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Protecting your listings and accounts on Amazon - Amazon business tips with Chris McCabe (Part 2)
May 31, 2021
Protecting your listings and accounts on Amazon - Amazon business tips with Chris McCabe (Part 2)
Things we discussed in this session:

 Part 1

Part 2

Things we mention in this session of Seller Round Table:

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Episode 94 Transcription:
[00:00:01] spk_2: Welcome to the seller roundtable e commerce coaching and business strategies with and er [00:00:06] spk_1: not and may
[00:00:07] spk_0: Wiis, Hey what's up everybody this is Andy are not. Amy is off today. Uh trying to dig her Texas home out of all the snow that they've got down there. Uh we have a very special guest today. We are on sale. A round table number 94 chris, mccabe's here chris thank you so much for being on today. I really appreciate it. [00:00:31] spk_1: Yeah, thanks for having me.
[00:00:33] spk_0: Yeah. So uh chris what we like to start out with is a little background on yourself. Uh you know, I know that used to work for amazon but would love to hear, you know maybe where you grew up if you went to school, kind of what got you to where you are today.
[00:00:47] spk_1: Yeah, I mean I grew up here in the Boston area. I lived out in the West Coast for better part of 18, 19 years before I moved back here. Um I worked at amazon for several years. Uh Six years in Seattle actually I ended up living in Seattle for almost a decade and then moved to new york when I left Seattle to start this business in terms of education went to U. C. Berkeley for anyone it's from the Bay Area anyone who Went there. But a long time ago I haven't been in. Yeah I moved out of California about 20 years ago. Um up to Seattle most people do that move the other way the reverse. Um But I was getting more into e commerce and at that time I was like a fraud investigator. Um Making on the buyer's side making sure buyers weren't doing fraudulent purchases, ripping people off. That wasn't what amazon brought me in to do. I was doing a TZ guarantee claims which we all know what that is back in the days of when no one knew what that was. I spent a lot of time educating the buying public and sellers what A to Z claims were moved from there to the seller enforcement, policy enforcement, solid performance teams I would say almost 14 years ago. No. So been consulting and doing this, working with this material that we're talking about today off and on for 12, 13 years. And uh, I won't say loving every minute of it. But when we, when we score victory and we clarify some of the nonsense you were referencing earlier. The bots, the unread appeals, the failure of amazon to review something you spent all afternoon on, let's say maybe all week on to get it tight and just right for them to accept an appeal. I mean that's nerve racking. And obviously we're helping a lot of people straighten out those, uh, those situations. So.
[00:02:40] spk_0: Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:02:41] spk_1: Mostly, mostly core services reinstatement of accounts in a sand reinstatements or what we're primarily known for. But we're also helping people report abuse when they're being attacked by competitors and things like that.
[00:02:53] spk_0: Yeah. And, and so business must be booming
[00:02:57] spk_1: business. Yeah. I mean, unfortunately you're not businesses constant when it comes too bad behavior, but also sloppy behavior on amazon side and the lack of organization. And as you said, they're trying to automate more, not less as time goes on, which was already in the works even before. Andy Jassy was named the incoming Ceo. But if you have a guy who's running a W. S. Taking over management of the marketplace because he's not taking that over per se, he's taking everything over. Um, we're expecting even more automation, which sounds scary and probably is scary. But uh, it just means sellers have to be on their toes and on their game with the appeals process ever more. So
[00:03:43] spk_0: I actually love as a software guy, I love automation, but the problem with it is uh their training the automation right? So it's like three years or more, I mean and and even with the models and stuff that they're working on right now, it still doesn't get it right. So the problem is is you know when they when they go to uh you know when you uh turn on auto pilot in an airplane there's still a human there to make sure that that airplane doesn't crash right? Whereas on uh in amazon's world, I feel like they just have the autopilot on and hope the plane doesn't crash, right? And the and the plane is your business. Um And you know, I I definitely have a love hate relationship with amazon, but lately, I mean, I've just, I've been getting so frustrated because uh, the few avenues that they did have, they continuously take away like the captive team, there's no no captive captive team anymore. Uh, Jeff at, you know, at amazon dot com used to be the kind of executive, you know, once the word got out that that was a, you know, all this stuff gets out and then it just gets inundated because this and that should be to me proof to sellers or to amazon that they're not taking care of sellers. And I think I at one of the amazon events, they, you know, they revealed that, You know, the little poles that they do in seller central all the time. It's abysmal. I mean they never get, you know, I would be surprised if they get above five satisfaction on any of those questions because even of us, yeah. Even if a seller is feeling like they might in that one area be getting, you know, decent support. They just out of anger. I know I do this. I'm just like you got nothing right? You get an unsatisfactory no matter what, you know, because I'm just so frustrated. Um if you were in charge of amazon, I know this. This is a very loaded question. And but I mean, how I like it
[00:05:31] spk_1: already going.
