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There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a well-oiled, self-functioning Amazon business. Even with the best intentions and a lot of research and knowledge under your belt, you may be accidentally sabotaging the success of your Amazon business if you are in the habit of making any of these three common seller mistakes.
Watch the video below as Keith O’Brien, CEO of Markethustl and SellerPhoto, and Greg Reynolds, CEO of ZonSupport.com, discuss the well-meaning (but often misdirected) actions sellers do that inadvertently may be hurting their business.
[Transcription with Greg Reynolds from ZonSupport.com below]
Keith: “Alright, hello everyone. I am the CEO of SellerPhoto.com and Markethustl.com and I’m excited about this call today. I’m joined by Greg Reynolds, the CEO of Zonsupport.com. Say hi to everyone, Greg.”
Greg: “Hi everyone, how are you?”
Keith: “I know you travel quite a bit. You’re calling in from, where, Colombia, right?”
Greg: “Yes, that’s right. I’m down here just having a look around and it’s nice cuz it’s on US time zone so I can work and travel at the same time.”
Keith: “Well, you definitely have been working on your tan better than I have, as is apparent in the side by side videos. Anyway, Greg and I go back about 3 ½ years or so. For those of you who are new in the Amazon space, Greg helped launch the original “I Love To Review” office over in LA with our business partner, Adam Hudson. Greg was instrumental in helping start up that company and, in doing so, that really helped you prepare and move into what you are doing now. With I Love to Review, you saw how many campaigns we did, how detailed we were, all the processes that we used and how many clients we had – that really allowed you to get underneath it and really understand the inner workings of Amazon. So, we’re going to have a great call today and dive into what I think is one of the most overlooked and also the most crucial aspects of the Amazon business which is managing the customer support side of the business. To me it really makes or breaks the difference between a good seller and a bad seller… even good sellers and GREAT sellers. We’ve all as consumers had the experience of buying something and then being blown away at the level of customer service we received. And it really connects us to that company. Greg, tell us a little bit about Zonsupport. You guys watching can go check it out yourself at ZonSupport.com, but tell us a little bit about what you do for Amazon business.”
Greg: “Basically, as soon as you get an Amazon business up and running, you are tied to it seven days a week, 365 days a year. You need to log in at least twice a day if you are even half serious about running a professional business and running a great brand. This involves dealing with all customer messages and e-mails. So what we do is we manage all of the administrative aspects of the business, dealing with all the back-end stuff so the client can get on with building their brand, sourcing new products, changing suppliers, finding better shipping… essentially freeing them up to do all the really important things necessary in building a business. We free up entrepreneurs from getting immersed in the day-to-day client-customer stuff that can go on and on and on.”
Keith: “Sure. As we all know, while a very few amount of customers and buyers will come back and leave a review, lots of them are willing to write us all kinds of stuff. You know, hang ups on things like ‘Hey, i bought the blue looking widget and I got it and it was blue. I wasn’t expecting it to be this shade of blue. Can you help?’ You know… all kinds of questions.”
Greg: ‘Yeah, you know, wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where we didn’t have customers? Then, everything would run smoothly. The thing that gets in the way, the wave, is customers. It doesn’t matter what website you’re on, you’ll see this. We travel a lot so we use Trip Advisor. 80 percent of people who have a bad experience will leave a bad review and the rest of the 20 percent who didn’t enjoy themselves probably won’t bother. But do 80 percent of people who really enjoyed themselves leave a good review? No they don’t. The general rule in business is that complainers don’t take the higher ground and the crucial thing as an Amazon seller is to respond to complaints as quickly as possible. Because if you’re slow to respond then you get nowhere and a good example is on refund which we focus on very much. At ZonSupport, we have a separate account that immediate refunds an account within twelve hours of the original request. This is important because it shows the brand’s commitment to pleasing the customer and it’s essentially saying, ‘We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Please tell us what went wrong so we can make it right.’ You’d be surprised at the amount of people that come back. You know, they’ve applied for the refund and before they’ve had any time to even get the label and packaging set up to send back, they are already getting a message back to find out what the problem is. Quite often, through communication, we’ve sorted out the issue before the customer has returned the product and they end up canceling the return. Or, if there is an issue, instead of dealing with FBA and a dysfunctional product, we say ‘keep the product and we’ll send you a replacement.’ That is premium customer service because it also is less hassle for the buyer. Once you’ve opened that door of communication, you can further the conversation by saying ‘when that product arrives, please let us know so we can make sure everything is to your satisfaction.’ Then they get it and they say they love it and, bam, that’s when you ask them to please leave a review. You’ve established trust and a relationship.”
