Amazon Policy Warning Buyer Communication Time

Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times

This is the one I know you’ve been waiting for… Looks like Amazon are about to start enforcing the Buyer-Seller Response times to buyers as a measured metric on your Amazon dashboards.

If you missed the Amazon Price Parity article a few days, you can find it here, as Amazon appear to be focusing on 3rd party sellers this quarter.

Amazon Policy Warning Email

Below is the email being sent out from Amazon, you might have one of these too this morning:

Dear Seller,

Buyers tell us that receiving timely responses from sellers to their enquiries is an important contributor to their overall satisfaction with an order. Our research has shown that sellers who respond to 90% or more of their messages within 24 hours have nearly 24% less negative feedback than sellers who take longer to respond.

To help make your Amazon Marketplace transactions successful, we recommend that you respond to buyer enquiries within 24 hours. You can access buyer enquiries by clicking the “Messages” link in the upper-right corner of your seller account home page. Copies of messages are also sent to the e-mail address associated with your account.

You can monitor your average response times on the Customer Metrics page of your seller account. Your Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time metrics are located at the bottom of the page.

For more information on how response time metrics are calculated, search on “Contact Response Time Metrics” in our online seller Help.

The following are some best practices for achieving a great response time metric:

– Regularly monitor your response time metrics.
– Check your seller account for messages every day, including at the weekend.
– Mark messages you have read but not responded to as “unread” in your e-mail client.
– Use a Contact Response Management (CRM) system to track enquiries.
– Let buyers know if a question or issue will require additional time to research.
– If you receive the same questions on a regular basis, consider creating a document with prepared answers.

Regards,

Amazon Services Europe

Account Screenshot

I’ve included a screenshot from an account that has had this policy warning. You’ll notice that the account is in really good standing except for the communications rate, which appears to be an ongoing issue.

Note: No apologies for the blurred areas. You don’t need to know these values & Amazon employees read this site (hola!).

Amazon Policy Warning Buyer Communication Time

What is an Issue Is…

While I’m not going to argue with the statement that sellers who respond quickly to emails are more likely to have less negative feedback, that makes sense and the business in question could work on decreasing the response times, as it will have a wider benefit other than not having policy warnings from Amazon.

What is an issue is:

  1. Weekends are included in this rating
  2. Even if a customer says “Thanks”, the message needs to be marked as “not needing a response”

These two issues are real problems for businesses that are closed on the weekends and even just one day, they could easily score a closed response for a buyer just saying “thanks” if they were there, but if they’re not and have some form of life-work balance, it’s being missed.

An obvious idea is to set up an auto responder to reply to Amazon questions quickly, but I’m sure it won’t take Amazon long to start blocking such responses or to add that as a violation too.

I’ve had a couple of these forwarded to me this morning (it appears to be a mass mailer from Amazon)  and have checked a couple of Amazon Seller Central accounts, they ALL have yellow values for response times and found another one that was showing red as well. I’ll work with the businesses that have sent this to see what underlying processes can be altered to tackle this on a long term basis.

In the comments area I have added a note around the policy page for “Customer Response Time metrics”, you can view the page here https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/200549770/ref=im_200549770_cont_200549770 and an interesting quote is:

Will response-time metrics be used in seller performance evaluations?
Response-time metrics are not normally reviewed during seller performance evaluations, but we may review these metrics if a Seller Account shows extremely poor performance in other areas. Note, however, that customers who do not receive timely responses are more likely to leave negative feedback or to file claims, which will affect your performance metrics directly. It is therefore important to review these response-time metrics regularly.

I do wonder if this is going to change in the next few weeks…

Check Your Amazon Account Now

You can check your Amazon Seller Central account here:
https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/customer-experience/summary.html/ref=ag_custmetric_dnav_home

What do You Make of This Warning?

  • Have you had a policy violation as well this morning?
  • How do you you cope responses at weekends, when there is no-one in the office?
  • Is your account Red or Yellow for the Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time?

Let me know in the comments box below.