[00:05:32] spk_0: Okay. Start to request. All right. All right. So you liked you liked my my rant episodes. So, uh, I like that. But um, you know, how can I mean, should amazon restrict new sellers on the platform until they catch up? Should they mean try to bring on more? I mean, what's this is their solution? What's the solution to all of these issues?
[00:05:53] spk_1: They already restrict newbies or the uninitiated unfamiliar by suspending them when you make a mistake. So it's already set up for, you know, ignorance is never considered an excuse. Being new is never an excuse being unaware or lacking knowledge to amazon at least means nothing. It just means it's almost like an argument for suspending people when they're new instead of cutting them more slack. And I don't think sellers or any new business understands that Because it seems counterintuitive from Amazon's perspective, it's 100 on target. That's exactly what they want. Whether it's because they find it easier to scale this way or not or whether it's just tolerated that there can be a little disorganized with how they roll these things out or not, simply because their monopoly and they don't care. Um, this is how they want it. Um, so you have to just be at the top of your game all the time. You have to also have a very thick skin. I mean, you, your frustration, everything I've heard you express either on podcasts or not is those are feelings I share myself. And I mean I'm numb to it to an extent after having worked there and come up through their system. I have to say things worked a lot better when I was there, not just because I was there because my whole team was kind of able to give more input. They were more in charge of like this is not working, this is working. This is what we can try. Obviously the scale was different, smaller teams, fewer global marketplaces. Um, you know, we had once a week, maybe once a month calls with the european teams because we were able to keep things localized centralized in Seattle and tight there. And if things are going wrong in India were able to just say here, do it this way from now on. It's not like that anymore now, much more decentralized. So in terms of how you fix it, the short version would be, you know the automation won't go away. You just have to improve how the automation is married to the human element and how S. O. Ps. And standard operating procedures. Plus internal team tools are retrained, adapted, better enhanced, modified. Whatever those guys need to do a better job investigating seller accounts in the first place before they do a suspension. Um as they process appeals as they review whether or not a plan of action or a P. O. Is acceptable. Uh Do you need to present evidence that you've actually fixed things or can you just say it in a plan of action? Does amazon even know the difference? Those are things that have to be ironed out otherwise they can improve all the machine learning they want it's not going to make the difference. And then like you said the communication only gets worse right steadily downward. It's more generic, more vague, more murky, Not enough details, buyers have complained about your products really. What's the complaint? I don't know, you find it, we can't tell you it's a secret the communication. Um I mean I can definitely say the communication that we had when I was there was lacking to an extent but it was nowhere near this this awful.