Keith: “Yeah, I can remember probably my best and earliest review came from a return. Just like you, I’ve been around the industry for so many years, running various companies and helping other entrepreneurs, but I’m just now getting into Amazon as a seller, myself, with launching only 3 or 4 months ago. But even on just one product, there were certain things I just knew I didn’t want to deal with from the get-go. I wanted to work with your team in setting that standard operating procedure which you guys have templates on everything, which is fantastic.”
Keith: “But I knew if I wanted to take off on a Sunday, right, which should be my right as an entrepreneur and I didn’t want to be tied to my phone and my computer and have to handle these things. But I get how crucial it is. I remember we processed a replacement just like the example you gave earlier and if I’m not mistaken the guy didn’t even ask me for a replacement; he just shared a problem with the coloring or something that he thought was off -”
Greg: “Exactly! It wasn’t necessarily a complaint, it was just to let you know that something wasn’t quite right but I really love the quality.”
Keith: ‘Yeah, it had something to do with a problem in manufacturing which isn’t uncommon. Things don’t always look exactly the same from a picture as it does right off the manufacturing floor. Whether it’s a packaging issue or a piece got damaged… We ended up sending the guy a replacement, no questions asked – well, a few questions asked – and we ended up getting a short novella from the guy on Amazon not only on how great the product was but how amazing our customer service was. And it was just gold and totally worth it, so we appreciate that.”
Greg: “This is what we mean when we talk about building a true brand, okay? There isn’t a direct connection with customers usually and when there is a direct connection, it’s usually when they aren’t particularly happy.
Keith: “Yeah and this is something really important because if you look at large, established brands – and I’m not talking about independent, 3rd party sellers that may be doing between 10 and 20 million, those guys are on it – but I’m talking about big, internationally known companies… those guys NEVER respond to customers. I mean they probably have like 19 or 20 thousand SKUs, right? Keeping up with customer complaints is just not something that they can even keep up with. So, this is really an opportunity for newer, smaller companies to really establish themselves and set themselves apart. To me, it’s an opportunity for a real differentiation.”
Greg: “So, we’re really process driven so what we’re trying to do, because I’m a very detailed guy… I mean, I don’t know how I can even live with myself let alone anyone else live with me. I like everything to be perfect all of the time, so we’re very process driven and we have a massive knowledge-base that has been built out over the last year or so. In terms of clients coming back with these little issues or these little problems, some of them are client generic and some of them are client specific. Our team has the resources readily available to them when a customer comes to them with a problem. We know exactly how to respond and the language that a client responds best to. It’s also important to get the voice of the brand down but also cuts right to the heart of the issue and engages back with the customer in a timely fashion. As I’ve said before, as soon as a client isn’t satisfied, you can get a dramatic, adverse response on Amazon but as soon as you respond back and open up that communication, their frustration goes down dramatically. Usually people think they are going to blast something and nothing will happen, so they are very surprised when they get a response from the brand, reaching out to them. Our company purposely has an opening and closing catered to the brand and the client so users know it’s not just some random Amazon bot and it’s actually a real person who is interested in helping them with whatever problem they’ve got.”
