Seller Performance Solutions
What Is and Isn't an Escalation?
July 27, 2023
One of the most critical aspects of handling Amazon seller performance challenges is escalations. It's your best bet at resolution when Amazon's teams aren't reviewing your appeal or issue properly. In this episode, Chris and Leah share insights into what constitutes a proper escalation and how to avoid common mistakes when seeking assistance from Amazon.
Chris: [00:00:00]

Hey everybody. Welcome back to another wonderful episode of Seller Performance Solutions. This is Chris McCabe. I'm here with my colleague, Leah McHugh. How are you doing Leah? 

Leah: I'm doing good thanks, how are you going Chris? 

Chris: Doing good. I'm doing better now than after reading a few disconcerting emails we got from people who said that they had already escalated something.

We've seen, I think an increase in the last month or so. Maybe it was because of Prime Day and some additional desperation that people had to resolve problems quickly. We're hearing more and more from sellers telling us we've escalated this already, but we might need your help to escalate it further.

Then we look. Some of your cases are like this, just like mine, we look at the details and we see that there's no escalation, right? They just called support or somebody in account health told them that they were escalating it. I think maybe account health reps are starting to use this term escalation more than they were earlier this year.

And it's just like this has to be defined. Otherwise, people are going to think they've escalated something and it [00:01:00] really hasn't changed what they did before. Isn't that fair to say? 

Leah: Yeah, I mean, I think it's similar to the term hijacking, which we see used incorrectly. Pretty. I mean, part of it is amazon jargon that does get used pretty freely. So catalog team will often say that they're escalating something for you. Or like you said, account health, or I also see just sellers and support cases saying, please escalate this. And I mean, yes, that is an escalation, but that's escalating it to the shift manager.

 Whereas when we're talking about escalations, we're talking about the VP+ type of escalations. 

Chris: Right? Well, and people automatically assume and in the old days, you could write to Jeff and it would go to executive seller relations and it would be treated like a proper escalation that email queue has been so overused and so overplayed for years that now you tend to get a message from whoever happened to be hanging around who saw it, who had [00:02:00] the message or the email delegated to them.

So you can still write to Jeff, of course. You might even still get a reply from executive seller relations, but not what it used to be, right? You kind of get the same copy and paste lower level response that you got when you were emailing seller performance cues back in the day. So I think some of it is the confusion over, we wrote to Jeff.

We know that's an escalation. It went to executives, our relations. We confirmed that it went there. Yes. But was it treated like a proper escalation and reviewed by somebody manager level or higher? Probably not. 

Leah: Yeah. And also some sellers. When they say escalation, they just mean that they emailed their appeal to as many people as they could find an email address for, and that's not really an escalation either.

It needs to have an actual escalation letter in there in order to be escalated. Otherwise, you're just spamming people, essentially. 


Chris: There has to be an escalation language in there. Not just we want to escalate this. That's the other kind of mistake I've [00:03:00] seen lately. One sentence. This has gone on long enough.

We're getting no response or bogus responses from your internal teams. We want to escalate this. And that's exactly how they leave it. Requesting an escalation without comments. Justifying it without backing it up with facts and figures without saying why it has to be escalated. I think this is the big underappreciated piece to the equation.

You have to say why they need to look at it. Why that person should be devoting time to reviewing it, right? 

Leah: Yeah, and I think that escalations are sold to a lot of people as well this is just what you do when you want Amazon to do what you want. And you need to have a basis of escalation. That basis generally needs to be that Amazon is not doing what Amazon is supposed to be doing. And you need somebody that knows what they're doing to look at it. Otherwise, you're just spamming people. We don't like it. Fix it. Isn't a basis for escalation.

Chris: Right. And there's Weak [00:04:00] reasons and strong reasons for saying you guys aren't doing the right thing, fix it. If you get an appeal denied and they don't tell you why, well, it's because their messaging is murky and opaque and of course they don't tell you why. Almost every message from Amazon doesn't provide real information.

But a better escalation would be we call it account health and we confirm that there are no annotations justifying the denial of an appeal. Therefore, we'd like to escalate this for proper managerial level or VP level review. That's one way to go. The other way to go is we called account health, they couldn't tell us anything.

The message doesn't tell us anything. So we just want to escalate it. Wrong way to go and there's a huge divide between those two different approaches, right? 

Leah: Yeah. And of course there's a huge divide in how successful those approaches are. Because again, one is showing Amazon that there are gaps in their processes and their processes aren't working. The other one is just complaining. 

Chris: Yeah. And one of my pet peeves lately were again, in the emails we got, I think it was last week or the week before, we've already escalated this. And they're [00:05:00] just denying it, or they're just sending us the same message over and over. How would you escalate it differently from us?

Well, number one, we wouldn't even be in business if we couldn't escalate it differently than some of the sellers who approach us. Number two, you can't just say we've escalated it without even pausing to think, did I escalate it well? Did I escalate it mediocre mid range or did I escalate it poorly? There's a scale for this stuff.

A bad escalation and a good escalation have totally different odds of success. Stop and think about that before you even send something in. We're not necessarily saying that you need us to do every escalation you do between now and the rest of your life. But you have to at least consider or get a second opinion on whether or not what you've put together has a snowball's chance in hell of even being read, let alone accepted.

That's one of the big gaps in education about escalations right now. 