45 replies
  1. shak
    shak says:

    For late responses over the weekend we always mark them off as no reply needed then go back and ansqer them. If you mark as no reply needed even after 24 hour it doesn’t count against you

    Reply
  2. George
    George says:

    Yeah Amazon is asking the Elfs to work faster. My stock price however does not allow me to keep Indians over the weekend to answer emails… This is only the beginning, look for more demands in the future as Amazon will start cherry picking the people that can sell on their store. They are already hitting on other “policy violations”…

    Reply
  3. Martin
    Martin says:

    Its worse than just weekends. It includes all public holidays too. We went into negative territory on Amazon France purely because of messages received over Christmas. I was on holiday in Indonesia and did actually reply just over the 24-hour limit. I even downloaded a backup so I could access despatch info for the customer’s order more quickly than if she’d had to wait for someone to be back in the office. To rub extra salt into the wound Amazon refunded the customer even though her parcel had been left at a shop below her apartment because there was a coded security lock on the access to the apartment. The customer refused to collect the parcel from the shop saying that she didn’t see why she should be inconvenienced. I pointed out to Amazon that this was tantamount to saying that the courier should carry explosives so that they could blow open locked access doors. It fell on deaf ears. The courier (French post office’s colissimo on the last step of the delivery) were reluctant to recover the parcel saying that they had delivered in accordance with their terms and conditions. When we finally did get them to go back they reported that the parcel was no longer there, with no explanation as to where it might have gone. Collected by the buyer? Who knows!

    Reply
  4. @webfixnow
    @webfixnow says:

    There was mention about using a smartphone app. You can use any email client like gmail, yahoo, or SMTP from your smartphone to answer Amazon emails with the exception of the ones that don’t require a response for which you need to log into your seller central account and mark no response.

    Reply
  5. Dave Solomon
    Dave Solomon says:

    Ebay do an app where you can reply to messages easily from your phone nd they are on the site – Amazon should do he same. It’s one thing asking for perfection but they have a duty to go some of the way.

    Reply
  6. Kieran
    Kieran says:

    I setup an auto responder because of this issue with emails needing 24 hr response and it mysteriously now does not work, no doubt amazon have blocked it, i feel including weekends is very unfair, i work enough hours as it is!

    Reply
    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Howdy Kieran,

      Ewww auto responders, you do not know how much I hate those, apparently Amazon does too :/

      Lets hope they release something so that you can manage the emails through a 3rd party tool so that you can nip them in the bud asap on a smart phone, so we get a life at the weekends :)

      Matt

      Reply
    • Steve Smith
      Steve Smith says:

      Hi Kev,

      Yes, I missed it earlier but it is certainly there now. I think Amazon could have been a bit clearer in giving sellers a heads-up that this metric would be measured rather then sending policy warnings a week or so before it comes in to effect.

      We are green now across 7-day & 30-day with just the 90-day sitting at 89% so it will be a week or two before the 90-day also goes Green.

      It just another ball for people to juggle.

      Steve :)

      Reply
      • Kev
        Kev says:

        Hi Steve

        Big thanks must go to Matt for raising this thread. We have been able to significantly improve our position over the last week and we are at 88% over the last 90 days.

        You say ‘another ball to juggle’ I say plates to spin ;-) Onwards and upwards!

        Kev

    • Mike S.
      Mike S. says:

      I see the metric in the ‘Performance Checklist’ now.

      But I don’t see anywhere that it officially affects our seller performance ratings.

      Does anybody have any information about this?

      Reply
      • Kev
        Kev says:

        Contact Response Time

        Overview

        We believe that timely, high quality responses to customer emails are an important factor in customer satisfaction. Contact response-time metrics can give you greater insight into how responsive your business is to customer emails. These metrics are based on how quickly you respond to customer messages you receive through the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service.

        Good performance
        A green check-mark in this column means that your performance is meeting Amazon’s target for this metric.

        Fair performance
        A yellow exclamation point in this column means that your performance does not currently meet Amazon’s target for this metric. You should take steps immediately to improve your performance in this area. Performance at this level will not generally result in the suspension of your selling account, provided you are actively working to improve your customers satisfaction.