[00:08:56] spk_0: Yeah I mean from my perspective one of one of the things that it continuously frustrates me over and over again and you know I run my own software business granted is nowhere near the size of amazon and uh, you know, but the thing that there's no, there's no proactive, you know, instead of taking my ace and down, which happened, you know, uh you know, every Q four, they get this, you know, they release the bots on all the listings and, and you know, one of my products have taken down for like the 10th time. I mean, you know, it's like the same thing over and over again. Um and you, they want they wanted me to fix the listing, right? I think it had like best in it, you know, something stupid like that. And rather than be proactive and send an email that says, hey, these are the things that we've noticed in your listing that we don't like, can you please go and fix that? They just take the listing down and then I submit appeals. But on the appeal They locked the listing so I can't edit the listening to make the corrections. That's preposterous. I mean and I went through back and forth with them for 20 days and all I would get is a form uh you know the the canned response saying, hey you know this isn't an acceptable response for this infraction. And I was just like the only reason I got through it is because I spend enough on PBC to that. I've had a PBC account manager for you know, since pretty much since like year one or two. Um And so I was able to reach out to them and you know, he kind of escalated and stuff but even that they've taken a lot of that power away. I mean have [00:10:23] spk_1: yeah that was being abused. That's why they took it away. Account managers used to have more visibility into what's going on with you now. They don't have as much.
[00:10:32] spk_0: Yeah and it's just like, I don't know, I guess to me I look at the Zappos model, right? And and to me I think that if I were amazon I would error on the side of giving my people um you know the resources to be able to help sellers. Now. I know that you know there was a lot of um a lot of uh kind of, you know data being leaked and you know payoffs and things like that. Um But I feel like that's not an excuse that's an amazon problem, not a seller problem. And I feel like they, you know, they need to, you know, whether it's random screenshots on the account managers computer or you know, I don't know what it's some way to. The solution
[00:11:14] spk_1: has to be put into place. Yeah.
[00:11:16] spk_0: Right. Right. And you know, start prosecuting these people who are doing this because it's technically, you know, espionage and corporate espionage, which is illegal. So to me it's which they
[00:11:26] spk_1: have, I mean, in fairness, amazon, it wasn't just the FBI investigating those guys. Amazon was cooperating with that investigation.
[00:11:33] spk_0: Yeah, yeah, for sure. But, but as, but you know, amazon should have been proactive like literally, you know, turning people over saying, hey, if you steal our data, we're going to report, you know, we're not going to take this lightly. Um, And, and uh, yeah, so I mean it's, it's just been, I mean, that's just one, I mean, one of the things I remember early on before brand registry and things like that. Our entire account got hijacked for uh, we had like probably 300 products at the time and almost every single one was hijacked, uh you know from from Chinese seller. Um and it was just manning, there's nothing you can do and and it's it's hard to build a business, you know, it's funny because once again we go back to the love hate with amazon right? Like people love it because you know my my e commerce business like 90 to 95% of the business comes through there. I mean we saw a Wish and we had our own websites, but honestly if you're talking time and time out our time and money out, amazon wins hands down. But on the flip side I just don't trust Amazon to be my partner in building my business. So it's kind of like you know it's just catch 22, you know at what point are they going to change some rule that all of a sudden now my business is you know my products are taken down, you know like you know, some of the stuff I sell is you know you have to get approval for and things like that and then all of a sudden like this is now a prohibited item or you know, it's just
[00:12:57] spk_1: out of the blue. Yeah, I mean these are fixable problems, right? Like the one you mentioned earlier where you couldn't edit the listing content in order to make it compliant like that is fixable. There's no excuse for not quickly putting something together that makes that to maybe not quickly but eventually putting something in place that makes it so that that doesn't require a whole new system, a whole new tool to be built. Maybe they would tell you that that's what it takes. Um and that's why they haven't changed it. I mean look at the account, health dashboard, it's completely inconsistent in terms of updates. Some people successfully appeal something and it doesn't fall off for two or three months And other people is two or three days. Well that's because it's an old clunky tool that needs to be built, rebuilt replaced. I mean the whole of seller central I think rolled out in what, 2010 2009. So these are ancient things that need to be swapped out for something better and that is flexible. Eventually someday those improvements are coming but they do it at their pace, not your pace unfortunately.
