Win the Buy Box with customer support
The secret to winning the Buy Box does not lie in deciphering Amazon’s secret algorithm, but in achieving high operational standards and selling at a competitive price. Amazon performance metrics highlight the weight that Amazon puts behind its philosophy of providing a great customer experience. The customer is at the heart of almost all Amazon metrics, from customer experience, support, feedback to fulfillment.
Online sellers need to be on top of their customer support game if they hope to win the Buy Box. Let’s take a look at the customer performance metrics that will increase your chances of winning the Buy Box.
The Amazon customer metrics
1. Seller Rating
Amazon measures the Seller Rating by combining your customer metrics with seller feedback. Your seller rating needs to be as close to 100 as possible – I would recommend 95 as a minimum target for professional sellers.
What does your seller rating consist of?
Each of your orders in the last 365 days is assigned a score, called an Order Quality Score. If an order is fulfilled without any problems, it receives 100 points. The level of customer experience you provide is scored on a 0 to 100 scale. The most recent orders you receive will have the greatest impact on your overall score.
Amazon will analyze your performance on a combination of the following metrics:
- Perfect Order Percentage (POP)
- Order Defect Rate (ODR)
- Pre-fulfillment cancellation rate
- Late Shipment Rate
- Valid Tracking Rate
- Return Dissatisfaction Rate (RDR)
- Customer Service Dissatisfaction Rate (CSDR)
An Order Quality Score is assigned to every order for the last 365 days, which directly relates to your Perfect Order Percentage (POP) metric. A POP score counts the orders that have been accepted, processed and fulfilled to perfection. You lose points if your order encounters a problem, a late shipment will incur 0 points and A-Z claims can result in a negative score of -500. Where there are multiple issues, the most significant problem is counted. Amazon calculates the rate by looking at the total order quality scores for the last 365 days and divides that number by your total orders.
2. Stock Level
While Stock Level can also be counted as a fulfillment metric, I’ve added it here for the customer experience element. Your buyer will not be happy if you can’t provide the products they need. Many people may be shopping for a popular product, all at the same time, and if stocks are low they will miss out and have a negative experience with your store.
The potential threats posed by low stock levels
The obvious threat is that, if stocks are low, you will lose sales to a competitor who has the necessary inventory. Amazon won’t award you the Buy Box if your stock is low and insufficient to meet demands. If a sale is cancelled due to low stock levels, this will affect your account in two ways; firstly it will impact your Pre-Fulfillment Cancellation Rate and secondly, your customer will be likely to leave negative feedback on your store. You don’t need an excessive amount of stock to meet this metric, but be aware of your buyers’ shopping trends, and manage the inventory of your most popular products to meet their demands.
3. Contact Response Time
Sellers must respond to customer queries within 24 hours as per Amazon Service Level Agreement (SLA). Sellers will be penalized for late responses and for not responding to customer queries. The minimum target for Amazon sellers is to send 90 percent of their responses within 24 hours, including on weekends and national holidays. Amazon calculates average response times over 7 days, 30 days and 90 days and compares your response speed to your competitors.
Score high with Contact Response times
According to Amazon research, customers who receive a response within the 24 hour guideline leave 50 percent less negative feedback, compared to those who receive a later response. That’s why you need to speed up your response times, while maintaining a high quality level of service at the same time.
Be mindful of your response times. If you have responded to even just 10 percent of your customer queries outside the 24 hour guideline, you are at risk of losing eligibility for the Buy Box. Be aware that every single customer message that you receive is included in the Customer Response Time metric. If you have any invalid support tickets, select ‘Mark as no response needed’ in your Amazon seller account, or in an e-commerce customer support help desk, you can close the ticket without sending – this will close the message in Amazon and ensure that the message has no impact on your response rates.
The future is fast approaching
Online retailers must always look to the future. Customers have new avenues for contacting support teams, particularly with the emergence of social channels as centers for support. Forrester reported in ‘Unraveling The Social Technology Web’, that 74 percent of customers who contact companies over social media expect a response in under one hour. This leads us to be believe that Amazon’s 24-hour window for replying to customer queries is likely to narrow in the near future.
