The Road to Amazon Suspension is Paved With Good Intentions (Sometimes)
Liz Fickenscher, Industry Liaison at eComEngine
Amazon product reviews are always a hot topic with sellers, both because they are so important to a seller’s success on the marketplace, and because getting them can be challenging.
This is due to two reasons:
1) Amazon works hard to ferret out “bad actors,” so reviews and review requests are scrutinized by humans and machine learning mechanisms alike.
2) Because of this, well-intentioned and honest sellers are often caught in the undertow of Amazon’s efforts to legitimize and clean up the product review space.
For our purposes, we’re going to focus on the second reason – the sellers with the best of intentions and the reasons those good intentions can result in permanent bans from Buyer-Seller Messaging or even total account suspension. We’ll review two common honest intentions. I’ll give you the information you need to know to keep your good intentions from burning you when requesting reviews.
Intention 1: Provide Product Instructions for a Better Customer Experience
In order for your buyers to make the most of your products, odds are they need some form of product instructions. That makes sense. Ideally, you have product instructions nicely printed and in your product packaging, but if you don’t, you might be tempted to send them via Buyer-Seller Messaging.
Explaining how to properly use your item will decrease the likelihood of negative reviews. I’ll be honest – I have seen a lot of brands that are doing this with no issue. BUT, they aren’t doing the things that could get them in trouble. If you’re going to send product information via Buyer-Seller Messaging, you must avoid the following:
● Using [Important] in the subject line.
This subject line device is only appropriate and in line with Amazon’s policies if the message is necessary to complete an order. Amazon created this subject line device when it introduced buyer opt-out, as these messages get through to opted out buyers. While it may be tempting to get that every-important product information to your opted- out customers, don’t use [Important] in your subject line. Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messages FAQ states that messages that are critical to completing an order are messages around:
- Delivery scheduling
- Issues with shipping address
- Product customization questions
Proactive customer service is explicitly described as not critical to completing an order. This includes product instructions and tips.
● Sending multiple messages to your buyer.
The current school of thought says that you should only send one email per order requesting a review. Sellers who are getting restricted from Buyer-Seller Messaging are provided with a list of reasons as to why they may have received the restriction. Asking for the same review repeatedly and excessive customer complaints about your unsolicited message are two possible reasons. So, sending your product instructions and then asking for a review in another message is a no-no. Sending too many messages will likely result in complaints from buyers.
In a nutshell, be mindful of your message contents. Be sure not to include any marketing or promotional language.
Intention 2: To Provide Contact Information So My Buyer Can Ask Me Questions
This makes all the sense in the world, but it is strictly prohibited by Amazon policy. You cannot include any links to external websites (even links in your logo) per Amazon’s Communication Guidelines. Also, if you’re including a review request in the message, spelled-out domain names, email addresses, or phone numbers could be construed as attempting to divert a negative review to be sent to you. This is against Amazon’s Customer Product Review Policies.
You can respond to reviews that are left on the listing, but you have to be compliant with the Community Guidelines. You can only ask the unhappy buyer to contact you via Buyer-Seller Messaging. The Answers to Questions About Product Reviews page in Seller Central states this explicitly.
Full disclosure: seller responses to product reviews do not trigger a message to the reviewer. They are more for future buyers, so that they can see that you care about customer satisfaction and you resolve issues quickly. More bad news: shoppers on the Amazon marketplace likely have to click “more” when reading reviews in order to see the seller’s response. It’s a bummer, but it’s really the only way you have to respond to reviews. Amazon is very protective of buyer data, and it’s not possible to obtain buyer information while remaining compliant with Amazon’s policies.
A Better Way to Request Reviews
Generally, if you avoid flagrantly violating Amazon’s policies, and you’re conversant in Amazon’s various policies, you will likely be fine when requesting reviews or sending product information. If you’re still worried, or you’ve been restricted or banned from Buyer-Seller Messaging, there is another option.
Amazon has offered another mechanism through which you can request reviews. Amazon’s Request a Review functionality was introduced in fall of 2019. You can find it on Seller Central on your Order Details page for each eligible order. It triggers an Amazon-authored email that asks for both a product review and seller feedback.
The message is not customizable and is not sent through Buyer-Seller Messaging. It is 100% compliant with all of Amazon’s policies. A handful of third-party reputation management tools have automated this request, and the results have been promising so far. Sellers who have enabled this request within eComEngine’s FeedbackFive have seen an increase in positive customer reviews, an increase in positive seller feedback, and even a decrease in negative reviews! In some cases, the uptick has been surprising, at 20% or more additional reviews.
Know the Rules
Amazon doesn’t create policies to hold sellers back. The goal is to provide a consistently great buyer experience. It is your responsibility as a seller to understand and properly interpret all of Amazon’s policies to keep your account healthy.
I will be speaking at 2020 Prosper Show and look forward to answering additional questions on September 1 in my presentation Advanced (and Compliant) Product Review Strategies for Launch and Beyond. See my bio on the 2020 Prosper Show speaker page.