Seller Performance Solutions
Problematic Products
January 12, 2023
When selling on Amazon, not all products are created equal. Sellers should be aware that if they keep having issues with a problematic product, it may not only risk the product being taken down, but also a suspension of their entire account. In this episode Chris and Leah discuss the importance of assessing all products for potential issues and how to be proactive in mitigating these issues in order to avoid putting your entire business at risk.
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Seller Performance Solutions. I'm Chris McCabe, along with my co-host Leah Mchugh. Leah, how are you? 

[00:00:16] Leah: Good, thanks. How are you, Chris?

[00:00:18] Chris: Great, and I think we got a great topic for today. We've talked to a lot of brands, you know, kicking off the new year, looking at which products are attracting maybe negative attention from Amazon or potentially they're observing some buyer complaints and they're concerned that a performance notification is in the offing and you and I have talked a lot about maybe not embracing products as if they are something that you know you will always sell, right?

You have to do a continual assessment of voice of the customer, of complaints that are coming in today, what you can do to prevent them from coming in tomorrow. Do you think that brands sort of mentally schedule like, well, we're gonna sell this much in Q1, this much in Q2, this much in Q3, getting ahead of themselves before they consider, well, what if something goes wrong? What if we're not keeping an eye on our factory or our manufacturer? 

[00:01:13] Leah: Yeah. I mean, I think any organized brand is probably projecting how much they're going to be selling in each quarter. But I think that there's maybe too much of a bias towards always being selling . There's too much always be selling going on because you know, if you have a problematic ASIN and it isn't always necessarily quality control, that is the problem. I mean, quality control is often the problem, but sometimes it's just a problematic ASIN, like people don't necessarily understand the product very well, or maybe it's a product that can have negative side effects that people buying it aren't necessarily aware of.

So sometimes it's a product detail page issue, and sometimes it's just a problematic product that maybe just isn't a good fit for Amazon because Amazon doesn't have a high tolerance for any order defects, as they call it. So, I understand the wanting to continue to sell a product, but I think what a lot of sellers maybe don't understand is that you're not just risking that ASIN that keeps being taken down or keeps being complained about, you're potentially risking your entire account if you keep having issues over and over and over again with a product and you continue to try to sell it.

[00:02:27] Chris: Well, maybe it's more new products. I mean, you wouldn't sell something for two years and then suddenly have a dramatic disconnect with customers on that particular item, right? 

[00:02:36] Leah: Well, like if that happens, then yes, it is a quality control issue, most likely. 

[00:02:39] Chris: Right. Well then it's definitely quality control. Unless you've latched onto a new outfit who's helping you try to boost sales on an ASIN, and they've made dramatic changes to the detail page. And they, and they put in more sellable terms and took out some of the in informational stuff. That's one theory I've got, because sometimes we're looking at the detail page with them or they tell us that they've made those changes and customers don't understand the product as well now as they did before.

So I don't think it's always a quality control problem, but yeah. Sometimes it is just a simple like what factory swapping out materials for something inferior. 

[00:03:16] Leah: Yeah. Or just an issue with a particular run. I mean, yeah, if you do see an anomaly where all of a sudden an ASIN that you haven't had problems with is suddenly having tons of complaints, then yeah. I mean, first step would be checking quality control. But I think there is also a bias toward overselling and under-delivering sometimes on the Amazon marketplace and I get that it's a competitive marketplace and you're trying to stand out against the competition, but in terms of a long-term business strategy, underdelivering on a product is not, it one, you're not gonna get repeat customers first of all. And two, you're just gonna have issues and a high return rate on that you wouldn't necessarily need to have. Right. If you were maybe more forthcoming with how the product actually works and if you're clever about it. You can actually turn it into a marketing standpoint.

 I'm working on a product at the moment, which is a supplement product, and they actually are very explicit about the fact that it does not taste good. That is very clear on the detail page. But then they explain, but then they explain why and why it doesn't taste as good as the other ones because it has a higher concentration of the active ingredient.

[00:04:26] Chris: Well, let's define what you mean by under-delivering. You mean like, you're not actively monitoring voice of the customer and bad product reviews or underdelivering in terms of the quality of the product. Like you're trying to make it more cheaply. You already assume that it's successful. You've already seen decent sales. You already assume you're on an upward trajectory in terms of growth of revenue, and then you start monkeying with success and making changes. 