        Poor
        A red “X” in this column means your performance does not meet Amazon’s target for this metric and continued performance at this level may result in suspension or removal of your selling privileges.

      • Mike S.
        Mike S. says:

        Thanks for the response.

        This definitely could get tricky over weekends and holidays.

        I’ve been testing out the Amazon messaging service the past couple of days.
        It’s not easy to use when you’re trying to coordinate email tasks with multiple agents working on the same marketplace.

        I also received the following response from Amazon.com when I asked: “So if we use a third party email service, we would never be able to have accurate metrics?”

        Reply: “Yes you got that right. Please note that if you want to maintain the metrics you must reply through the buyer seller messaging service provided by Amazon but not through a third party email service.”

      • Steve Smith
        Steve Smith says:

        Hi Mike S,

        That is not really true. When you use your own email provider e.g. gmail for instance, the reply is routed through Amazon anyway and will count towards your metrics. We always use our own email service and never directly use the buyer messaging service except to mark the messages that do not require a response – there is no way you can do this outside of Amazon.

        We worked out today we could have 1 weekend off in 4 and be above 90% assuming a) you receive on average the same number of messages a day (probably slightly less on a weekend) and b) you keep right on top of your contact times for the rest of the month.

        We figure that potentially a delayed auto-responder may work. We do use gmail auto-responder at present with frequently asked quesitons but Amazon of course sense this is an auto-reply and it doesn’t count towards your response time.

        Anybody know of any delayed auto-responders – preferably part of a customer service email package would be ideal?

        Steve :)

      • Mike S.
        Mike S. says:

        Has anyone been able to test the delayed auto-responder theory?

        Also, how do you guys do it normally? Do you answer all the emails through your 3rd party services then go into the Amazon messaging system and close the emails you have left over that don’t need a response?

      • Steve Smith
        Steve Smith says:

        Hi,

        I knew about the Outlook workaround although we haven’t tested it. Actually we currently simply use gmail which works reasonable well for customer queries but as we grow and I will be having somebody else deal with most customer service we are in the market for an off-the-shelf customer service email solution.

        I was hoping to find one with integrated delayed auto-responder as one of the features. My search so far has yielded no success and I suspect there aren’t any.

        Yes Mike, that is the way we do it. We deal with all customer service via gmail currently. We just have the odd one that doesn’t warrant a response that we tick off in Amazon.

        Managed to get our seller messaging to 100% for the last 7 days and 93% for 30 days now. It is just the 90 days which is at 88% which will take about two weeks to get above the required level. Don’t get me wrong I am not losing sleep over it but I don’t like yellow warning symbols in our seller central account especially now Amazon are seemingly measuring this.

        Cheers,
        Steve

  7. Steve Smith
    Steve Smith says:

    Yes we too received this email during the small hours of yesterday.

    Our contact times (30 days were only just under at 89% but still yellow of course). All of our other metrics are well within ODR at around 0.4% for example.

    I an confirm that it is the weekends that causes us issues. We do tend to close up and I am often away from say Friday afternoons to Sunday afternoons. We do try to offset this by being very proactive M-F but it isn’t easy.

    We have flirted with 90% over the passed few months. We use gmail autoresponder but this doesn’t count for Amazon unfortunately. We also use keyword triggers in gmail to send customer automatic responses about enquiries such as “where is my item” but it counts for nothing with Amazon unfortunately.

    We too kind of expected that contact response would become a measured metric sooner or later so it isn’t a complete shock. The weekend inclusion though is a right pain. This is just another Amazon hoop we will have to jump through. We are planning to have somebody in our team that can answer emails on a weekend. Annoying however as often there isn’t a lot you can do on a weekend e.g. you can’t send out replacements until the Monday etc.

    Our account did turn to “Fair (Orange)” until we accessed the message in Seller Central. After that we turned “Good (Green)” once again. A most unwelcome email when we do a lot right and our customers are generally very satisfied already.

    Reply
    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Howdy Steve,

      Thanks for the comment.

