Account Health Support Calls

Account Health Support Calls

Amazon Seller Support has a team known as AHS.  Emails from the Account Health Support Team are pre-suspension events. Currently not all selling accounts are AHS eligible and those that are not, are suspended according to SOP.  When a 3P account is AHS eligible they receive an email with a menacing subject line: URGENT: Your account at risk of deactivation.  

I’m able to speak on the subject as I’ve initiated and/or managed 100+ AHS calls.  In my experience roughly 75% of sellers who receive an email from AHS Teams are in fact suspended within 72 hours.   The 25% of Sellers who manage to avoid suspension fall into these scenarios

  • False-Positive.

What’s a false positive and how can they be explained? False positives are when Amazon’s algorithms are acquiring signals that contribute to a probability score sufficient enough to suspend an account.  For accounts that are AHS eligible, the calls are your opportunity to explain why the signals are not accurate.

A recent example is of a seller who had duel FBA and MFN listings, and when FBA went out of stock, his MFN listings took orders.  That is not normal behavior for his storefront.  He’s 100% FBA, but in this case his inbound shipment was slow to arrive, and his MFN listing was in the BuyBox and the account sold 250 units using MFN. The seller was not going to meet the delivery date on 10 orders from the 250 that he received.  He needed to get more stock from his nearby supplier and 10 buyers were going to receive their purchase past the estimated delivery date (EDD).  

The Seller, thinking he was doing the right thing, emailed the buyers using Amazon’s Buyer-Seller Messaging Tool. He explained that the item would be delivered late, but that it was on the way.

That behavior triggered one of the punitive algorithms that I discuss here in Amazon’s Punitive Algorithms Described.  Likely the TRMI or HnR Algo’s because these behaviors have the look of a Bad Actor: Sellers who sell MFN at high velocity, delay the arrival and communicate with buyers, can and do trigger Buyer-Seller Collusion Algorithms.  

In this case, we were able to articulate the issue during our AHS call as well as in the post-call POA.  A plan of action is always required within 72 hours of AHS calls.  Between our call and the POA we were able to avert suspension.  Instead, Seller Performance placed a rolling-reserve equal to 14 days sales on the account’s disbursement schedule.   Within a few weeks, after the buyers received their items and the accounts normal selling behavior was in place, we appealed the rolling reserve, and it was removed.

Another False-Positive was a seller whose account was low-transaction, and suddenly the account had a spike in 60-day sales.  

Spikes in sales are common, but when they’re not accompanied by seller reviews, product reviews, messaging, returns and/or the buyer’s purchase path originates via direct external links, or hand-typed ASIN’s, or from freebie/giveaway/review groups on facebook , an account will trigger Bad_Actor_Prevention AI. I refer to this algorithm as Unsupported Sales (USS).  USS is an underlying always-on Algorithm that is calculating probabilities:

  • The purchase funnel entry and path to transact.
  • Low seller review rate.
  • Low product review rate.
  • atypical buyer behavior. 
  • Low messaging rates.

USS works as child-script to the broader Transaction Risk Management algorithms.  TRMI is weighted using AOV (average order value), brand, product type and fulfillment methods, among other data points.   In this case, we explained the accounts dormancy, we explained the recent velocity, we submitted documents with the post-call POA, and we also put the account on Vacation mode.  We suggested in our appeal that our account could hold a rolling reserve until buyer behavior caught up to the transaction rates.  As a result, the suspension was avoided, selling continued, and the cash-flow pain was absorbed as part of doing business on Amazon.  

 False Positives are rare That is why, as I suggested, 75% of sellers who receive the emails from AHS teams are subsequently suspended.  This is fine and normal.   Amazon polices sellers in this manner.  Look at it as being pulled over for a broken taillight.  The police officer will ask for your license, registration, and insurance.  This suspension process is very similar to that.  No matter how well you’re able to explain and defend yourself with AHS, Seller Performance still will suspend you because they want to get a closer look.  They use these suspensions as teaching moments as well.  The Plan of Action that we write for our members or that non-members inevitably will be writing forces Sellers to look closer at their account.  Specifically, the parts of your account that resulted in negative buyer experiences. 

Before I offer best practice for handling AHS calls, I’ll mention that we handle AHS calls for our members.  AMSA H & P members receive AHS         call support at no costs.  We offer AHS call support to all members.  The tools to do that   are located on your member page.  If your not a member yet, you may join here.

Amazon would like nothing more than to see you’re running a tight operation.  But also, AHS suspensions are punitive in nature and designed to root out the bad and the weak.

AHS is a part of Seller Support; they simply annotate the call after you complete it. They also provide some basic facts about how to write a Plan of Action. They do not have the power to NOT-SUSPEND.  However, their call annotations contribute greatly to your account being in the 25% that are not suspended.  AHS representatives are looking for you to have two things on the tip of your tongue.