[00:04:53] Leah: Well, sure, some people do that. 

[00:04:55] Chris: What do you mean by underdelivering? 

[00:04:58] Leah: In this context, I mean just avoiding saying certain things on a detail page that you think there's gonna turn people off of your product but is important information for them to know. So things like side effects that could happen if you try that product, or like I said, like maybe it doesn't taste good, but that's how it's supposed to be. Being as explicit about that information upfront is important because again, like I said, you're reducing the number of returns, you're increasing customer satisfaction, even just in terms of how to use the product. A lot of times that isn't really clearly stated on the detail page. Maybe you need to buy something else in order for the product to work. So if you don't state that on the detail page, customers are gonna get it, and they're gonna expect one thing and receive another.

And I get that when it's your own product, it's sort of hard to realize. 

[00:05:47] Chris: Envision and newbie using it? Yeah. 

[00:05:48] Leah: Well, right, because they're so familiar with it. So I mean, that's where customer testing and customer feedback plays a really important role. Even something as simple as giving it to a friend and seeing if they can figure out how to use it based on the instructions or on what's available on the detail page.

[00:06:06] Chris: And some people would think the usage instructions are in the packaging, in with the product, and so they don't feel the need to put as much of that on the detail page, I think is part of the problem. 

[00:06:17] Leah: Right. But again, if those details include something that just a general customer wouldn't know when purchasing, it's definitely worthwhile putting it on there.

 And also, sometimes it is on the detail page, but it's buried so far now and that people don't see it. If it's an important aspect that people keep complaining about, put it in the images, put it in the bullet points, put it high up on the detail page so people are aware of that early on, rather than hiding it somewhere in the description that no one actually looks at most of the time.

[00:06:46] Chris: Right, right. And like you said, buried on the detail page. Sometimes it's just a matter of thinking in terms of, well, am I hiding something where somebody will find out later and they'll be upset and they'll be more prone to leave a negative review. Because if they had known X, Y, Z in the beginning, they wouldn't have bought the product to begin with.

So you would've lost that sale, but you wouldn't have accrued that negative review, you know? 

[00:07:11] Leah: Right. In the long run, I think you're better off losing that initial sale than having an upset customer who's likely to return it anyway, so that sale is now moot and who will probably never purchase from you again or from that brand again.

[00:07:27] Chris: Right. So what else do we wanna remind brands of? Aside from keeping an eye on the detail page, not making certain changes, that'll undermine understanding and awareness of the product and how it's used. 

[00:07:37] Leah: I think another, maybe this is more of a mindset shift, rather than an operational change. But I don't think enough people are looking at product feedback as something useful.

So if you have a product and people are consistently complaining about a certain thing about your product, maybe that's a good opportunity for you to either make another product or update your product with a better version that fulfills the need that the customers aren't currently getting with that product.

And that's certainly something that any of your smart competition is going to be looking for. So why not do it yourself, and you're fixing two problems with one stone. 

[00:08:15] Chris: It brings to mind somebody that we interacted with recently who jumped the gun in terms of, I think we're being attacked by a competitor.

Oh, by the way, the reviews of this product are under 4.0. So it's like, well, you might have a few negative reviews here from a competitor. We understand that, but, There's also the possibility that there's consistent complaints, which are not just from abusive competitors and maybe there are so many reviews here that aren't from competitors that look valid and that also make valid points about the product.

You don't want to just that have that knee-jerk reaction that, yeah, definitely a competitor. Oh, we've sustained over a period of time. Several bad reviews. 

[00:08:57] Leah: Well, right. And so that's a matter of figuring out where you assign your resources. Are you gonna assign your resources to a competitor who may or may not actually be attacking you or you assign your energy there to creating a better product. Yeah. And improving it so you aren't getting those complaints consistently over time. Because ultimately in the long run that second option is what's going to be way more worthwhile to your business. 

[00:09:23] Chris: Right. And worth noting at this point, if you're going to have a throw down with Amazon about, this is definitely a competitor, you can't just make the accusation say, oh, I don't know where the evidence is.

You're, you're Amazon, go look in your tools. You sort it out. I know we've talked about that a lot in the podcast before and we do consistently get these messages that lead with, not a statement. Well, it could be something wrong with the product or it could be a competitor they lead with, this is definitely a competitor.