      That’s excellent news that it was easy to get back to good standing for your account. I don’t feel that answering customer emails within 24 hours is unrealistic nor a bad demand, its just ugly when you account for the weekends where some businesses (for whatever reason) don’t work and it could be deemed as unfair to those businesses.

      I had a stab at working this out in Excel on a model of 100 messages per day and what would it take for you to fall out of the 24hr window. It still needs work to get it right and have been tweaking how much you have to over compensate in the week days to allow for the weekends to go over the 24hour window.

      But that’s really a “work in progress” currently.

      Besides that, hows business for you?

      Matt

      Matt

      Reply
      • Steve Smith
        Steve Smith says:

        Hi Matt,

        Not bad thank you. We are making a lot of changes at present and making the most of this quiet time of the year. We are moving premises, tweaking our order processing system etc. etc. Christmas was satisfactory but I know we can do better and will. Looking to do more business in Europe later this year. We have experimented in the past but found it can be problematic – nothing insurmountable though. Issues such as language, delivery delays and the effect it can have on your Amazon account. We resisted the urge to use the new European Amazon marketplace account as we didn’t want any performance issues in Europe affecting our domestic performance. In hindsight that was a good decision.

        Will try and talk more when I have time – always too busy (hopefully not a busy fool though)!

        Cheers,
        Steve

      • Steve Smith
        Steve Smith says:

        Hi Matt,

        Yes, we are already VAT reg. in the UK. We are predicting the majority of sales will come from Germany and France who’s thresholds are similar to the UK.

        We will check with our accountant nearer the time but we assume we would still only have to account for VAT once. If it is in the destination EU country, I presume you would deduct this from VAT due in the UK otherwise you would be paying VAT twice on the same goods and that can’t be right.

        It would however cause an additional potential accounting headache for us.

        Steve :)

      • Matthew Ogborne
        Matthew Ogborne says:

        Howdy Steve,

        Yes that’s right, you’d apply the correct level for the given country where you’re registered for VAT in. You accountant will be able to guide you through this.

        I’d definitely look at it as being one of those “Good Problems”, as in “We appear to be getting close to sending 100K Euro’s of kit to Germany etc…”.

        Matt

  8. Dave Skirrow
    Dave Skirrow says:

    We had the policy warning this morning and just checked our stats and they don’t look good (Red crosses)

    Around 20-25% are unanswered (we answer all enquiries so these are presumably “Thanks” etc). We answer via email s

    Even when adding the unanswered to our answered within 24 hours, we only reach around 80odd%

    Looks like we are going to need to pay someone to answer questions over the weekend.

    This is a real pain in the ass, but… there will presumably be some losers here who lose rankings, buy boxes or accounts. As long as you make sure you are not one them then ultimately, this is a plus I guess.

    Reply
  9. Matthew Ogborne
    Matthew Ogborne says:

    Howdy,

    Going to respond here publicly as I have quite a few emails on this subject now this morning and I’ll make a standard reply for you and of course anything that is confidential to your business we can discuss offline. If you don’t have my details you can contact me here http://lastdropofink.co.uk/contact-matthew-ogborne/

    Firstly this isn’t a “true” policy warning. None of the accounts that I have checked this morning have gone “yellow” for any of their metrics (ignoring the ones that were yellow for one or more previously) and instead its a ‘notification’ that you’re not meeting the levels that Amazon expect.

    I’ve been expecting this for a while now and for good reason. Fast response times, matter. They matter to buyers and I totally agree with Amazon for sending out these notifications because its the right thing to do and Amazon’s inclusion of this statement only confirms this:

    >sellers who respond to 90% or more of their messages within 24 hours have nearly 24% less negative feedback than sellers who take longer to respond

    But the keeping in the real world, this really is an important issue for businesses that are either part time or actually have some life outside of eCommerce and do not work on weekends and cannot answer emails during these times.

    So assuming that Amazon are not going to comment publicly on this topic, lets consider a few ideas that might help you & your business with these:

    #1 Auto responders.
    I did add a comment a few minutes ago about well crafted, dynamic responders. For 99% of you this isn’t an option. So if you’re thinking this. Don’t.

