Season 1, Episode 68
Who is the Unblock Team?
[00:00:07] Leah: Hi, Amazon sellers- welcome to the Seller Performance Solutions podcast, I am Leah McHugh and I am here with eCommerceChris, Chris McCabe.
[00:00:14] Chris: Hello.
[00:00:15] Leah: Hi.
[00:00:17] Chris: Got a wacky topic today. Would you say, or what are we referring to this as?
[00:00:22] Leah: I don’t know. We, we have, again, differing opinions on this one for a change.
So, we’re specifically talking about the unblock team, which is a new team that people have been hearing from. Well, actually, I’ll let you start. And then I will give my two sense.
[00:00:37] Chris: Right. Freshly referred to unblock. This could be anecdotal by one of the team members or reps at Amazon that we saw sending emails to one of our clients saying, Hey, we saw that you had tried to appeal this in the past and you’re still suspended. I’m jumping in to help you. I mean, this is what the account health services team was supposed to be doing. This person referred to themselves as the unblock team.
[00:01:04] Leah: We are the unblocked team.
[00:01:06] Chris: We are the lollipop Guild. No, we’re the unblocked team. They announce themselves. I don’t know if that was anecdotal or if they were using jargon.
We see a lot of that with Amazon. Sometimes they use internal terms with external parties in writing and emails, which is sort of interesting sometimes entertaining and amusing.
[00:01:24] Leah: Yeah, at least for us, probably not for the sellers.
[00:01:26] Chris: Yeah. One possible explanation is that we’ve seen different messages sometimes in the UK versus US or Europe versus US. That could be one reason why it was referred to as the unblock team. But we did see that in writing in the message. We don’t know a hundred percent exactly how that differs from the account health services team, because when you call account health services and you say, Hey, I either need a plan of action and I haven’t appealed yet. What do I do? They’re supposed to help you out and guide you in terms of how you put a POA, a plan of action together, what to do, what not to do, how long it should be, style format, whatever. That hasn’t gone so well, as you’ve probably heard us say about account health In this podcast, on my articles, on my site. Account health reps, if you call seven times in one day, will probably give you seven different answers. Doesn’t seem to be a lot of oversight or quality assurance on that team. Personally, I’ve been very vocal about this just because I’ve been on, I would say maybe between 500 and 750 of these calls with clients, maybe up upwards of a thousand by now. So inconsistent so many mixed messages in terms of what they can share with you, what they can tell. What’s a big secret that they have to keep to themselves, even if it’s germane to your appeals process.
[00:02:37] Leah: Well, in an all fairness to account health, half the time, the information that they’re supposed to get from seller performance just isn’t there for them to see.
[00:02:44] Chris: Right, right. I mean, I could go on and on, but perhaps this unblock team is there to shore them up because it’s just been a failed experiment with account health. We occasionally hear from sellers who say, you know what? I was at zero with what a POA is and they took me from, you know, zero to 50% understanding in one or two calls, which is great.
I mean, if you’re doing this yourself, you’re not hiring out consultants like us to full project you through this process and you can get that done by yourself, power to you. And that’s wonderful because you don’t spend money on consultants. You get back to selling, how long it takes you is kind of another story, because you don’t want to have 10, 12, 14 calls with account health before you can get one plan of action successfully reviewed or accepted, but the unblock team or whatever, they’re calling it internally or whatever, we’re going to refer to this as in the future, hopefully will fill in some missing pieces that the account health reps don’t have.
[00:03:40] Leah: Actually, I have a question for you before I give my somewhat jaded opinion on all of this.
[00:03:43] Chris: Yes.
[00:03:44] Leah: Have you had anybody actually ask account health about the unblock team? Like, do they even know what you’re talking about if you ask them?
[00:03:50] Chris: And I have a good answer for that because we have a small sample size so far, it’s only a few people that have brought this to our attention. I saw it posted in a couple Facebook groups and people kicked it around in the forums and that’s great. We need a larger sample size before we can say how useful this will be. In terms of asking account health reps about it. I haven’t personally done that yet.
[00:04:10] Leah: I’d just be curious if they even knew what we were talking about.
[00:04:13] Chris: No, I’m almost certain that some of our clients have done it, just in the course of calling account health on their own or sellers that have contacted us, but haven’t hired us for whatever reason, if they’ve pursued it themselves, I’m sure one or two of them have brought them up.
