notice Claims and you need to show supplier contact info and brand retractions, then a page plus is okay. Realize the amount of work your investigator has take on and speak to that audience and depth of investigation.
Any questions on the process? Confusion about what to do or not to do? I’m here to help! We have as part of our membership a proven approach to building a POA. Learn how to do this the right way, along with how to examine potential threats that lead down the suspension path. Before it’s too late.
Chris McCabe worked for years on Amazon performance-and-policy enforcement teams as well as Bezos escalations. He now uses his knowledge and experience to help sellers think like Amazon and protect their businesses.
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