    #2 90% within 24 Hours
    I need to do the maths on this. But I’m suspecting that if you up-your-game during the time that your business does allocate to email responses and maybe prioritise Amazon questions, if you are working 5 days a week and not 7, then for the 5 days over achieve on the response times and for the 1 or 2 days you’re not around then things should even out in your favour.

    #3 Customer Support Assistance
    This may sound daft but its OK to ask for help and maybe bring in someone part time to help you with the volume of emails you are receiving. I am aware that for some businesses this may not be an issue because of cost and this is a chapter I am currently working on in a book I am writing. But for now, could your sister, mum, dad or friend pop in or online to help you out as first line support?

    #4 Analyse the Questions you are Receiving
    Create a Google spreadsheet or an excel document and make a list of categories for the questions you are receiving. What you include in this list will vary from business to business, but I’d try and keep them as short as possible so that categorising each email is not a hindrance to speed.

    Note: You’ll probably add a few more categories as you go along, thats ok, but no more than 10 as you’ll not use it.

    After a week has passed, go back and review this document. Look at the common categories of questions and then over a cuppa, ponder why you are being asked so many questions for that category and what could you do to solve these questions before they happen.

    #5 Consider FBA
    Yea, when Amazon read this, they’ll like this suggestion I’m sure.

    FBA doesn’t work for all businesses and for all products and this is only a brief introduction. Besides the shipping cost being generally much lower for the right product types and also opening access to ~9 million Amazon prime users (not sure on EU numbers, this is what I read yesterday in an article for the US), Amazon also answer the customer questions for you on the items you have in FBA. This *could* be highly beneficial for your business on Amazon, but like I said, it won’t suit all businesses and all products.

    #6 Create Rules
    Nearly all email programs allow you to filter messages in some way. Thinking of GMail, then you coudl easily set up a filter to mark Amazon questions and apply a label. You could even set up a rule to forward those messages to another email address for your attention. But sadly with GMail you cannot do this on a timed basis just for the days you’re not available in the office, but in Outlook or Exchange this can be done with the tools in there for managing emails.

    I hope this has been of help to you and of course I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions on how else to deal with lowering the response times to Amazon buyers.

    Matt

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      ” They matter to buyers and I totally agree with Amazon for sending out these notifications because its the right thing to do”

      Not when they include weekends it isn’t. I suspect that Amazon are probably funding some kind of Foundation for the End of Leisure Time. More seriously, there’s something very odd about how Amazon foist things upon sellers that they have difficulty doing themselves. Their own customer service doesn’t, in many areas, live up to the quality of customer service delivered by many sellers. They make money from seller’s, so we are their customers, but they don’t seem to feel that they should follow any of the normal ‘good customer service practices’ when it comes to sellers. Such as listening to customers with a sympathetic ear. If you talk to Amazon customer service about this issue and point out that many businesses are not staffed 24/7 you get the standard Amazon response, “you don’t have to sell on Amazon if you don’t like our rules.” It smells like corporate totalitarianism. At the very least its stupidly inflexible.

      “FBA doesn’t work for all businesses and for all products and this is only a brief introduction. Besides the shipping cost being generally much lower for the right product types..”

      Are you sure about that? What about when you add the cost of shipping the goods to Amazon in the first place? What about when another seller appears who undercuts you and your products wind up marooned in Amazon’s warehouse accumulating storage fees? And what about what it does to your feedback? I know it doesn’t actually count, but when customers browse your feedback and see complaints about late delivery (although it does state that its Amazon’s fault, not the sellers) it must put some doubt in their mind. I’ve been really surprised, when I’ve made purchases myself, and checked seller’s feedback to see how many complaints there are for slow delivery via FBA (though not altogether. I think a lot of Amazon’s reputation is carefully orchestrated brainwashing. If their service is so great why don’t they allow customers to leave feedback for them. After all they claim its a great tool for improving customer service. If that’s true, then the only reason I can see for not using it themselves is that their customer service isn’t good enough).