So, I’m keeping an eye on that for the next August into September heading into Q4, because maybe this is a Q4 initiative. Amazon loves to roll this stuff out July and August, right?
[00:04:37] Leah: Sure.
[00:04:37] Chris: And hopefully, I mean, we said this about account health and we were dramatically disappointed. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.
[00:04:45] Leah: Well, and that kind of leads into my jaded opinion..
[00:04:48] Chris: We’re ready for your 2 cents now it’s been five or six minutes.
[00:04:51] Leah: So, I hope that this is an amazing new team. That’s going to be able to do all of the things that all of the other teams we’re supposed to have been doing for the last decade.
[00:04:59] Chris: Right.
[00:04:59] Leah: But I’ve seen this with other teams where brand registry has little internal teams that, you know, have their own name, like beam or whatever and it sounds all well and good. And then they can’t do anything more than the rest of the team. And my theory is that there’re small betas that then don’t get the resources needed to actually be successful. So then they’re like, well, that beta failed and they just go back to doing it the way they’ve been doing it forever. Right. And you either never hear from that team again, or that team suddenly doesn’t have power to do anything more than the main team that they were a part of to begin with.
[00:05:32] Chris: Sure. Brand registry is a great example.
[00:05:34] Leah: And I hope that I’m wrong.
[00:05:35] Chris: Right. We’re trying to maintain an optimistic, positive outlook. It’s difficult in the Amazon space because we’ve been disappointed so many times, but there is, you know, a silver lining in the cloud here. Maybe what’s been missing for the last couple of years from account health will be provided or augmented by this unblock team.
[00:05:55] Leah: Also, radical idea, maybe instead of making new teams just fix the teams that aren’t working.
[00:06:01] Chris: Yep. You, you stole my next point, which was why can’t we just fix account health reps, train them better, audit their work. Maybe they could listen in on a few of their calls. I know in the beginning, account health AHS managers were listening in and auditing quality assurance on those calls. Clearly that’s either entirely gone away or they consider that team to be in a cruising altitude, and they don’t need it, or they are auditing and doing some quality assurance and it’s just totally ineffective.
Either way, some of the account health calls, without belaboring this point further, that I’ve been on in the last, I would say several months, some of them have been 100% waste of time where I don’t even think they were operating in good faith. They were just like, Hey, nothing here. Can’t see it. Did you actually look, are you taking the time to do it? If no one’s looking over their shoulder, if no one’s examining the quality of their work, if everyone’s too busy.
[00:06:55] Leah: Well, and if they’re solely judged on how quickly they get through the case work.
[00:06:59] Chris: They can stay on a case for minutes on end and I don’t think they’re being pushed. They weren’t originally being pushed to do these calls quickly. Eventually somebody’s got them on a clock, right? The old basketball shot clock, but they do take some time. It’s just that if they keep putting you on hold and they keep casting about for answers and they keep asking a colleague and they keep looking at your annotations and there’s nothing there.
They scramble for answers. They make stuff up. That’s what offends me the most is sometimes they’re clearly grasping for answers. They’re either badly trained and they don’t know where to look or they just start making things up.
[00:07:34] Leah: Well, they’re put in a bad position where they’re supposed to be the team that you go to for information and then they aren’t given the information so they’re put in this position where they have to say something but they have no information to go on.
[00:07:45] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m not saying it’s necessarily each individual reps fault, they’re between a rock and a hard place. And we acknowledge that. But at the same time when they see no annotations, when there’s no evidence that a plan of action’s been reviewed, I mean, zero, nothing there, which we hear, what 33% of the time now?
[00:08:01] Leah: Yeah, you deal with account health more than I do.
[00:08:03] Chris: So, yeah. I mean, seller performance isn’t being monitored. Isn’t being audited.
No, one’s really quality assurance on them either. So if neither team has quality assurance, then that means everyone’s left to their own devices and that’s why they can get away with just telling you whatever they feel like telling you. I think it’s sometimes a knee-jerk response based on what they’ve seen all day long on all these other failed appeals that don’t have any evidence of a real review by seller performance.
So the unblock team, this is what I’m building up to for the last two minutes, the unblock team, I’m wondering if they’re like stealth secret seller performance investigators, dun dun dun.