Leah: I also very rarely will immediately escalate a case. Generally speaking, I review everything that's been submitted prior to us taking over. If, if there has been anything submitted prior to us [00:06:00] taking over and then I usually will still have them submit some sort of an appeal that we have written because, generally speaking I can see that there are gaps in the appeals that have already been submitted. So it's not ready to be escalated yet. And I think that's also key, I mean, you can escalate and you can escalate, but if the initial appeal is already missing key information, it doesn't matter how good your escalation is if the appeal isn't there. So sometimes the appeal is solid and I can escalate it, but it's very rare that I can escalate something as soon as we receive the case. Generally speaking, I still will take them through the correct processes first, even if they have already escalated it on their side. 

Chris: It's the same thing with a plan of action. A lot of people say, well, I did a plan of action and I had it in the appeal and they didn't take it. So I escalated it. Okay. Once again, same concept. Did you think about how good the POA was? Because when you're escalating a plan of action and you think it's complete and you think your account should be reinstated based on that [00:07:00] POA or your ASIN, in the escalation itself, you're highlighting the merits of the plan of action, the strengths of that plan, why it should be enough to convince them, why it should work to improve your operations to make sure the same problem doesn't crop up again. 

 Don't assume you have a great plan of action and that they rejected it simply because they didn't read it. If you need a second opinion on the quality of your POA, we can give one to you.

But, again, there's nothing to escalate with. You're supposed to be quoting from the POA with the highlights of the strengths and why you've improved things. Why you fix the problem, why they should accept it. And that forms the basis of the escalation language, right? Not just, Hey, here's my POA again.

We got rejected. We don't know why. Escalate this and reinstate us. Right? 

Leah: Yeah. I think the main thing that sellers need to know is that you can't just send these in willy nilly, because you essentially burn bridges if you send in a bad escalation, it means that if, if you do [00:08:00] hire somebody to take it over later, or you come back with a second pass to do it better.

 It's much more difficult to get people to pay attention to you that second time around. So you want to make sure that. What you are sending in is as high quality as possible from the beginning. So you're not having to try to correct those mistakes further down the line. Cause ultimately sometimes things are just too far gone for us to fix when people come to us sometimes.

So you really need to make sure that you're doing it right and not creating too much damage for somebody else to take over later. 

Chris: And of course, you know, for selfish reasons, we like to say, my God, don't come to us after you've already written to Jassy. And all these different executives and complain to them.

That's what we mean by burning the bridges. I mean, if you've burned down all your escalation paths and you expect to be rescued later, sometimes when we're contacted, I just say, look, it's too far along. You've already created too much damage for anyone to come along and help you.

Not just us. I mean, anybody, unless your next door neighbor works at Amazon, you live in [00:09:00] Seattle, you have a great relationship, and also they review escalations and reinstate accounts. It's probably not going to happen at that point. One last thought before we close this topic, which of course, there'll be an article I'm putting together, there'll be other times we're touching on this during summer, during Q4.

The silly subject lines. This is something you and I have talked about quite a bit. People writing at Jassy, or Dharmash, or whoever they might be writing to, high level executives, senior VP, whoever it is, and expecting to get their attention with the same document, the same appeal that's already been rejected just because you put quotes from Shakespeare in the subject lines or something silly or ridiculous.

Like, hey, if this is a joke, this isn't funny. 

Leah: I think it's like the clickbait theory, like, they'll be so intrigued by it that they'll have to click through to read the email. That doesn't really work with Amazon. 

Chris: Well, you might actually get their attention. 

Leah: Sure, but it's just not in the way that you want it to be.

Chris: Right. For the wrong reasons. It's like how there's good publicity and there's [00:10:00] bad publicity. This is the same concept. And I don't know who started this trend. It's pretty unprofessional. It's also just not effective. Don't really expect to get anywhere if you're going to kind of insult your audience or insult their intelligence with the clickbait theory or just, hey, let's do something eye grabbing and then hope the rest will sort itself out.

You know what's eye grabbing? A well thought out POA and a well reasoned appeal. 

Leah: Well, I also, if you don't have enough hard hitting reasons to put into the subject line for them to actually open it, then you probably shouldn't be escalating. You're not ready to escalate at that point if you can't create a good headline based on what you are escalating for.

Chris: Right. It's just like anything else in life. If you're trying to get somebody's attention and impress people by being really flashy and you buy a new sports car and you drive around town with the top down, but you're kind of an insubstantial shallow person on the inside, then you might [00:11:00] not attract the right kind of attention from people.

Same thing. You're not going to impress any executives in Amazon just because wow, that's a funny line in the subject line. Half the time, they're not even looking at the subject line. They're looking at the guts of the appeal. We saw a couple of these come in, we understand that sellers don't necessarily think of these.

Usually it's like a service that's trying to make themselves or keep themselves relevant. Question these things if you see it, because you're hurting your chances. You're not helping your chances, but ultimately it's not the service that's on the hook for a denied appeal. I mean, they might be on the hook because you paid them some money, but your seller account is what's going to pay the price.

And so those are our final words of wisdom for today. Any questions on this? Obviously, Leah and I do different types of escalations for different types of cases. So we're happy to answer questions for you as you have them. Just don't push things too far along until they go over the cliff and then call out for help.

We appreciate it if you get to us a bit, a bit earlier in the process. Thanks again for listening. We'll talk to you again soon.