Keith: “Well, I wanted to get into the specifics on what it is you guys do and how it actually works and how people can utilize your services. Regardless of that, why don’t we start by giving just a few strategic tips so that, whether someone decides to hire you guys or not, that’s not the issue – let’s talk about the things you guys handle on the most regular basis. So, let’s start with ‘how would you expect a seller to handle a negative review?’”
Greg: “Look the most important thing to do if you get a negative review is to reply, no matter what is said, That’s why, quite often, it’s actually could that our company does the reply instead of the actual brand owner because clients can get very tense and angry over some of the comments. And sometimes they respond in ways they really shouldn’t because they are too emotionally wrapped up in it. It’s too personal for them. You’ve spent all this time and effort, finding the product and building the brand, and somebody comes and dumps on you that may not be correct. So, if you decide to take this part on yourself, every review you receive you MUST read because sometimes you’ll get a five star or four star review and in it, but even those will have some little nugget of advice that could help you better your brand. Also, if a potential customer reads that five star review and there is a ‘but’, that five star review suddenly becomes a three star review. So, my number one tip is to read every review. If it is a good review, don’t respond because people don’t expect you to, plus it builds out that thread down the page, moving the other reviews out of the way. And honestly, how many times and ways can you say thank you for this or thank you for that? It’s just not necessary. If you get a good review, leave it. If you get a good review with a ‘but’, then DO reply. And if you get a 1,2,or 3 star review which is a real “niggle-niggle”, you need to be on that and send the customer back to you. You need them to email you directly, not reply to your comment where everyone can read it. What we say is, ‘Sorry you had that experience. Sorry it wasn’t right. Sorry this didn’t work or that wasn’t sharp or the color wasn’t quite right. Please click on your order and send us a message.’
Keith: “So, to put a bow on that…and, to be honest, I love when we talk but sometimes I feel like I need a word thesaurus for everyone that is non-kiwi, right? Greg… what’s a niggle?”
Greg: “A niggle is when someone is not happy. When you write something but there’s a little bit of an edge to it.”
Keith: “So, like a little complaint? Got it.”
Greg: “It’s the same thing as a ‘but.’ I liked it, but… It worked well, but… what is just a small part of the review can end up ruining the entire review. So, respond to reviews timely. Empathetically. And if it’s a problem say ‘We’ll replace it straight away so that people see the product will be replaced and, for goodness sake, keep it short and sweet. You only want the reply no more than two lines or sentences. People don’t have time to read. And if they DO click on the negative comment, they just glance, read, and go.”
Keith: “Yeah, there’s actually a lot of stats that show conversion rates can actually go up once a few negative reviews come in. But that’s cool. I think the one I liked there the most was moving the customer immediately off the comment thread into the buyer-seller messages on Amazon.”
Greg: “It’s critical. And while we’re talking about product reviews, lets just touch on seller feedback which is a separate area but you’d be surprised some of the products we sell are on FBA and one of them is not. So, if you didn’t know what you were doing, you would be surprised at how many customers go to FBA. If you’re not FBA, that level of trust goes down. So if twice a day you want to check on your seller feedback, if there is any negative feedback in there, you have a lot of power in this area to go back to Amazon (assuming it is purely about the product) and have it removed. Often in Seller Feedback there is a comment that says it didn’t arrive on time and was broken and the comment is just sitting there with no response, expecting to get a reply. So again, you can go through Amazon and have them take responsibility for that but you can still reply in two ways. Reply on the response and, the order is there, so if they haven’t opted out, you can reply to the person directly. But… know this… you can only leave one response, you can’t ever change it. So don’t be angry, don’t be edgy, just think ‘if this is going to stay here, the response that you write has to be global enough that, when someone reads it, they understand that something happened, but all is good. Again, “We’re sorry for your experience. It’s Amazon’s fault, and then please click on your order and get in touch.’ The problem is that so many people opt out of getting messages, you really need to give them a way to reach you. Those are two things you should do, twice a day, every day, for the rest of your life. Apart from checking your inbound messages, assuming you want to protect yourself as much as you can.”