[00:08:44] Leah: Because seller performance definitely has time to do things.
[00:08:47] Chris: No, but or are they hybrid account health and seller performance, but seller performance historically has never been public facing, never gets on the phone with you. I did know a couple people that I worked with back at Amazon who worked on, like you said, beta pilots. Where they would get on the phone.
[00:09:04] Leah: And then they’re like, this is terrible. And then they don’t wanna do it anymore.
[00:09:06] Chris: No, I mean, she told me we’re not using names here, she told me she would talk to people for like 20 minutes about why she had rejected their plan of action.
[00:09:15] Leah: We did used to get calls from executive seller relations occasionally. There were certain executive seller relations people who would call than send a template.
[00:09:23] Chris: Right. Few and far between, these were short term things. Sometimes they’d even acknowledge like, yeah, it looks like we kind of got our wires crossed here. That was very, very infrequent, but there were occasional–
[00:09:33] Leah: I guess it’s easier to admit that on the phone instead of writing it.
[00:09:37] Chris: Well, I think it’s because they were managers themselves and it was their direct reports that had botched the investigation, sent the wrong message. I think we’ve got another episode coming up on just Amazon not filling in the template. No one’s emptying the brackets and putting real info in there and the copy and paste isn’t even being done properly.
[00:09:56] Leah: Or just the completely wrong template.
[00:09:57] Chris: Yeah. I’ve personally heard from a couple people on Amazon teams, even from a few years ago who were embarrassed at what had happened and they would sort of acknowledge without saying they were sorry, necessarily they would acknowledge that things had not gone according to SOP.
So the unblock team, my final thought or suggestion is maybe, once again, there’s a beta where an actual seller performance person, the person who does the yay or the nay on whether or not your account or listing get reinstated might be a participant on the unblocked team.
[00:10:28] Leah: Yeah. Hopefully, I’m gonna end on a happy note cause I’ve been Debbie downer today and it actually has nothing to do with this team, but just in terms of teams, catalog have been very well trained and helpful lately and well done catalog team. If Amazon PR is listening, well done catalog team.
[00:10:43] Chris: That’s right. Fodder for a future podcast where we say mostly positive things about experiences with listings.
[00:10:50] Leah: That’s not our brand.
[00:10:51] Chris: You would be– no, it’s not, but you would be crazier than you already are. If catalog were not helpful lately. And they’ve been helpful. So you’re just kind of mid-range crazy.
[00:11:00] Leah: Well, and to be fair, like the catalog always does try to be helpful, but in the last few weeks they have actually resolved issues with one case very quickly. You talk to them, they’re like, yes, I see the issue. Okay. That’s fixed. Check it in 24 hours and it, it is actually fixed, so yay. Thank you, catalog.
[00:11:19] Chris: And in and in closing, if Amazon PR is listening, we’re not necessarily flattering ourselves assuming that you are, we understand you’ve got a lot on your plate so if you can’t listen to us because of everything going on in Amazon land, totally understandable.
[00:11:32] Leah: But also we keep these short to make your life easier.
[00:11:35] Chris: And every brand and seller’s life easier. So banter aside, any questions on this? Anyone hears from the unblock team and you’re kind of like question mark question mark. Who are you? What should I tell you? What should I not say? First of all, low sample size would love to hear your story.
And second of all, if you need help with this stuff, we are just as interested as you are.
[00:11:55] Leah: Yeah. If you ask account health about the unblock team, let us know what they say.
[00:11:58] Chris: Yes. Let Leah know, contact her directly. All right. Thanks everybody. Thanks for listening, and we are almost a hundred percent sure we’ll be following up on this topic soon.
Anything else you wanna hear about on Seller Performance Solutions, do let us know.
Hosts & Guests
Season 1, Episode 92 The Best Amazon Ads Launch Strategy with Laura McCaul PPC has always been the go-to strategy for launching products, but many sellers are hesitant to invest in it, instead opting for black hat tactics that inevitably put your account at risk. With...
Season 1, Episode 91 Changes to Compliance Recently we have noticed an increase in issues with products being incorrectly identified and rejected by Amazon's compliance teams. In this episode Chris and Leah deep dive into the current state of compliance enforcement to...