If you're going to say that to Amazon, you can say it to us all you want. We're used to it. If you're going to say it to Amazon, you've gotta have some basis for it. Something, some patterns that you can show, some recognizable features to that accusation because otherwise they are just ready to sweep it to the side and be like, no, you gotta take a look at voice of the customer. You need to look at some of these return reasons, right? 

[00:10:11] Leah: You need to look at yourself first, which is right. I feel like I've been repeating.

[00:10:15] Chris: Even if it doesn't make sense. I would say even if you've got a previous attack from a competitor that that is similar and maybe you start from a bias position where you, you do think it's likely that it was a competitor, fine.

Shine that light on yourself first every time anyway, just to make sure. Just to look under every rock and see if anyone's come up with a legitimate complaint. Because like you said, it could be a bad batch, it could be a single bad batch. 

[00:10:42] Leah: Right. Well, similarly, I have people complain that they were reported by a competitor for a term of service violation. It's like, right. But had they reported you and you weren't violating terms of service, we wouldn't be having this conversation. So the most important part of this is that you were violating terms of service and we need to improve that first.

 Doesn't matter why it was flagged at that point, it just matters that you were flagged and you were in the wrong. Right. And I feel like it's the same way with the abuse. Like, you know, yes, it sucks that a competitor is attacking you. But if you already have the problems, that is really what you need to solve first.

[00:11:14] Chris: Although if your competitor reports you for abusing terms of service and their abusing terms of service in easily identifiable and reportable ways, you can still report them. 

[00:11:24] Leah: Sure. But that doesn't solve your problem of you broke terms of service and now you're in trouble for it.

[00:11:30] Chris: Right. Right. Two wrongs don't make a right. But it's not that we're saying forget about your competitor entirely. I mean, if they're doing something they shouldn't be doing.

[00:11:37] Leah: Saying again, look to yourself first. You need to focus on that before you can start thinking about your competitors.

[00:11:43] Chris: What is Amazon looking for? Product quality, performance teams, they're looking for patterns. They're looking for clusters of data. They're looking for return reasons that all match up, say similar things. I think a lot of black hats and abusers understand the types of clusters Amazon's looking for. That's why they try to huddle up the negative reviews in a bunch. But regardless of whether it's not a competitor, if you had a bad batch, you would have a bunch of complaints that are similar in a bunch all in a row. So that's why we emphasize that. And also just, you know, new year, new you could your quality control be improved?

I think every business owner wants to think about what they could improve in the new year, whether it's manufacturing a product or how you monitor your interactions with buyers or Amazon's customers.

[00:12:32] Leah: And I see I've been seeing a lot of advice lately actually about harvesting your competitor's reviews, looking at the negatives, seeing what people are saying over and over again and making a product that meets those needs. Why are you starting with your competitor's products to do that? Do that with your products first. 

[00:12:49] Chris: Right. Look at your own house first before you wander over to your neighbor's house to figure out what they could be tidying up. You wanna clean up your own house.

[00:12:57] Leah: I'm not saying don't do that with your competitor's products too, but like, you should be doing that with your own products first and then move into those other areas. 

[00:13:04] Chris: Yeah. So no knee jerk assumptions. Keep an eye on quality control and don't make assumptions about whatever quality of product you got from your manufacturer last year will automatically be the same this year. And of course when it comes to detail page, if you wanna make some changes, try to boost your sales, we totally understand that. Have a list of best practices at the ready to make sure that you're not making some changes without considering how it might make the product confusing, hard to use, hard to understand. And that might be driving some negative experiences as well. 

[00:13:37] Leah: Right. And you don't have to guess at this and this is not a sponsored shoutout. This is just something that I saw that I thought was cool. ProductPinion. You can have them have customers go through the detail page.

You can see it in real time. You can get customer feedback from actual customers. So it isn't just a matter of you thinking what customers want. You can actually get that data pretty easily now.

[00:13:57] Chris: Yeah. Good tip. All right, thanks Leah. And anyone has any questions on this. Please reach out to me or to Leah.

I'm sure we'll be touching on this type of topic again in the future on Seller Performance Solutions. Thanks for listening in. We'll see you next time. 

[00:14:12] Leah: Thanks, Chris. Bye.