[00:13:57] spk_0: Yeah, absolutely. Now that I agree with
[00:14:01] spk_1: you, I mean, yeah, they have the resources, they have the data, they hire like crazy. It's not like seller performance now they've capped the hiring and they can't hire, you know, 100 more people in Seattle or even globally to make some of the pain points a little bit easier on sellers. They could do that. I'm not afraid to put some human capital towards the problem. And also to add other types of resources, software or otherwise to fix problems. It's just they saw there's so many problems that they want to fix in their order in their chronology [00:14:34] spk_0: and [00:14:35] spk_1: the marketplace stuff is always the last on the list,
[00:14:37] spk_0: Right? And that's insane because you know, when when when, you know sellers make money, amazon makes money, I know that their theory is like, you know, if if one seller falls off, there's somebody hungry right behind them, right? So they could care less. The sellers are a number as a stock, you know, as you know, if you're a stockholder, I get that they're trying to make the most profit. They can they're trying to, you know, every company is trying to do that. Well not everybody, you know, a lot of the big ones are, there's hopefully some with, you know, getting a little bit more in terms of, you know, having some part ah but to me, it's like, you know, we did so many great things, especially, you know, in this country, when we, when we did things like Skunk, skunk works right, where you have these small little teams, you know, to me, it's like if I, if I were in charge of amazon, I'm gonna I'm gonna go from the software side since we got onto that, you know, if I was in charge of amazon, I would have little little teams, right, I'd have five people on a PPC team and that sounds like not a lot in terms of development, but honestly it's plenty if you, if you get to the point where you're using modern development practices, your streamlining your, you know, kind of starting from scratch, um, you know, building building these tools over again and then, you know, and then filtering off just like they do on the shopper side of things, right? You know, when you log and say, hey, we got this new dashboard experience, who wants to try it, you know, do that for like a year, get tons of feedback, see what works, what doesn't work and then make and then deploy it and when you deploy it, only deploy it to, you know, uh, you know, sellers from Australia or sellers from, you know, a smaller, uh, you know, subgroup Canada, you [00:16:13] spk_1: occasionally rollout regional testing. I mean, [00:16:16] spk_0: I'm sure, yeah, I'm sure they do that, but I just feel like it's at this point it's like, you know, uh, amazon is starting to look to me and I've said this for many years, more and more like uh like my space every day. I feel like uh I [00:16:30] spk_1: never used my space, so it's hard for me to come. [00:16:32] spk_0: And yeah, that's facebook, there we go. But but that's yeah, but I mean that's honestly what the more I start, you know, diving into amazon, you know, I'm like, okay, when are you guys gonna going to improve this? And if you don't then somebody more hungry, somebody more innovative is gonna come along. I mean just look at companies like, you know, facebook for example, facebook turned on a marketplace, it would put a big hurt on amazon and I'm still surprised after all these years that facebook hasn't done that. They've done like their market placing and stuff like that. But I'm talking about a real marketplace, [00:17:05] spk_1: I mean Google Google shopping or you know, whatever that was 10 years ago, maybe they could have started making some moves. Um When I first left amazon, I was kind of poking around with google to see if they were planning on launching a marketplace. Um They didn't seem that interested. Yeah. Thanks for tuning in to part one [00:17:27] spk_2: of this episode, join [00:17:28] spk_1: Us every Tuesday at one PM [00:17:30] spk_2: pacific standard time for [00:17:31] spk_1: live Q. And a. And [00:17:32] spk_2: bonus content after the recording [00:17:34] spk_1: at cellar Roundtable dot [00:17:36] spk_2: com, sponsored by the ultimate [00:17:38] spk_1: software tool for [00:17:38] spk_2: amazon sales and growth [00:17:40] spk_0: seller S C [00:17:41] spk_2: O dot com [00:17:41] spk_1: and amazing [00:17:43] spk_2: at home dot com.