Amazon introduce 24/7 communication metric requirements

Amazon are stepping up efforts to ensure that retailers trading on the platform respond to buyers in a timely fashion. However it’s generating complaints from sellers that they’re being forced to work seven days a week.

One seller told us “Basically, they are now forcing us to respond to 90% of messages within 24 hours. We already work 6 days of the week, this essentially means we have to work 7 days to cope with this“.

One problem is that not every message requires a response, if the buyer responds with a “Thanks for the information” you still need to mark the message as “Not needing a response” or it’ll count as a black mark against your metrics. If you fail to respond in time (including over weekends and Bank Holidays) then you could face restrictions on your account. On the plus side Amazon say that merchants who respond to 90% or more communications within 24 hours receive 24% less negative feedback than sellers who are slower to respond.

In truth this is probably going to hit larger merchants harder – small retailers often routinely deal with emails seven days a week anyway, but the corporate high street retailers don’t generally have admin staff working on Sundays and often not on Saturdays either. You won’t be able to knock off work at Saturday lunchtime and not worry about your online sales until Monday morning, at some point on Sunday you’ll have to check your Amazon messages and respond to them to ensure your account is safe.

Of course you could take the risk that 90% of emails will be responded to in a timely fashion during the week, but the 10% allowance for responding after 24 hours means that having Sunday off will on average put you 14% down, and if Sunday is one of your busiest days it’ll be more than 14%.

How do you handle customer communications at the weekends? Do you respond on Saturdays and Sundays and do you have to pay staff to work weekends just to deal with messages?

Communications instruction email from Amazon

Dear Seller,
Buyers tell us that receiving timely responses from sellers to their enquiries is an important contributor to their overall satisfaction with an order. Our research has shown that sellers who respond to 90% or more of their messages within 24 hours have nearly 24% less negative feedback than sellers who take longer to respond.
To help make your Amazon Marketplace transactions successful, we recommend that you respond to buyer enquiries within 24 hours. You can access buyer enquiries by clicking the “Messages” link in the upper-right corner of your seller account home page. Copies of messages are also sent to the e-mail address associated with your account.
You can monitor your average response times on the Customer Metrics page of your seller account. Your Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time metrics are located at the bottom of the page.
For more information on how response time metrics are calculated, search on “Contact Response Time Metrics” in our online seller Help.
The following are some best practices for achieving a great response time metric:
– Regularly monitor your response time metrics.
– Check your seller account for messages every day, including at the weekend.
– Mark messages you have read but not responded to as “unread” in your e-mail client.
– Use a Contact Response Management (CRM) system to track enquiries.
– Let buyers know if a question or issue will require additional time to research.
– If you receive the same questions on a regular basis, consider creating a document with prepared answers.
Amazon Services Europe

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The Amazon CRM is erm not very good, it filters messages without telling you, you can't send links to Amazon pages without it having a fit and the whole "mark as no response needed" is simply Amazon adding further steps into what was a simple process. All of the "improvements" recently have done exactly the same while the Catalog in ungated categories where barcodes are not mandatory is a shambles with many ASIN's for the same product and errant customer reviews. Seller support are useless unless you phone which means to get an ASIN merged takes 15 mins and pot luck that you don't get someone who barely speaks English let alone understands a technical question. Amazon used to be very very good, the quality of the catalog is going downhill fast and they don't seem to be bothered.

Clarky • 17th February 2012 •

I seem to have wandered from the point slightly having spent 20 mins on the phone with a lovely French sounding Amazon representative who couldn't understand my query. Many merchants will struggle with the requirement, especially those who do not use the Amazon messages tab, it will be interesting to see how Amazon use the metric information however I think it will not be used like the ODR for automatic sanctions on an account.

Clarky • 17th February 2012 •

So yet another online selling portal needlessly tightens the screws again. What is the world coming to? Not that I'm surprised, of course .....

Kang • 17th February 2012 •

very frustrating and not the best of ideas....especially when their own customer service team doesn't respond within 24 hrs, last Christmas it took over two days to receive a response. I don't know of many online businesses that run 24/7 anyway, most close at the weekends as there is no post!

Stuart • 17th February 2012 •

If you need to contact "Seller Performance", which can only be done through an email system that does not allow for continuation of dialogue, you are lucky if you get a response at all. If you do get a response more than likely it will just be a standard "form" reply and very possibly not related to your original message. In dealing with the likes of Amazon/eBay etc. "What's good for the goose" most certainly doesn't apply.

Jimbo • 17th February 2012 •

in a recent webinar on amazon Carole stated weekends dont count for metrics as like weekends dont count for despatch days Personally I find amAZOn CS far better than ebays, its generally quite smetimes within a few hours, normally they have read it and answer it with detail and information, unlike ebay that answer when they want and with a standard copy and paste reply

edwina • 17th February 2012 •

Conflict of information as Amazon website says Last line of the pop-up says "Do response time metrics include weekends? Yes, response time metrics take into account the total time taken to respond to an email contact, including weekends."