  1. Are you aware of the problem?
  2. Have you taken any immediate remedial steps?

Do those look familiar to you?  They should, because they’re the first part of any successful POA ever written. Seller Performance wants to see that you are on top of your storefront.  If you get on this call and get defensive, then you are as good as suspended.  If you get on the call and say “we have 100% feedback”, then you are as good as suspended,  if you get on this call and say “we’ve sold 1000’s of these with no problems”, then you are as good as suspended.  If you get on the call and say anything that does not address the root cause of the issue, and you are equally unprepared with any demonstrable remedial steps, then you are as good as suspended!

AHS calls are critical.   They’re critical to being reinstated, critical to shortening the length of that suspension, and critical to avoiding a very quick 2nd suspension.   In the false positive example, I mentioned a lag of buyer behavior that can trigger more defects.   There I described it as the organic lag that exists between a purchase and buyer follow up behavior.  A very similar lag exists in health as well.  Just as frequently, regarding the signals that caused the AHS call and subsequent suspension, additional negative signals are lagging.   That can result in back-to-back suspensions in a short time frame, so it’s quite important that during the AHS call, you cover the downstream implications of the signals yet to arrive.

You’ll notice in the image of AHS emails, they also provide the seller the opportunity to initiate the call rather than wait.  I cannot overstate how important it is that the seller not wait and initiate that call.   Not because its convenient and insures that you don’t miss the one call they’re going to make. They never call twice.  If AHS calls and you miss it for whatever reason, then they simply annotate, and send you a different email.  Insuring you speak to AHS is a good reason to initiate the call but still not the main reason that you want to be the aggressor.  

Being prepared is the primary reason that you want to be the aggressor and initiate the call.  I feel so strongly about this that I advise that even if you answer the call, do not engage on the inbound call.  This is what I suggest that you say to the AHS Representative, “Thank you for calling, and yes, we did receive the email.  Actually we’ve been working on this issue and my team has been pulling together our findings, and begun work on it”.

The inbound call generates a support case in account, and when you hang up, the case is created and it includes a link to call them back.  You advise the representative that you are aware of that, and that you fully intend on initiating a return call within a few hours.  I’ve never had a problem with this approach and as much as you will have a hard time not digging in, or began asking questions, you are not helping yourself. You are actually hurting yourself significantly.  The investigator who will ultimately be handling your case , has access to, and listens to the call recording. 

 

Each and every word you say can make a difference in whether you’re suspended, and if you are, what’s it going to take to get you reinstated.   Every seller cherishes the opportunity to speak with someone of substance at Amazon.  Particularly about the safety and well being of their selling privileges.  If you are unprepared you have to resist the urge to start blurting out things, or asking misguided questions.   Take a pass on that call and use the next few hours to diagnose, repair, and get prepared.   

Being prepared means that you have identified the root cause of the issue, and that you have taken immediate steps to stop or mitigate its negative impact on buyers. Often, but not always, they’ve given you something to work within the email, such as ASIN’s and defect (policy violation). Just as often AHS emails are cryptic and opaque. No matter what the individual issue is, at this point in the process, you’re inevitably going to answer to all health & performance issues before this process concludes.

If your running your store correctly, you should already have some idea what the issue or issues are. No matter how confident you are that can “explain it them”, you still need to do the preparation work. If you have no idea why you received an AHS email, then it’s even more dangerous.
Preparing starts with a forensic deep-dive of previous performance violations, order reports, FBA & MFN return reports, buyer-seller messaging, Voice of the Customer, refund rates, product reviews and seller reviews and more. Since these are lethal threats to your business you need to take it seriously and do the work.

The support case created by the inbound call is locked to the AHS representative who called. When we are ready, we will submit our draft POA to the case, and initiate a call. Once on the call, we want to push the representative to put us on hold and review the account. Because we want the call to be 20 minutes or less. Ideally 8-12 minutes. We want the investigator to listen to it, and if it is long, that’s not likely.

Resist the temptation to talk, encourage the AHS representative to put us on hold. Encourage them to review the account and the POA_draft that we’ve submitted to the case. This is not the POA we will ultimately be submitting to Seller Performance, this is a draft, intended to benefit from proprietary information that the AHS representative has and cannot share with us. In this way we benefit by not missing anything that’s part of the opaqueness. The AHS representative knows which points need to addressed and what boxes the seller performance team will be checking. We allow our POA to speak for us, and we allow the AHS representative ask questions and provide input.

The ideal outcome is that the AHS representative believes you’ve provided enough for the investigator to make a determination.  If so, then they have the option of submitting it to seller performance on your behalf.  You may see the case status change to “transfered”.  This is my preferred manner of handling it the AHS representatives annotations are sent sid-by-side our POA. Some representatives will ask you to attach it to the email you received as well.

With any live-contact with Amazon, you are going to run into unqualified, abrasive and/or unhelpful representatives.  If I sense this, I do less with the Rep and more with the things I can control, such as direct contact with Seller Performance.

Not every seller, in fact, most sellers don’t have the skills on staff to do this work appropriately. Amazon Account Health Professionals are not in abundance and the good ones are very expensive. When you join the Amazon Seller Association, we offer all members AHS call support, from diagnosis and discovery, through to reinstatement.   In my experience, communicating with Amazon is a learned skill.

Join 1000+ Amazon Sellers and Get Free Reinstatement Service*