Keith: “Yeah, I hear that and i think, ‘Yeah, whatever your service costs, it is totally worth it because that just sounds miserable.’ It’s a few hundred bucks a month to not have to regulate my attitude when responding to a review like that. And it’s true… I think what your point there was so spot on. Which is, as sellers, especially what we have found in supporting sellers is that, especially if it’s a patented product or its an extension of a family business and has been in our lives for generations, or as a new seller, sometimes those first few products took you quite awhile. So, in any of those cases, here is our product and we’re just like wrapped around it completely and sometimes that causes us to be very emotional about it. And we know we’ve worked our butt off to make it high-quality, especially if we’ve invested a lot of money and time into high-end packaging and have been really thoughtful about investing in the brand. So when someone s**** on that, it really hurts. But at the end of the day, it’s just a product. And it’s one out of the thousands of products you’ll probably end up selling over time.”
Greg: “On that point, sometimes what they’ve said actually has an element of truth. For example, I have one client whose product has a list of instructions. Her instructions are good but they aren’t great. And so a few times a few customers have come back with a niggle about the instruction and I straight up say, ya know, they AREN’T great. So, they NEED to be great. I have another client who sells drinks and all kinds of stuff and the problem is with capacity. People niggle about the capacity and it’s because when you pour the drink, it only goes up to here, ya know, and people feel like they are getting cheated. But, if you fill it to the top, it’s going to overflow.”
Keith: “Yeah and who wants that?”
Greg: “Exactly. So this drink is made to where people should fill it for their convenience but clients just don’t see this.”
Keith: “Unless it’s a measuring cup and then we fill those right up to the brim. Or my wine glasses. Those things are filled right up to the top. So, as a customer message, I think those tid bits are great. So, what else? You guys at ZonSupport handle hijackers. What would be your 1-2 punch or top suggestions on how to handle high-jackers?”
Greg: “Look, GO HARD. I always here on forums people say ‘oh it’s just one person who bought one item, didn’t like it, and they’ve only got one to sell. I am not interested, right? There is only one authorized seller of the product and that is our client. Or in some cases they’ve given us one or two that are approved. So we are monitoring ASINS (particularly in the US) all of the time. And if someone comes on to sell, they get a cease and desist letter which really grabs them by the throat and says, ‘hey this is not acceptable, these are the consequences, get off this listing.’ Now, around 70-80 percent of the time they will just go off and disappear. Other times, it takes a lot more to get them off your listing. So my number one tip is, you act on that and you act fast with a Cease and Desist letter. Number two, if you send a letter and you’ve got more than one ASIN, make sure to clarify that it’s one or more of the following ASINs. We see that you are selling one or more of the following ASINs…then list all of your ASINs. Our legal advice is that if you don’t specify all of the ASINs, then they can go back and sell on one of the other ones and you’re back at zero. So, act quickly but be very specific, making sure you cover all of your ASINs in the message. You also want to make it pretty easy for hijackers to get off your listing, too. Some of them are serial and they know us well and we have a lot of back and forth, but a lot of them are automated. They just suck down thousands of ASINs and punch them all out – it’s all automated. So, if you give them a list of ASINs, not “my product and/or title”, it’ll make it much easier for them to jump off. For the better ones, when they put it in their system and try to jump back on later, their system with recognize it as an opt-out ASIN and they won’t try to use it again.”
Keith: ‘Yeah, as you know, there are people where their entire business on Amazon is hijacking listings. They don’t make anything, they don’t create anything, they don’t add any value to the product… they’re just simply skimming the top. And they’ll take the pennies off other people’s hard work. Man is it frustrating.”