Bunchy • 17th February 2012 •

I have found the normal CS and phone support good but if you have any problem regarding account status/performance/infringements it is a separate team and in my experience it is like trying to communicate with a brick wall. Here is a link to an article on Trevor Ginn’s blog

Jimbo • 17th February 2012 •

I have no problem with this. It will make shoppers choose smaller independents over large retailers because their service will be better. And anyone who has tested this will know, as Amazon's own research has shown, that the quicker you respond to a query the less likely you are to get an agressive buyer and/or negative feedback. As many have said in the past about eBay as well, if you don't like it don't sell there. It's their site and they have every right to dictate terms. If it weeds out some sellers all the better for the ones that remain. :-)

TheShopkeeper • 17th February 2012 •

As a solution, if we were to have an "out of office reply" along the lines of "we will respond to your message on Monday" which was activated on Saturday this would count as a response for the metrics as far as I can tell. Has anyone tried this?

Daniel B • 18th February 2012 •

Amazon is a smart company and probably has an army of Turks reading all your messages to make sure you aren't doing this. I mean otherwise this rule would be completely useless and result in a slew of auto-responder apps popping up to get past this.

ebuyerfb • 18th February 2012 •

Smiles @ Dan - hope that says it all.

Terry • 19th February 2012 •

I Completely agree – ad actually I have had an at length conversation with an Amazon bod, See below at their response. Greetings, Thank you for writing back to me on this issue. I understand that you are not happy with the messages you receive from your buyers when you are on vacation for the orders shipped by you, but please understand that a buyer will be able to contact you as and when they wish to do so. We cannot block any buyer from contacting you. Also, the buyers will contact you in case they have queries with regards to their orders at any pint of time. For example, in case you ship an item on 20 Feb 2012 and you are going on vacation from 22 Feb 2012, they buyer may contact you with regards to their item if they have not received the item. I understand that you cannot be replying to the emails when you are on a vacation. Please be assured that when an review is done on your account, the fact will be taken into consideration that you were on vacation and were not able to respond to the buyers queries. At this point of time, we do not have the automated ping system which will reply to the buyer that your account is on vacation. I do understand that this would really be helpful to our sellers and also the buyers can be at ease that the seller will reply to them once they are back from the vacation. As mentioned earlier, I am once again forwarding this suggestion to our business team which will take this into consideration. Please know that all these decisions are in the hands of our business team and they are the once who make the changes. We at seller support can only forward the suggestions and feedback that we receive from our sellers. I apologise for the inconvenience faced by you on this issue, but please understand that we at seller support cannot make these changes suggested by you as it is in the hands of our business team to make the changes. Hope this information was useful. Thank you for selling with Amazon. Aamir Seller Support So Is there anyone with a program that can take over the message part of the system and send/ping an out of office reply in return – like a 3rd party software provider in the case of repricing etc….

The Book Warehouse • 24th February 2012 •

Guess I'll have to reply to Amazon messages every day even when on holiday otherwise we would come back from a week off with no Amazon account. I wish Amazon wasn’t so important to us.

Dom • 19th February 2012 •

Yes we need an out of office reply system....

The Book Warehouse • 24th February 2012 •

What a joke. Amazon now stopping me have at least 1 day a week off work.

James • 19th February 2012 •

Sounds like good news to me. Not sure why folk would be upset by this move, it might help sort the wheat from the chaff. Thanks to the explosion of online sales I'm enjoying a great lifestyle, would I trade that for a 9 -5 job just because I don't like how ecommerce is developing, erm no.

whirly • 20th February 2012 •

Obviously your have a relatively small catalog.....

The Book Warehouse • 24th February 2012 •

I don't have a problem with it.

Jimbo • 20th February 2012 •

In the US, they have a way of verifying automatically whether your tracked parcel has arrived on time. They want you to be a robot, maybe I am now?

John Pemberton • 20th February 2012 •

I have spoken to Seller Support regarding this issue. They responded with the following: In regards to our phone conversation yesterday, for the vacation settings side of things, you can set your seller central account to vacation then set your Outlook email account to vacation and set up an out of office response on it. This will work for you at the weekends also. That way sellers could implement vacation settings every Friday for weekends (for sellers solely using FBA) and as an automated response has been sent via outlook it would not affect your metrics as you have 'responded' within 24 hours.

Julius Oliveti • 22nd February 2012 •

No - firstly a message goes from outlook - not your amazon account - so that doesn't count. Secondly - Amazon don't provide email addresses only a encrypted one - and that wont ping back.

The Book Warehouse • 24th February 2012 •

@book warehouse Please write us a guest post. You know your stuff and clearly have thinks to say. It would be much appreciated by Tamebay readers. Best, Dan

Dan Wilson • 25th February 2012 •