When customer support for eCommerce is moving in the direction of real-time responses, this can affect the marketplace seller in two ways. One change that will occur is that Amazon will reduce the recommended response time. However, what will have a more immediate impact is that your customers are growing accustomed to near-instant responses on other channels – this means that the longer they have to wait for a response, the more likely they are to leave negative feedback, even if you have replied within the recommended 24 hours.
How can you speed up your response times?
The simplest and most efficient way of speeding up your response time is to use templates, or canned responses. The benefit of using templates for common customer queries is that you can eliminate repetition – write it once rather than repeating that same message countless times. Every online seller receives a mountain of support queries that require the same, or a similar answer. Templates are a feature available in xSellco’s industry-leading e-commerce helpdesk. By automating responses to common queries, we have found that templates have cut response times in half when using a minimum of five templates.
The new Amazon customer metrics
Amazon started to beta test Return Dissatisfaction Rate and Customer Dissatisfaction Rate back in August 2016. When looking at these metrics, you can clearly see how Amazon’s focus on the customer experience is intensifying.
1. Return Dissatisfaction Rate
Return Dissatisfaction Rate measures the total of valid return requests from customers that have not been answered within 48 hours, have been incorrectly rejected, or have received negative feedback. Customers expect to easily return purchases, and receive a prompt response with a fast resolution. The aim is to respond to your customers faster and reduce negative feedback, disputes and claims.
Tips to avoid the Return Dissatisfaction Rate
Again, you need to speed up response times in order to satisfy your customer’s expectations. On top of speed, you can reduce negative feedback by reaching out to your customer, apologizing and then work to fix the issue. The way to your customer’s heart is most often the human approach. According to a study carried out by The University of Nottingham, people are twice as likely to forgive a company who apologized over those who offered compensation. Amazon will punish any seller who offers incentives in exchange for positive feedback. If you receive negative feedback and wish to dispute this with Amazon, you need to show that you have put in the necessary work to resolve the issue. Avoid having any recurring issues with your customers, as Amazon will not look favorably on your store. Make sure that you are constantly monitoring your store’s performance and ensuring that you are providing the best possible experience for your customers.
2. Customer Service Dissatisfaction Rate
The Customer Service Dissatisfaction Rate reveals the percentage of customers who are dissatisfied with your responses. Amazon surveys customers to assess their experience with your service. You have the ability to download the survey responses on Amazon Seller Central and use them as an opportunity to improve your service. The purpose of this exercise to help sellers identify performance strengths and weaknesses.
3 Ways to avoid customer service dissatisfaction
1. Craft the perfect response
Consider your tone of voice when responding to a customer – listen to how they are speaking to you and this will inform whether you take a casual or formal approach. Listen with the intent to understand, rather than with the intent to reply when crafting the perfect response. Show empathy. A trick to developing empathy is to read over your response and question how the message would make you feel if you were the recipient. Make sure that you apologize. Be concise and use clear formatting so that your message is easy to read and understand. Outline the steps that are being taken to resolve the customer’s issue. When a customer knows what to expect, this will remove any doubts they might have in your service.
2. Personalize your responses
Continue taking the human approach to your interactions and treat each customer like an individual. Speak to them on a name-to-name basis, rather than the cold sign-off of the company name alone. Know your customer’s order history and be aware of any previous interactions they may have had with your team. When you are selling on international marketplaces, include localized information that is familiar to them. There are variations in the details you communicate with international consumers that include; localized measurements, language, currency, delivery and local returns.
3. Anticipate your customer queries
If you can tackle customer issues in advance of them needing to contact your company, customers will enjoy a better experience. Use your product listings to make things easy for your customer. The more straightforward the buying process, the more likely they are to buy from you, and the less likely they are to need to contact your support team. Be transparent with your returns policy – reduce the volume of queries by making this clearly visible on your product listings. This will remove any uncertainty about your company and will save your agents from dealing with angry customers. Make sure that you also outline your delivery and shipping information, in detail, and make it easily accessible to the customer.
Include any information, or user guides, that serve to remove any hesitancy over clicking the Buy Button – help your customers to buy the product they have searched for, and hopefully many more in the future.
Win the Buy Box
To win the Buy Box more often, you must maintain high operational standards, so that you are either the sole Buy Box winner, or are playing competitively for high Buy Box share. Position your business to make more sales and higher profits, by acting on the variables that you can control. The task is to compete at the best price and provide the best possible experience for Amazon customers. Work to your strengths and make more profit.
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