Greg: “And you need to be very serious about it because typically what they’ve done is they’ve reduced the price to get the buy-box. You guys have to be so careful here. You really want to manage your price and manage your tool and if you have someone coming in and discounting one or two or five of your products, and people are buying those instead, the value of your product goes down. So if you let these hijackers just sit there for awhile, and then you decide to boost your product, you’ll end up getting a letter from Amazon saying, ‘Hang on. What’s going on with this price?’ So, it’s important that every aspect of your Amazon business you are onto it straight away and you keep it under tight control. Then, after awhile, it really just runs itself.”
Keith: “Great stuff, man. Okay, so as a final thing, what would you say you see sellers doing a lot of that probably can be approved on? I’m not gonna say the wrong way. I’m just gonna say consistently where they probably should be changing their strategy. Something you see all the time.”
Greg: “Look, we’re looking at listings all of the time and if your listing doesn’t look great, then it’s just not gonna convert. And so we just spend a lot of time looking at all of these listings and seeing these titles that just don’t hit the mark. And it’s kind of awkward for us because here we are managing the whole back end for our client, doing everything right, but they haven’t got the look right or the keywords down, ya know? Unless you’re marketing and pushing correctly, it really doesn’t matter how well you’re looking on the back end. The front end is what really matters. Don’t trip yourself up. Your copy needs to be great. Your images need to be great. And you have to make sure your customer service is just bulletproof. And then it kind of all flows.”
Keith: “Of course you’re talking about clients that aren’t Markethustl clients, right?”
Greg: “No, you’ve dealt with quite a bit of those. And it’s interesting because people get quite defensive when they’ve written their own listing, who have built their own listing. So this is for clients who are watching this little video that we’re making. Or just new Amazon sellers in general. What we try to do is say what do we see that needs to be focused on? Or ‘what over time gets the best result?’ Because if clients aren’t front end focused, all the backend parts of member services doesn’t matter because overtime we’ll lose them because they just aren’t generating the sells.”
Keith: “Just like we get kind of emotional and worked up when we talk to our customers because we love our product, by the time a product goes live you might have been looking at this thing for 6 months now or longer, and sometimes you are just so far in it that you aren’t seeing the bigger picture. And that’s why there is value in hiring third party optimizers who can look at your product objectively and make it better. There is a lot of value in that.”
Greg: “And make sure you do a lot of stuff on this [holds up phone]. More than 50 percent of buyers are using this. So when we do our listing on a computer screen and it looks great, then it truncates on your mobile device, it might look terrible. It does and it matters”
Keith: “I think that’s a great place for us to wrap up. For me, my first product is doing… I don’t know… 12 to 13 hundred bucks a week. About 5,000 a month and it’s really just getting started. I went into a fairly competitive niche and so we really worked hard on it and it’s a continuing work in progress. But we’re not going anywhere so I’m not too concerned about it, but as a seller, I find your services incredibly helpful. It’s a great service to have as a seller. Especially because my main business is Markethustl and SellerPhoto and that keeps me busy full time. So, if you want to learn more about Greg’s business and find out what they do and the services they offer, it’s ZonSupport.com (see, I said that just like an Aussie).”
Greg: “Say Kiwi.”
Keith: “Kiwi. Well, you know… For everyone else, it’s all the same part of the world.
Greg: “Also, there is a 60 second video on our homepage so you can just click that and watch it and it will give you a good idea of what we do and the services we provide. And hopefully it will provide an ‘Ah ha!’ moment of what’s going on. There is a lot more we’ve added on since we made that video but that gives you the gist of it.”
Keith: “Well, I think it’s great and I think we’ve given some very good strategies, whether someone decides to follow them or not. Even if you just use one of the three, any one of them is gold when it comes to improving your Amazon business. So Greg, thanks so much for your time and taking a break from Sunny Colombia today. I know you could be out playing in the surf of the Sand so we appreciate it, coming inside and sharing this information.”
Greg: “Always a pleasure, Keith.”
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