      Reply
  10. Dave Furness
    Dave Furness says:

    It was always an obvious one that this was going to happen sooner or later. As soon as they introduced the metric it was obvious where this was leading.

    I am however surprised to see how ‘Harsh/Strict’ Amazon have made the rules regarding this. As you mention the ‘Work/Life balance’ this means any SME owners or employees (If you can persuade them too) are going to have to give up some time on Saturday and Sunday to log in to Seller Central and respond to any message etc. This will most likely be harder to pin point as a responsibility for larger companies who will do this.

    I think it is worth bearing in mind Amazon are doing this to ensure that they are giving or even ensuring that their customers are getting the best possible service. The reality for many sellers that I speak to is that they either could not afford to not be Selling on Amazon, or would be too reluctant to pull their listings from the channel.

    As far as I can see that leaves one option… Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

    How yet, I’m not quite sure but there will be a way.

    Dave

    Reply
    • Matthew Ogborne
      Matthew Ogborne says:

      Howdy Dave,

      Yea, we could see this coming and I’m betting by the end of Q2 we’ll see this as a metric ready for Christmas 2012.

      I’m not arguing with the motivation of Amazon to reduce these numbers, its perfectly sound. Just that it could be impossible for SME’s to deal with this if the business is not a full time business (with or without employees) or that the business does not work on weekends for one or two days.

      On the topic of weekends, I feel it some what unfair that as a business you’re being measured for responses even when you’re not there. It would be very little work for Amazon to allow a merchant to specify whether their customer support is available at weekends and to notify the customer that there is going to be a delay. This would be great for customers too, as they’re then aware that there is going to be a delay in the response time because it is the weekend.

      Although the very daft observation is that we are talking about eCommerce and the time of day does not matter, buyers can buy at any time day or night and this is just one of the delights :)

      Matt

      Reply
    • The Book Warehouse
      The Book Warehouse says:

      So that means while im on my honey moon I have to check Amazon messages every 24 hours…..
      Amazon really is trying to make things difficult and wont supply tools to assist – like an out of office reply system within – pro-sellers account for example….

      Reply
      • Matthew Ogborne
        Matthew Ogborne says:

        Howdy,

        A honey moon? How dare you (joke!). I have mine coming up in a few months time, congrats for the big day!

        Its an extra hoop to be aware of, but it is really for the right reasons (customer satisfaction). Including weekends is a pain for most businesses I’ve spoken to and clearly from the messages here.

        With regards to the time away, would it not be better to mark non FBA items as out of stock via an import and setting them live when you’re back?

        Matt

  11. Matthew Ogborne
    Matthew Ogborne says:

    Howdy,

    Two extra points to note are:

    #1 Weekends ARE included the response times:
    https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/200549770/ref=im_200549770_cont_200549770#weekend

    #2 Auto Responses ARE excluded in the response times:
    https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/200549770/ref=im_200549770_cont_200549770#autoresponse

    Although I must admit, a well crafted dynamic response may slip through the auto response collection. Although that doesn’t solve the underlying issues around weekends and responding in a manner that Amazon desire.

    Matt

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times – http://t.co/RxKhdNVM

  2. RT @lastdropofink: #Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times – http://t.co/nV5ayx9W << Yes BS that weekends count

  3. #Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times – http://t.co/SHCYIdio

  4. […] delivery becomes free for European customersAmazon Gets Aggressive With Price ParityAmazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response TimesHow eSellerPro’s Channel Profile Can Help Your BusinessThat’s Curious BrightPearl is […]

  5. Practical advice for #Amazon Policy #Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact #Response Times in the comments http://t.co/C7j0wvkt

  6. Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times: This is the one I know you’ve been… http://t.co/RxYJHjtf @lastdropofink

  7. RT @matthewogborne: #Amazon #Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact #Response Times http://t.co/oCZckmdv <= Just Posted!

  8. Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times: This is the one I know you’ve been waiting fo… http://t.co/1vK7hKOu #in

  9. #Amazon #Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact #Response Times http://t.co/oCZckmdv <= Just Posted!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *